This morning, a group of students spent a large chunk of their morning play time designing and implementing a classroom pet store. The students worked diligently to draw various pets that could be sold and decided together how much each pet should cost. It wasn’t long before they pulled out the cash register and started making money and credit cards that people could use to purchase the animals. The name of the pet store is still up for debate but lots of ideas were tossed around. The look of excitement was clearly present on each of their faces and we are anxious to see how this pet store will grow and prosper within the classroom.
At the beginning of every school year, we have a handful of students that feel very strongly that they cannot write, so Marie and I make it our mission to prove them otherwise! Usually their main concern is that when they write, it doesn’t look “perfect”. It doesn’t look like an adult’s writing. To this we ask, “Are you an adult? Do you have a job? Do you have to pay taxes?” and the students all laugh and say “No!”. Our main mission is to show the students that as long as they are doing the best they can, then they are writing.
We see many different stages of writing in our class as the students’ fine motor development and knowledge about phonemic awareness increases. All of the following examples of writing are acceptable in our classroom.
The Scribble Stage
Students who are in the scribble stage are moving their marker around the paper in no particular order or design because it feels good to make marks on paper. They typically use their whole arm to move the marker across the paper.
In this stage, the child will draw a picture to convey meaning. Students often draw “bubble heads” to represent people. Although this is not traditionally referred to as writing, it does exactly what we expect writing to do; convey meaning.
Scribble-writing with Left to Right Progression
Children who are in this stage have started to notice that we write starting on the left side of the paper and continually move towards the right as we put our ideas on paper. Although there are no letters present, the child is starting to have a better awareness of the structure for writing.
Students who make “letter-like symbols” are no longer just making stray marks on the paper. Each symbol has a distinct shape and is starting to mimic the shapes that our real letters and numbers take.
In this stage, children have a good knowledge about how to draw the correct shape of the letters however the sounds do not match the words the child is trying to convey. Children may write their favorite letters or some of the letters that exist within their names.
Students that use beginning sounds in their writing are starting to make the connection that our words are made up of sounds. Students will write the letters that match the first sounds of each word in their message.
Beginning and Ending Sounds
In this stage students continue to build on their knowledge of sounds by adding in ending sounds. Students continue to write the sounds that they hear, which is likely to differ from the actual spelling of words (i.e. “MI” instead of “MY”). It is also likely that the student will clump all of their letters together without any space between their words.
Beginning, Middle, and Ending Sounds
When children reach this stage, they have a clear understanding of phonemic awareness (our language is made up of sounds) and are now starting to organize their thoughts by using spaces between their words and have started including the sounds they hear at the beginning, middle, and end of each word.
In this stage, students have started moving towards writing sight words based on their actual spelling. They will continue to utilize phonemic spelling for unknown words.
Children in our Pre-K class typically exhibit stages ranging from the “representational pictures” to “beginning, middle, and ending sounds”. More conventional, “adult writing” is not expected until 3rd grade. We work with each child on their individual needs based on their own development stage. We strive to create an environment where children are excited and comfortable to express their ideas through writing.
Writing doesn’t always have to be done with tools. Sometimes, it’s just as much fun to write using only your finger. You don’t have to worry about grip or angle. You have a greater control over the amount of pressure you are applying since you can feel it directly.
Sometimes, classes use shaving cream spread on a table for writing exploration. We opted for a slightly less messy alternative. We put a dollop of simple tempera paint inside a large freezer bag and then double sealed it with duct tape. When you apply a small amount of pressure, the paint pushes aside so you can see what shape or line you have drawn. We made four of these. So far, we’ve only sprung leaks in two, due to their popularity, so I guess a 50% success rate will have to do. Maybe next time, we’ll double bag.
Playdough can offer many experiences for strengthening our dexterity and fine motor control. Pulling, rolling, squishing, and pinching all exercise our hand muscles. This week, the children have been fascinated by the addition of plastic knives. Using a knife combines both fine motor and large motor control. It also frequently requires you to use the opposite arm for either leverage or to provide a steady workspace. This involves activating connections in each side of the brain.