When we think of writing, we think of letters and numbers that we can read and that make sense, otherwise why would you read it.
Writing in a preschool classroom is much different from our everyday writing. It seems to only make sense-at times-to the writer, can only be read by the writer, and can-at times-only be seen by the writer. What kind of writing is this, you ask? It is the writings of a preschool child. Their imaginations have taken over and their words begin to make sense when they can apply it to paper.
Here’s the catch…Have you ever seen a child come out of the womb writing letters and symbols that are aesthetically correct? If so, you have witnessed a miracle. The fact remains like any other developmental milestone, writing is a developmental progression that takes years to master. And this is why writing-rich classrooms are so important.
Writing Centers are specific areas within the classroom that encourage writing by providing interesting writing materials and appropriate models. Tracing letters are not appropriate. Focus on free-form writing.
Class Books allow each child to contribute an individual page to a group book. Sometimes the basic text is predictable but allow children to make small changes.
Pocket Stories encourage children to explore word boundaries and the relationship between spoken and written language. Children dictate a sentence to go with a picture they create. Duplicate words can be matched to the words in their sentence and stored in the pocket at the bottom of the page.
Journal Writing is common in many kindergartens. Journals allow teachers and children to trace writing progress over an extended period.
Sentence Fill-Ins allow children to experiment with writing by adding a word or phrase to a predictable text. Children can observe how their writing alters the meaning of the original text.
Writing on Interactive Charts enables children to experiment with the way writing conveys meaning. Children can write a word or phrase to add to the interactive part of the chart.
Literacy Suitcases extend the literacy curriculum from school to home. Literacy suitcases are take-home version of classroom writing materials.
It is extremely important at the preschool level for children to interact with print. This means that your classroom should be a print-rich environment. Children should be allowed to explore books and printed materials on their own and as a group. There should ALWAYS be printed materials on their physical and developmental level in the classroom. They should ALWAYS have access to writing materials at a specific place in the room. Use an old table or even a corner of the room with a basket of materials, a clipboard and a chair or bean bag. Even if we don’t have the luxury of space and new furniture, there is always something that can be used for this purpose. Materials could include: pencils, crayons, markers, paper of any kind, magnetic boards, magnetic letters or laminated letters that they can stick to Velcro on the wall to form words. Anything in your classroom can and should be used to enhance the reading and writing experience.
To further the writing experience, materials should be present in each center in your classroom. Examples could be notepads for order taking in the home living center, pads for drawing buildings in the construction/block area, or paper to write hypothesis and experimental thinking in the science center.
Take this new year to begin thinking about how you can incorporate a developmentally, fantastic writing center into your classroom. Enhancing the writing experience will make a dramatic difference in your children’s ability to begin recognition of letters, phonemic awareness, and of course writing.