Learning to write!
Learning to write is a very gradual, multi-skill and step by step process, rather than being a big milestone that can be mastered by learning a particular skill. Often parents ask, “At what age should a child learn to write?” That’s almost impossible to answer because learning to write is a long continuous task. When one skill is mastered, another skill erects up to be mastered. Like, when a child learns to write alphabets, he is expected to learn word writing. When that is done, he is taught sentence writing. And it goes on.
This article will detail some of the basic concepts around writing. That will equip the parents with a better understanding of the process to be able to deal with writing issues in their children.
Writing involves 3 basic steps:
a) Input (auditory/ visual/ cognitive)- This involves the process of listening, seeing, thinking or remembering
b) Integration (conceptualization/ perceptual thinking): This involves the process of integrating the received inputs with the new thoughts
c) Output (motor): This involves the process of writing
Different types of writing:
- Tracing (visual guide-motor)
- Copying (visual cue- motor)
- Dictation (auditory- motor)
- Expressive (conceptual- motor)
Preschoolers are required to focus on tracing, copying and dictation in the same sequence.
There are certain pre-skills that need to be mastered before the child should be taught to write. Those pre-skills (also called foundations of writing) are:
- Fine motor functions( ability to use first 3 fingers in opposition)
- Good pencil grip ( for comfort, effectiveness, speed)
- Good writing posture (wrist rest, shoulder rest, pencil position, angle of body, movement of hand)
- Good paper position (angle of the paper, use of free hand to hold the paper)
- Visual and auditory memory (to be able to write what is seen or heard)
- Spatial planning( use of page from left to right and from top to bottom)
- Visual motor integration( visual skills translated to motor functions)
- Attention skills (to be able to focus on the given task)
- Recognition of alphabets
- Interest in content
When these 10 pre-skills are there, we are sure that the child is ready to learn to write now.
The next step is to teach writing in a sequential way. When a child learns in a proper sequence, his writing skills and handwriting do not cause him much trouble.
Sequence of material cum method should be:
- tracing in wet sand
- tracing on sand cut outs
- thick chalk grip (they are rough and provide better grip to start with)
- crayon scribbling
- stencil writing of lines-shapes-patterns- alphabets(depth stencils and then cut out stencils)
- paper writing with good pencils
Sequence of lines should be:
- sleeping lines
- standing lines
Sequence of alphabets should be:
- combination of 1 sleeping and 1standing (L and T and the easiest to start with)
- combination of more sleeping and standing (H, I, E, F)
- combination of slants (X V W)
- combination of slants and sleeping (A, Z)
- combination of slants and standing (K M N Y)
- combination of standing /slants with small curves (B J P R U)
- big curves (S O C)
- combination of lines and big curves (D, G, Q)
Some children find it easier to make circles than lines. You may change the sequence according to child’s level of comfort with a particular pattern.
While you are teaching the letters, you should also teach the child these activities to increase his visual motor coordination and concentration abilities:
- sorting (different colored grains, objects, or capital letters from small letters, letters from numbers)
- clay work
- cutting and pasting
- digit/alphabet cancellation
- paper modeling/craft work
- stitching (threading lace into a design which has holes in it)
- finger printing/ vegetable cuts printing to make designs
- tracing and copying simple shapes
- dot to dot activities
- paper folding