'Messing about' on paper and the power of self-expression
Physical mastery of writing
CHILDREN with strong fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination find it easier to rise to the main challenges of writing because they do not stumble over the basic physical demands of the task.
It is very important therefore, for children to engage in as many enjoyable physical tasks as possible that give them opportunities to develop these skills.
Art and craft activities are the best means of doing this. Art involves cutting, pasting, tracing, threading, sticking, painting, colouring - all activities that require focus, hand-eye coordination and the use of fine motor muscles.
Composing skills through art and storytelling
What goes on when a child decides to 'make a picture'? Try an experiment yourself. Take a blank sheet of paper and tell yourself to 'draw something'. You will soon realise just how demanding such a task is. You make many decisions choosing the colours, thinking of what to draw, deciding what to draw first, where on the paper to place it, and so on.
When children draw, these types of decision actively engage them in developing composition and coherence skills. They have to have ideas, maybe linking them into a coherent picture. They must sequence the different elements of their picture.
So, well before a child actually writes single words, 'messing about' on paper, making fun compositions, is a powerful developmental process!
This process is all the more powerful if the drawings that come out of it lead to a story. If after hearing a story or being engaged in dramatic play, a child draws their experience of the story, or if they make a picture and then tell a story about it, they are experiencing the power of self expression. The child begin to experience the dynamic connection between writing, imaginative experience and communication. For young children, this is a powerfully motivating experience. So the more you talk about pictures and scribbles that your child makes, the more you deepen this process.
Seeing the physical output of imagination and thought
When a child is new to writing, it is a slow and often tiresome process. Their little hands can't form letters fast enough, nor is their developing knowledge of spelling and writing conventions strong enough to keep up with the speed of their imagination and thoughts. So what happens?
Most of the time, children are not inclined to write very much, daunted by the mechanics of the process. So, remove the obstacles and watch the amazing results!
Simply by becoming the child's scribe and writing the story as they tell it, you free their thinking and composing process.
The child can follow where the imagination leads, and choose just the words they want - because you are going to spell them! The stories they create are richer in vocabulary, sentence structure variation and often quite sophisticated.
Recording stories you and your child make up together is also a wonderful way to help your child see the outcome of their creative,
communication process. Children take total ownership of their stories if they are scribed for them. They often take great pain in
illustrating them and returning again and again to read them. This is one of the best ways to develop thinking, writing and
Daily writing activities
If your child only experiences the writing process in work contexts, they will have very little writing motivation. They need to see you use writing to get things done, to communicate, to have fun. Include your child in making shopping lists, writing postcards, letters and greeting cards to friends and family, in putting scrapbooks together. Let your child be free to choose to write or draw whenever they want to. Only then will writing motivation develop.
Reading as a stimulus for writing
A child immersed in a print-rich environment with strong reading habits usually has no problems with writing motivation. Since children develop reading earlier than writing, immersion in print familiarises them with print conventions, visual skills like left to right scanning, focusing and staying on task, as well as cognitive skills like sequencing, logic and story structure.
Reading gives them a bank of rich words and structures to use and the imaginative stimulation that motivates the creation of their own poems, stories and pictures.
The more these skills are developed in reading, the stronger the motivation, readiness and ease of mastery when they begin exploring the world of writing.
Making mistakes and being irrelevant
At some point in their writing process, there will be a need to consider accuracy and neatness.
However, for the most part, especially as they first begin to explore the writing process, they should be able to do so freely, inventing words they do not yet know the spelling of, and composing freely with no rules of right and wrong.
When children scribble and 'mess about' on paper, they are really exploring how letters and words are created and how they work to communicate meaning. The more children are allowed freedom and safety to explore this, the stronger their mastery of accuracy later in the development process. What many children like especially when they are aware of the existence of spelling and
writing conventions is to be given help in changing their writing into 'polished' pieces.
Celebrate your child's writing and help them make a fair copy which they can then decorate and proudly place in a scrapbook. This not only builds motivation, but helps them learn conventions of writing and spelling.
Your child will feel more motivated to learn the spelling of words they have used and are interested in, rather than words from a 'spelling list' that have nothing to do with them.