Friday, 9 June 2017

Some more thoughts about writing

After yesterdays thoughts about writing I have been giving some really deep thought to what might be the essential building blocks to enabling children to grow into effective writers and how running a play based classroom really helps to put these in place.  This is the very basic diagram I have created that demonstrates what I am thinking at the moment.

There are so many components that come into enabling children to be writing ready, and this diagram is very simple but basically it includes what I believe to be the key parts of the puzzle.

So what comes first... to me initially it needs to be those gross motor skills, along with the ability to perform activities that cross the midline.  Often children will come to school with this part of the puzzle already well in place...but I am sure we all have had experiences with those children that have not got these things in place.  Play-based learning is incredibly useful here because children can be given many opportunities to explore these skills.  PMP is also a useful programme to help with this.  

Fine motor skills are also incredibly important, how frustrating must it be for children, when simply holding a pencil is a challenge?  Once again there are so many opportunities in a play-based classroom to develop these skills.  I always find that as these skills develop, so does a child's ability to draw a pencil and in turn to form letters or attempt symbols for writing.

Vocabulary is a huge deficit in today's classrooms...if you speak to any new entrant teacher anywhere you will hear the same issue, children simply do not have the vocab they need to describe what they are seeing or thinking.  Their clarity of speech is not as good and their ability to form sentences is far below what it used to be.  

This is once again where a play-based room comes into its own.  Children are constantly talking, sharing, discussing, negotiating and there are ample opportunities to explore language and actually talk with children.

Last but not least by any shape or form is phonemic awareness and the ability to hear sounds and rhyme.  Once again the ability to slow down in a play-based room and take time to build these skills in authentic fun ways deepens understanding.  We have talked a lot about slowing down, not pushing children beyond initial sounds to more complicated spelling patterns.  Really taking the time to go over and over these sounds, to stretch words, to break words and look at their parts, to do this out loud...and most of all to have fun with appeal to kids, "If I can spell mum, I can spell bum" etc.  A play-based classroom allows you to just take time and have fun with sounds.  Lots of learning done out loud, rather than writing it down initially.  A play based classroom also allows children to engage with language in a very authentic and purposeful way that they themselves self-direct.

Can you imagine being a child that does not have these components in place....writing may be possible, but would it be a pleasure, would it be something you would want to do?  I believe this is where our reluctant writers are born....when we forget how complex the process is and spend time pushing forward, rather than folding back and weaving a strong web to enable them to become successful writers.  Quite ironically it may be our efforts to accelerate that ends up stalling progress.

A reluctance is formed when something has been hard for a very long time....the reality is, while it may become easier to spell, to use a picture, to tell a story, to hold a pencil... the mindset that has been formed is hard to break....writing becomes something they never want to do....even when in the end they probably are able to do it.

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