Writing in general is very subjective.
In the early years, writing = mark making = scribbling = drawing = letters/signs/symbols
The important thing to note is that children begin ‘writing’ before we even notice it.
There are a bunch of rubrics/samples/guides when talking about writing in the early years, and I’ll share some of my favourites (ones that I reference frequently):
Kindergarten Writing Rubric (from Heidi Butkus from heidisongs.com)
Kindergarten 6+1 Write Traits Rubric (created by myself and some colleagues in Beijing based off the 6+1 Write Traits)
Developmental Stages of Writing (I’m not sure the actual source of this one, but I got it from Destination Kindergarten’s blog)
and Evolution of a Child’s Writing (from Urban Discovery Academy)
You might notice a lot of similarities within the rubrics/guides, and some differences. This is why I look at multiple sources, so that I don’t get stuck within one (a wider opinion is always better). I don’t use these to ‘mark’ writing, but just to see where a child is on the guide and how I can extend them to get to the next stage (it does happen often that children skip stages or look like they fit more in one stage but are in another).
The BIGGEST factor when we talk about writing (and reading, and literacy as a whole) would be confidence. If a child is not confident with themselves or with what they know, it really shows when they try new things (or when they don’t try new things). The worst thing we can do is criticize their writing, correct them while they’re writing (spelling, size of text, direction, flipped letters/upside down letters).
and yes, I am telling -you- to stop correcting them.
It’s much more valuable to let them go, let them explore – now is the time. Flip those letters, write them backwards, upside down, side to side, write letters that don’t even exist. Forget that finger space, write your name as if it was in a mirror, write from one corner of the paper sideways to the next corner. This (and I’m talking a lot about Kindergarten here) is the time they can do it and be proud of it regardless of what it looks like, what it says, what it is.
We want them to be proud of themselves, proud of what they do, what they make, and proud of what they know.
When they become more confident, the more risks they’ll take, and the better they are at receiving suggestions (not criticisms or corrections) they are. They will begin to notice within their own work what can be improved, some things they wrote funny looking, that sometimes it’s easier to read something when it’s in a straight line or with a finger space. They’ll notice.
***OF COURSE we have responsibility here to model and write the ‘proper’ way (whatever you think that means). The more you write, the more the little ones around you will write (100%). Write lists, write names, write thoughts, write ideas, draw (a lot.. draw.. a lot, especially in the beginning, but don’t stop drawing), write your favourite things, write what you did last night, write notes about the children (instead of typing them), write on sticky notes – paper – the floor.
Talk about your writing, share your writing. Write together, and write alone. Be excited about a thought and excited about writing it down, and be honest about writing.
I have a specific writing time during the day (usually about 30 minutes – 10 on the carpet for modelled/shared writing, 20 for independent or guided practice – always a choice in how they want to practice writing). The skills we practice depend on the children, and by watching them play and write, is how we determine where we need to go.
Here are some of the ways and reasons we write in our room (some of these are writing through play, and some are during our specific writing time).
We practice letters using transparent letter cards (typically used on an overhead or light table) – this is usually done in a guided group with kids who want to practice writing letters. As teachers, we look at how they are forming the letters, do they recognize the letter? sound? name? have they seen this letter before?
We practice our names and our friends names, not only by writing, but by building using letter cubes. Once we know our friends names, we move on to other words (familiar words, CVC, sight words..) – this is not a guided activity, it’s independent.
Writing using word cards. We usually have a bin in the writing shelf (I specify shelf, because that’s just where we keep these kinds of things, so they know where to get them if they need them. We don’t have a writing table, because writing happens everywhere!) that has a bunch of cards with words on them (these are related to interests of the children, inquiries we are going through, seasonal words, etc).
Crack the Code – this is introduced towards the end of the year. Sometimes I ask the children to crack a code before going off to play, usually the code is something special coming up (a birthday, a field trip, a question). They use number and alphabet cards to crack the code (usually they’re super excited for it and ask for one a day, haha). To keep it interesting, it isn’t daily. It’s a quick check for me to see if a. they can count accurately, and b. if they can read the code (I only put words that they should know).
Guess the Letter game (it’s really just hangman, without the hanging man – instead, we build a snowman). When we have our meeting times, I start with something like this to get them all engaged (or we end the day with something like this).
We often write our feelings as a way to express ourselves.
We write a lot of cards to people..
We also write a lot of menus for our play!
We take a lot of surveys too (usually, they always have to do with food..)
We write the schedule for the day..
We also type pieces of writing that we really like.
That’s just a few examples. We write everywhere too – on mirrors, windows, floors. We write on pieces of wood we find for the block area too. We don’t make too much of a big deal with writing, especially if there are children in the room that aren’t ready yet. We don’t want to get them frustrated or upset with where they are, so we try our best to make writing fun and exciting for them (and even if that ‘writing’ is just drawing, it’s still a time to practice).
We express the importance of practicing, and writing for a purpose. We never ask the children to write, just because. Although, we may give them the choice to free write something, or practice writing/drawing/letters. They each have journals, so when they are often talking a lot about something they did or somewhere they went – we suggest they write it down, so that they can always remember it by looking back at it later.