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Reception: how to encourage writing?

(12 Posts)
Greythorne Sat 01-Oct-11 21:04:19

DD1 (aged 4.9) is in (equivalent of) Reception. Her teacher last year told us she was struggling with letters (writing, not recognition.)

Dd is left-handed and does form letters slowly. She does fine when she has something to copy, if I write out a shopping list, she can copy it quickly and the result looks very good. But without copying, from memory, she is really struggling.

Should I continue to let her copy in the jope that the more she copies, the better she will get or should I go hardcore and stop providing a guide and encourage her to have a go from memory?

Greythorne Sat 01-Oct-11 21:15:39

Oh, forgot to say, if I go hardcore, it will entail much sighing and huffing and puffing and "I'm bored now" and holding the pen incorrectly, whereas when copying it is a pleasant and fun activity to do together.


Haberdashery Sat 01-Oct-11 21:57:02

I would let her just copy if that's what she is happy with. Why on earth were they pushing her to write letters last year when presumably she was only 3-4 years old? I am not a teacher and only have one five year old but my theory on any of this stuff (phonics, writing, numbers, whatever) is that above all it ought to be fun at this stage. It ought to be an adventure and something that's enjoyable. FWIW, I have the opposite problem - a DD in Reception who writes all her letters completely wrongly but I simply cannot stop her from doing it. She's learnt it this way by just wanting to write and doing it herself and she will not listen to me even though I am only saying quite nice things like 'would you like me to show you an easier way to write a d' or whatever and not telling her it's wrong. I am hoping that because she wants to write and likes it, eventually she will get there on her own or start listening to other people pointing out that her current version of writing is a bit, erm, odd. Well, very odd.

I think in your shoes, I'd be writing tons of letters/postcards to grandparents etc together and eventually the letters will 'stick'.

Also, lots of children of this age can't necessarily even recognise letters yet. It will come, I think. If she can recognise them then she will be able to reproduce them independently at some point. Could you come up with a game where she only has to write one letter properly at a time and gets a reward of some kind? Maybe she writes a letter and you have to guess it. If you can, she gets the reward. If it's actually correctly formed, she gets two rewards. Sticker chart, smarties, yoghurt-covered raisins, 10p to put towards a CBeebies magazine or something?

Also, although I have so far signally failed to get my own child to listen to me or write her letters properly, friends have had a lot of success with getting their kids to write over faint pencil letters or dotted letters. Unfortunately mine appears to have her own ideas and is determined to stick to them!

Tiggles Sun 02-Oct-11 08:20:12

DS has just started in reception, he was never made to write when he was in nursery (attached to the school), although they were teaching him to read, so he knew what the letters looked like. Now he gets sent home with one letter (phonic) a day to learn to write (this is the phonic that they are learning in school that day). He has to at least write the letter down a few times, then if we have time he either draws a picture that starts with that sound or glues in a picture that starts with that sound. At the beginning he would write the first letter and then I would fill in the rest of the word for anything he drew/stuck in. Now a month later he is often able to write the whole word. Presuming your DD is learning to write in English, could you do something similar - they are learning the phonics in the order that they are taught in Jolly Phonics - s, a, t, p etc so not long before can do whole words.

blackeyedsusan Sun 02-Oct-11 14:46:41

depends on the purpose of the writing. if you are intending for her to improve her handwriting and "stamina" to write and her pencil grip, by all means let her copy. if it is to impover her spelling, use magnetic letters or something similar. if it is composition of writing you could scribe for her some of the time. it will all come togwther in the end. perhaps you could forget one item off the shopping list and ask her to write it for you because you are stirring the dinner/washing up and can't leave it. wink

mrz Sun 02-Oct-11 15:02:28

She does fine when she has something to copy, if I write out a shopping list, she can copy it quickly and the result looks very good.

I disagree about copying (tracing, overwriting, underwriting ...)as many children produce something that looks good but they are just drawing the shapes rather than forming letters and long term can create more problems than just leaving it for a little while.

She needs explicit teaching of how to form letters I teach my class letter formation jingles which they recite to ensure they form letters correctly in a smooth single motion

We begin by air writing arms extended hands together and form the letter in the air repeating the relevant movements. Then we write the letter with the tip of the index finger (left hand for your daughter) on paper until feels warm (all the time repeating aloud what we are doing) then cool it down writing on the table work surface and finally with a soft pencil on paper ... I use writing guide lines
Curly caterpillar family
Anticlockwise movements
c round

o round, round and join

a round, up, down and flick

d round, up, up, down, down and flick

g round, up, down, down and round

q round, up, down, down and tick

s round and round the other way

f round, down, down and round – across

e across and round
one armed robot family
down, up and over movements

r down, up and over a bit

n down, up, over, down and flick

m down, up, over and down, up, over, down and flick

h down, down, up a bit, over, down and flick

b down, down, up a bit, over and round

p down, down, up, up, over and round

k down, down, up a bit, over, round, out and flick

long ladder family
mainly down and round movements

l down, down and flick

i down and flick – dot

t down and flick – across

j down, down and round – dot

u down, round, up, down and flick

y down, round, up, down, down and round

zig zag monster
diagonal movements

v down, up

w down, up, down, up

x down, stop – down, stop

z across, down, across

Campaspe Sun 02-Oct-11 18:39:05

I have this issue with my DD (also in Reception). She is not willing to practice, but through a mix of bribery and cajoling, I try to persuade her to spend 10 mins or so everyday practicing a letter - we are focussing initially on the ones in her name, before moving on to the others. I think letter formation is one of the trickiest things for them to pick up.

Mrz gave me some good ideas in a previous thread, suggesting practicing with a fairy wand and making letter shapes in the air. Other suggestions were painting or shaping the letters out of playdough.

treas Sun 02-Oct-11 18:43:31

With dd we used to bake bread that she shaped into letter forms - we also allowed her to draw letter in the flour on the kitchen table with her index finger or a chopstick held in a triangle pencil grip.

This worked a treat as she found it fun.

mrz Sun 02-Oct-11 20:17:33

An0therName Mon 03-Oct-11 14:10:49

my DS hated writing letters at this stage - loss of confidance I think - we had a lot of success in painting letters, also teacher suggest chalk on the driveway - once he had success that way seemed to be much better with a pencil
I would only do a few at a time - can she do her name?

Greythorne Mon 03-Oct-11 14:18:17


yes, she writes her name pretty well, but in upper case - as they have been taught in school (we are in France and they start with upper case here)

mrz - I think you are right, when she copies, the result looks good but she is copying a shape rather than internalising the letter formation, IYSWIM. Copying does not seem to be improving her writing, just her copying smile

must try the descriptions as you provided, thank you

itisnearlysummer Mon 03-Oct-11 16:35:34

You could try encouraging her to practise letter formation in a fine layer of sand/flour on a tray.

Sometimes if children find it difficult to form letters correctly, removing the extra effort of controlling a pencil from the equation and letting them just use their fingers can make it easier.

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