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Kindergarten: Writing Milestones

— PBS Parents
Updated on Jul 9, 2010

Your kindergartener is beginning to realize that he is a writer. Many kindergarteners love to write, and they naturally weave writing activities into their play. They pretend to be a waiter writing down customers' orders on a notepad and create signs for a "post office." While not all kindergarteners write lengthy stories, most can draw a picture and write a one-word label for their picture. When your kindergartener sees himself as a writer, he is more likely to practice.

Kindergarteners use invented spelling. Kindergarteners use what they know about letters and sounds to write messages using "invented spelling," or spelling words by the way they sound. By learning to "stretch out" the words to help them hear individual sounds, kindergarteners can label a picture. Your child may write "BR" for "bear" or "I MAD MI BD" for "I made my bed." Kindergarteners generally use mostly consonants in their writing, as vowel sounds are harder for them to discriminate from one another. Using invented spelling actually helps your child practice the letter-sound relationships she needs for reading.

Kindergarteners can write some words the "right" way. In addition to writing words according to the sounds they hear, kindergarteners are developing a bank of words that they write frequently and can spell the "right" way. These words might include their own names and names of friends and family members. Writing these words over and over the correct way will help your child be able to read them too.

Kindergarteners can read what they have written. Although you may have difficulty deciphering the writing of your kindergartener, he can most likely read the message he has written. In school, many kindergarteners take pride in sharing their writing in front of the class. Many classrooms have special writing celebrations or "author's chair" times set aside for children to share their work. Not all children like to share their writing, so it is perfectly acceptable for a child to "pass" on sharing.

Encourage Your Kindergartener

  • Encourage your child to express ideas and emotions by writing them down. Offer your help when she needs it. A birthday card, a letter, and even a grocery list are all ways of communicating thoughts and emotions. When you show your child how useful and necessary writing is in many different situations, you encourage her to use writing to both imagine and communicate. 
  • Don't worry about correct spelling. Your kindergartener is just beginning to learn about the relationship between letters and sounds. At this age, children generally know how to spell some common words correctly, such as "go" and "love," but they "invent spell" most words, using their knowledge of letter sounds to record what they hear. Celebrate your child's first attempts at spelling! The kindergartener who spells "Elephant" as "LFNT" is thinking carefully about sounds and letters.
  • Encourage your child to read her own writing. Many kindergarteners are proud to read their work to a caring adult. Although parents are not always able to decipher their kindergartener's writing, children are generally able to "read" their writing based on the letters they wrote and their memory of what they intended to write. You can compliment and encourage your child for reading his own writing by saying, "I like how you used such interesting words." Not all children like to read their writing, however, so be sensitive to your child's desire to keep his writing private if he likes.
  • Provide a wide variety of pens and papers. Children are motivated to write more often if a variety of materials with which to experiment is handy. Markers, colored pencils, sidewalk chalk, glitter pens, neon pens on black paper, chalk and easel, colored paper, and old greeting cards are all appealing writing materials for 5-year-olds. They also enjoy keeping their materials in a special box or drawer. 
  • Show your child how YOU write. One of the most important ways to help your kindergartener develop as a writer is by writing yourself and talking about the process with your child. As you address an envelope, you might explain why you are writing the name and address of the recipient on the front of the letter. Write grocery lists by saying the items aloud and then writing them. You can even enlist your child's help in figuring out the first letter to write in "bananas" and "milk" as you make the grocery list together.

Copyright 2002-2007 Public Broadcasting Service. Reprinted from www.pbsparents.org with persmission of the Public Broadcasting Service.

For other reading and language articles, please see http://www.pbs.org/parents/readinglanguage/

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