Early Writing and Scribbling (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Eventually you will note that alphabet-like cursive letters (“mock letters”) begin to appear in their lines of scribbles. When children begin to write mostly lines of letters (“letter strings”), they may again ask you to read them, as previously noted. If given enough time and support, children will create their own knowledge about writing by extracting the information from the writing they see around them. It is not up to you to teach formal writing to preschool children. Instead, you should observe the kinds of scribble writing and mock writing they are doing and encourage them to continue by providing outlets for their writing: sign-up sheets, journals, messages, signs, lists, stories.

Printing is somewhat different from the cursive writing described here. Children also go through several emergent stages in teaching themselves to print letters and words with the letters in order. Even the letters of their names are sometimes mixed up, written backwards, upside down, or scattered around a page. The concept of a “word” is still somewhat fuzzy for them, and they often substitute the picture of an object for the word. It is not for you to correct them, but to encourage them by involving them in all kinds of writing. What they need is the freedom and time to experiment on their own. They will eventually get it right. As Temple, et al, tell us: “. . . it appears that we learn to write at least as much by discovering as by being taught. Learning to write is largely an act of discovery.”

Some child development specialists are worried that teachers who are unfamiliar with the concept of emergent writing, may not know how to help these children. As Schrader and Hoffman (1986) note:

When teachers are unfamiliar with current knowledge about the natural development of literacy in young children, they impose skill-oriented expectations and tasks on these youngsters—copying and tracing standard adult print, for example. Such activities not only are stressful for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old children, but they do not afford children the opportunity to use their self-constructed knowledge in meaningful ways. (p. 13)

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