Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing and Spelling in our home

First let me say I didn’t think my simple post about Selena’s scribbles would create such depth in the comments. I truly wanted to step back and address where we are in this process right now, and how we approach writing and spelling at this time in our home. I think all the comments made very good points and appreciate all the insight given.

I believe right now Selena being only 4 years old, this is a time for exploration. While Selena has worked through the Kumon workbooks upper and lower case letters and the numbers, we never really used them as a formal curriculum. They were in her drawer for boredom breakers, or just for her to pull out when she felt like working in them. She worked in them over and over again. Selena’s job right now is to explore through her scribbles what she remembers and what she discovers in her abilities. I do not expect her to sit down at this age and focus on formal writing. I believe at this age there is a fine motor skill, eye to hand coordination that still needs to develop, this develops through play, scribbles, just being allowed to challenge ones self. Selena  is always shown how to write a letter if she asks, but many times she just starts writing the squeals with excitement when she has made a particular letter, then the practice takes off she will write that letter for days. Some weeks it’s been H, or D just what ever letter she discovers she can write on her own.

Our approach to Spelling is the same way. The only word I have really worked hard on to know that Selena knows how to spell is her name. Other wise all the other words that Selena can spell, are words she has learned through her reading the word many times in our books, or games we have played. While we have worked our way through Progressive Phonics, and this year a different phonics program, Selena has picked up many of the letter blends. Right now she just writes. I will tell her how to spell a word if she asks, but then again at her age it is all about exploration. How do those letters sound in those words as she listens to herself say them out loud. Many times she is able to spell the word right away, other times she will say the word, write it or spell it out loud only to rethink herself, and say “No, that wasn’t right.” She then tries again. Here we go again there is a fine motor skill that she needs to allow to develop, a listening, processing, and getting it from her brain to the paper before her, or what ever she is writing it on.

I am pleased with how far she has come with her writing and spelling. We have some wonderful laughs when she realizes she has wrote her C on it’s side, and she is looking at me, saying, “No, that isn’t right.” but there is no pressure at this time, as she will eventually get that C standing like it should as that fine motor skill matures. We also get so many laughs and chuckles when Selena tries to spell a word on her own. Just like a while back she wrote “Hi Self” on the white board, only thing was it said HI SETFL, when Selena went back to read the words to me, she got the funniest look on her face when she realized what she wrote did not make the same sounds as what she wanted to write. I want her to make these mistakes, and discover why it isn’t right, again focusing on the motor skill that still needs to mature.

Do I see this as a sign that she will have troubles with spelling or with writing? No, not at all, especially since she is only 4. At this age, should we really expect perfectionism from the child? Again I say at this age no. I know once her fine motor skills mature, what she is doing and mastering now will just enhance her ability to pick up the writing and spelling lessons in her journey to learning. I want her to be able to look at her mistakes and make light of them, ask for my help if she just isn’t able to figure out what she did wrong, or be able to go back and just say “No, that is not right.” The rest will all fall into place when it is the right time for Selena.

I am linking this at Giggles and Crayons.

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  1. It's a mixed bag in all of it. I was using a program teaching the kids with capital letters first for writing, and now I can't get them to stop using only capital letters, so I'm still working through all of it how to best make it work.

    But, I'd agree with you, I wouldn't worry too much about Selena because she's only 4. It's not like she's in elementary school and doing this, she's in pre-school.

  2. For every educational/parenting issue there is a debate about it! lol

    Like the uppercase/lowercase issue. Some people say to do all uppercase first (like Ticia) because its easier to write and they aren't as confusingly similar (b,d,p,q). Others say lowercase because its what most of written language is composed of and its hard to break bad habits later (like writing name in all caps). I chose to do a combination of the upper/lower and just write them as I naturally would. So for her name I taught her Anabel (capital first, lowercase the rest).

    As for teaching the formation of letters or letting them explore on their own, I haven't quite decided yet. For the time being I am letting her explore. The ideas I have used thus far are on my blog. One of my issues is that she is definitely left handed and so I don't really know how to approach that since I am right handed. I'm still researching and trying to "find" my opinion. Poor Anabel has to be an experiment, I guess lol.

  3. I think I might write a post about this just to see what people think on my blog later tonight.

    by the way, thanks for linking up

  4. I am torn over the whole writing issue, especially since I see that many kids of the same age write significantly better than my daughter. When I observe her write, I see that she is struggling with basic letter formation and often constructs the letters incorrectly. However, she resists all the attempts to teach her the right letter formation. I do believe a lot of this is purely fine motor skills maturation and hand-eye coordination. Still, I worry sometimes that bad habits and dislike for writing will stay with her for a while. I do intend to work with her a lot more on handwriting once she is older. My mother spent long hours with me on handwriting. I resented it then, but I surely appreciate it now, especially when people comment on my handwriting.

  5. I think so much of handwriting is genetics. My sister and I have such similar handwriting that I get confused at times on who wrote it. I have worked hard to perfect my handwriting when I was young but never reached a point of satisfaction which is the reason why I don't stress perfect handwriting in my students. (Some parents have gotten upset over this in the past.) I think it's okay as long as it's legible. Charlotte Mason would disagree as she sees it as a form of habit and not working towards excellence. I figure most of the children will be typing anyway or using voice activated writing.

    K was an early writer and writes almost like a 6 year old. Sometimes I have to remind myself that she's only 4.

  6. I love conversations like this. R is just starting to read, but she has been writing really well for over a year now. C was an early reader, but refused to write until he had the confidence to actually do it right.

  7. What a great topic! I am teaching a 3-5 year old preschool/pre-k class that is Reggio Emilia inspired. The Reggio part says that the children should explore and discover things, even literacy. Children are encouraged to write notes to each other, make signs for the construction area, make shopping lists for the store, etc. but however they write is fine - no direct, explicit teaching of "this letter is called ___, it makes the ____ sound, and can be found at the beginning of the word ____".

    I think that children learn through play, definitely. And that they have to have the chance to explore and discover things, without feeling discouraged that they will not be able to get something right (once a child hates learning something, like writing, it seems difficult to turn that into love). I think that allowing the children to write in their own way is very important, and that by seeing print in their world, being read to and talked to, and "writing" for meaning, rather than printing A A A A A over and over are very good ways to develop literacy skills.

    I struggled with this a lot at the beginning of the school year - because I was taught how to directly teach letters and phonemic awareness. I DO still think it is important to incorporate some of that, though. For example, we are not supposed to have the children write their names just for the sake of them writing their names - but I do have them sign in each morning, because several of them are going to kindergarten next year, and I personally believe they should be able to write their name. To me, their name is meaning enough for them to learn it - it's THEIRS. But I don't instruct students on how to spell other words at all - unless they ask me how to write something, and then of course, I help them.

    I do think that it is important to help make the connection between letter and sound. We have an alphabet song (not the ABCs) that we sing - it helps us with the sounds, the letters, and we also sign each letter, which the children love. We read "news and announcements" each morning, and I have recently begun leaving letters out at the beginning of words. I was worried about the response since we are not able to focus directly on letters and letter sounds, but they are getting the hang of it. I was surprised how many students not only knew the letter, but could identify the sound (this has taken practice), and write, or attempt to write the letter (they have done a pretty good job!)

    To add on to the uppercase/lowercase issue - I wondered what to do as well. I write everything as it would appear in the "real world" - uppercase for beginnings of sentences and proper nouns, lowercase for the rest. The children do just fine with it, and it seems they understand/are beginning to understand that there are two ways to write each letter.

    Ahh sorry for such a long comment, I just love literacy and it's been something I have been exploring all year!