It can be challenging supporting your child to learn to write as a parent, as many adults have been writing for so long it seems like such a natural action, much like breathing or walking. We have often forgotten our own struggles to learn how to write, so when our children have difficulty with learning to write, we may not understand how to support them. Let’s try to understand this process first.
Understanding the process of learning to write
Learning to write is a process that begins long before children start at school and is very closely connected with reading. If children are having difficulty reading, this is likely to affect their ability to learn to write too. Let’s look at the process from the early stages of literacy.
Developing basic motor skills
Basic motor skills are the ability to hold a pencil in your fingers for colouring and ‘doodling’ (drawing shapes or pictures without planning or support), the ability manoeuvre scissors and paper for cutting objects, and hand eye co-ordination to be able to trace basic shapes lines and patterns on a page.
These skills are often developed at home even before children go to pre-school, but may be developed further by guided activities at a pre-school or kindergarten with a development-focused curriculum. Parents can encourage children to colour and ‘doodle’ as soon as they show interest in pencils and paper and can move on to more guided craft work with scissors and glue at 3-4 years of age (with child safety scissors and parents monitoring).
Learning letter formation
This stage often follows on from early reading and phonics work. As children become aware of the link between letters, sounds and words, they may also learn to form the letters too. While letter formation might seem quite random, it isn’t and there are in fact suggested pencil stroke orders for English letters as there are for Chinese and Tamil characters. If children are not following the correct stroke order, this can make their writing slow and untidy. You can find some useful tracing sheets with guides on stroke order on First-School.ws. You can help your children develop good stroke order by focusing them on the stroke order guide and helping them follow it.
Another issue children may have at this stage of learning to write may be understanding where letters are placed in relation to lines on the page. Some children do not need to be told that lines are important and that different letters are different sizes in relation to each other. However, many children don’t notice this by themselves and need someone to point out the difference in the relative size of the letters and where they are placed on the line. As with stroke order, you can help your child develop an understanding of the importance of lines by helping them focus their attention on the lines and where letters sit on the lines and the relative size and shape of different letters.
Best tips for helping your child with their homework
- Build routines and set goals together.
- Be encouraging. Homework helps your child review and helps the teacher identify what your child has learned. It’s okay if they don’t get it all correct, or if they can’t do it all.
- Let the teacher see their mistakes.
- Help them to self-correct. If you see a mistake, ask your child questions for example – are you sure this is correct? Is that word missing something