The Prewriting Skill Expectations for Children
In a society where we compare and contrast our child with all other children without much understanding of the common developmental stages children go through, it is important to continue to talk about Prewriting Skills, than writing exercises.
We have spent the last 2 weeks explaining how to prepare the child’s hand for writing. I want to spend some time helping us understand the realistic expectations we should have for our children when it comes to writing. Knocking them on the head or their fingers with a ruler is not the way forward. Let us as teachers and parents understand the early years of a child’s life and what they can cope with. It is not right to impose our high standards based on fantasy and not on realistic facts on the children. So here are the age appropriate expectations you should see and work on with your child. Please do not force them to achieve what children 2 years older than they are cannot do. It damages their potential and makes them hate school and academics!
1 to 2-year-olds: They scribble, sometimes randomly in a vertical, horizontal or circular direction. They even combine all three directions as well. You can get them to imitate directions. This is why working with sand, garri in a plate, or hands in the air are useful tools to help the child practice these hand movements at this stage in life.
2 to 3-year-olds: By the time they are this age you can expect the child to start tracing horizontal and vertical lines as well as circles. Practice makes perfect. Use your creative juices to come up with practical ways to make this possible for the child to achieve. Repetition is key, they love repetition especially when they are doing the same thing but in new, different and exciting ways.
3 to 4-years-olds: Now the child can start copying the horizontal, vertical and circle lines. This means that they have started working free-hand, without the tracing guide. Lots of practice is needed. The child also starts working on tracing a cross, a right to left diagonal and a square.
In the Montessori setting we would also be introducing the letters to the child in relation to the sounds, not the letter names at this point. We would not start off with pencil and paper writing, but with finger tracing the alphabet cut out and pasted on cardboard or wood. We call this the sandpaper letters. The reason for this is simple, we are providing a multi-sensory learning process for the child. We say the sound, and trace the letter symbol following the correct writing direction, and the child can feel the roughness of the sandpaper on his fingers, imprinting a tactile memory of the letter sound in his brain. How cool is that? There is also the visual aspect included, don’t forget, so it is multi-sensory. Repetition is very important, I cannot stop emphasizing this fact. If you work with a child this way, they will remember their letter sounds and will be able to transfer the knowledge later on onto paper. One step at a time please, let’s not rush the children. They should get a lot of practice colouring.
When colouring an apple for example, the child should be encouraged to colour inside the lines, using line strokes from one end to the other, instead of just scribbling in any direction. They learn control this way. Practice, practice, practice… this is what helps prepare your child for success in the writing arena.
4 to 5-year-olds: This is an exciting time for the patient parent who follows through with these guidelines because this is the time when your child actually shows great interest in wanting to write. They are able to grasp their pencils correctly with the right grip. Children at this state can copy the diagonal right to left, the cross and the square, they can now start tracing x’s and triangles.
They have also started reading simple words and may want to write what they have learned to read. This is why it is so exciting. Once children get to this stage encourage them to make little booklets of what they are interested in. It does not need to be elaborate projects, pictures of a dog, cat, hat, pig. Can be stock on a cut out piece of paper and the child can write the right word underneath the picture, put them together and staple. A booklet has been created, made by your child. He would be so proud of himself and so should you.
5 to 6-year-olds: At this point the child can copy the X’s and triangles and can distinguish between big and small lines and curves. This is when everything comes together. Please follow through, the child is at a point when creative writing starts kicking in. A child wants to communicate his thoughts and ideas and has found a new way to do so. Writing! Even if what he wants to talk about is Super Mario, Power Rangers or Minions please let him do so. Handwriting practice would be in session with no fuss. What else could you ask for as the creative juices will take over and ensure that your child stretches himself. This is how it works.
I promised a resource page and I am glad to announce that your Prewriting resource worksheets are now available on the Resource Page. New items will be added regularly. Enjoy