As every parent of a primary age child knows, these days in schools there is a big emphasis on literacy. Our little ones, soon into the primary years, are encouraged to put together exciting stories, packed full of rich vocabulary, imaginative characters, perfect punctuation, convincing connectives and great grammar. No easy task for little minds! or even big minds come to that… However, there are some simple things that parents can do that can this process easier and most importantly, enjoyable for our children. Here are my best tips:
Get them tooled-up
It is an odd fact of life that jobs are more enjoyable to carry out if we if possess the right tools to do them with!. It is no different when it comes to writing. Children love visiting stationery shops, so take them along and encourage them to think about which pencil, pen or rubber will suit them for the “important job” of writing. For reluctant writers, this can make all the difference. It may seem obvious, but they need to be comfortable with their writing tool before they begin to write as we want them to get excited about using it!
Stationery shops also have writing aids that are interesting to explore, for those struggling with grip for example, and staff can often advise on this. For children whose work needs to be neater, purchasing a pencil with a rubber on top can encourage them to re-do errors quickly and efficiently! We all know how despondent children can get having to correct work, especially when they have misplaced their rubber! These small things matter.
Support their writing through their interests
Remember that children will have lots of prescribed writing tasks given to them in school. At home, we have the benefit of freeing them up to write about whatever they like, whenever they like! We can encourage literacy through everyday family activities. Quickly ask them to jot down your shopping list for the week, ask them to keep the score when you are playing a board game like Scrabble together, keep a list of the family’s new favourite words on the fridge or have a “word of the week.” Collect new and interesting words as though they were shells on the beach. Whether they are interested in football, dinosaurs, princesses, Minecraft or cooking, use those interests as a entry point for building up their vocabulary.
My own son (year 4) loves to cycle and after one recent cycling trip, was encouraged to capture his adventure on paper. I bought him a large scrap book and printed out images of him that had been taken during his ride and glued them into the book. When he saw the images, he recalled the timeline of his cycle ride and was able to understand how best to structure his story. These prompts can be hugely useful to children who often feel stuck and “have no idea what to write.” When they are happily engaged in writing, emphasise to them that writing is a process; it can be tricky and consuming. Children need to understand that planning, re-drafting and constantly re-writing is ‘part and parcel’ of what great writers do!
At home, children can have the luxury of working on the same story over days, or even weeks, and enjoy the challenge of finding “better words” and “better ways of putting things”. A Junior thesaurus can help, but most family members enjoy chipping in to suggest words! It can become a family activity that is easily embedded into family chats, car journeys and mealtimes.
Remember: “If they can’t say it, they can’t write it”
The wonderful Professor Ros Wilson has written a great deal about the topic of encouraging children’s literacy and this is one of her key phrases. By encouraging our children to have a voice: weigh things up, discuss their likes and dislikes, be heard around the dinner table, discuss their favourite books, jokes and activities etc., in doing so, we are actually honing their writing skills. We can support our children by simply finding time to talk, actively listen to them and valuing their viewpoint (great for their self-esteem!). During these easy chats, we can inject new “higher level” words into the discussion. Don’t be afraid to introduce challenging words. Within no time at all, you will find them repeating this enriched vocabulary and using it with great aplomb! They day they apply new words into their story writing, without fuss, is a great one! If you get stuck when trying to think of new and better words when working with your children, keep some flashcards to hand, and sneak a peek from time to time…
Communicate with their teacher
Remember that we need to work in partnership with our child’s teacher and it is important to keep the lines of communication open. Ask what your child’s literacy targets are for the term ahead. Children don’t need to know what the teacher has said; it is our job to absorb that information and knowing our child, work out the best way of building up their skills. Remember that family life sets the tone for learning at school. You can’t go wrong if you are a family that loves words, books and values the importance of story-telling in everyday life.
Luckily for parents living in Hertfordshire, one of the national experts on children’s literacy, Professor Ros Wilson, is coming to Hertfordshire especially to talk to parents about this topic on the 28th April 2016. Click here for the details of how to book your place: www.keystoneworkshops.co.uk
Kathy February 23rd, 2016
Posted In: Blog posts