Indicator of reading ability
Keen to raise a reader? Then you must develop their writing skills simultaneously! Experts say that when kids show an early interest in writing they will automatically enjoy reading. The connection between reading and writing runs deep. Teaching children how to write at a young age helps recognize the connection between letter sounds, and the words phonetic sounds create.
Your child may enjoy the fact that writing gives them another way to express themselves. Often times you can learn about what your child is interested in simply by reading their school assignment. The ability to use words to express innermost thoughts is priceless and learning how to write will enable your child to communicate with the world in a more meaningful manner. Focusing on the importance of writing skills will also bring your child’s attention to phonetics and reading comprehension. Through writing your child will be able to communicate and share their unique perspective with others.
How can I tell if my child has problems with writing readiness (pre-writing) skills?
- Have an awkward pencil grasp.
- Have difficulty controlling a pencil for colouring, drawing or writing.
- Show a tendency to use their whole hand to manipulate objects rather than just a few fingers.
- Have poor endurance for pencil based activities.
- Display messy and/or slow handwriting.
- Have difficulty staying within the lines when colouring.
- Apply inappropriate pressure to the paper for pencil based activities (either too heavy and frequently breaks the pencil, or too light and ‘spidery’).
- Have poor upper limb strength (weak shoulders).
- Have difficulty coordinating both hands together for two handed tasks.
- Have poor hand-eye coordination.
- Be verbally skilled but has difficulty showing this on paper (i.e. writing, drawing or colouring).
- Not meet the pre-writing expectations outlined below.
- Behaviour: The may avoid or refuse to participate in pencil and other fine motor tasks.
- Self esteem: when they compare their work against that of their peers.
- Academic performance: They find it more difficult and be slower completing these tasks, contributing to slower skills acquisition (e.g. learning to write their name, or draw a person).
- Self care: The ability to (age appropriately) master independence in everyday life activities (such as dressing, eating, cleaning teeth, brushing hair).
- Avoidance: Preferring to get others to perform fine motor tasks for them under their direction, rather than actually doing themselves (e.g. “Daddy, draw me a house”, or “build me a rocket”, with refusal to do it themselves).
What can be done to improve writing readiness (pre-writing) skills?
- Hand dominance: Determine and reinforce the dominant hand use in precision task performance.
- Experience: Encourage participation in activities that involve grasping and manipulating small objects such drawing, puzzles, opening containers, threading or other related tasks.
- Poking and pointing: Practice tasks that use just one or two fingers (not all at once) e.g. poking games.
- Praise and encouragement when your child engages in fine motor activities, especially if they are persistent when finding an activity difficult.
- Hand and finger strength (e.g. scrunching, paper, using tweezers, play dough, pegs).
- Sensory play activities (e.g. rice play, finger painting) to assist the development of tactile awareness.
- Hand-eye coordination: Practice activities that involve hand-eye coordination (e.g. throwing and catching) and crossing the mid-line (e.g. reaching across the body to pick up items).
- Upper limb strength: Encourage play activities that develop upper limb strength (e.g. climbing ladders, wheelbarrow walking).
- Threading and lacing with a variety of sized laces.
- Play-doh (playdough) activities that may involve rolling with hands or a rolling pin, hiding objects such as coins in the play dough or just creative construction.
- Scissor projects that may involve cutting out geometric shapes to then paste them together to make pictures such as robots, trains or houses.
- Tongs or teabag squeezers to pick up objects.
- Drawing or writing on a vertical surface.
- Every day activities that require finger strength such as opening containers and jars.
- Pre writing shapes: Practice drawing the pre-writing shapes ( l, —, O, +, /, square, \, X, and Δ).
- Finger games: that practice specific finger movements such as Incy wincy Spider.
- Craft: Make things using old boxes, egg cartons, wool, paper and sticky or masking tape.
- Construction: Building with duplo, lego, mobilo or other construction toys.
The ability to self-regulate plays a big role in writing. When you set a goal for how many words a paper should be and then check the word count as you write, that’s self-regulation. If you get to the end of a sentence, realize it doesn’t make sense, and decide to rewrite it, that’s self-regulation.
Here’s another example. When kids get frustrated, they might give up on writing. But if they remind themselves that they’re making progress and can do it, that’s also self-regulation. Experienced writers do this naturally.
What can help: There are lots of strategies to teach self-regulated writing. You can teach kids to check each sentence of a paragraph once they’ve finished the paragraph. You can also encourage them to take breaks after writing a certain number of words.
Kids can also be taught to use positive self-talk to help with motivation. When writing, they could say to themselves, “It’s OK that this is hard because I know my effort will pay off.” The key to all these strategies is repetition and practice.