We live in a literate world, in a society that values reading and writing (literacy).
Consequently, a great deal of emphasis is placed on becoming competent in these areas.
Children begin to notice and respond to this literate world long before they begin the formal process of learning to read and write.
Their environment contains many examples of writing, from the signs in the supermarket and on the bus ticket and the bedtime story book.
Through their everyday experiences, children become familiar with the product of writing.
When they see someone take a telephone call or write a cheque, they become aware of the process of writing too.
These experiences have an impact; once children realise that writing carries meaning, they have taken their first step towards becoming literate.
If children have already begun to enjoy books, then it is likely that this will spur them on and give them a reason to persevere.
By the age of 5, many children will have a slight vocabulary of a number of words. Most will recognise their own name; many will be able to write it.
Formal instruction in reading and writing will often begin in a pre-school environment alongside other, less formal, experiences and activities that contribute to the development of reading and writing skills.
These include activities that involve any or all of the following...
Also very important at this stage is using reading and writing as a meaningful part of play, for example, 'reading' the menu in the cafe, 'writing' a telephone message in the home corner.
Remember that reading and writing are essential tools for later learning. They are used and practiced in every area of the curriculum.
Look and say involves the recognition of whole words by their shape. Words and often written on flashcards and children will attempt to memorise them, often practising at home.
Children can then read simple stories comprised of words that they have learned. They recognise words from their shapes, from the look of them.
The shortcoming of this approach is that early readers will have no way of recognising words that they have not yet learned.
Phonics breaks down words into sounds and encourages the sounding out of words. Children are encouraged to pick out patterns in the sounds of words, noticing rhymes and rhythms.
The disadvantage with this method is that English is not phonically regular - a letter may make one sound and a completely different sound in another.
It is not very rewarding for the early reader to be limited to phonically regular words that can be sounded out. On the other hand, a knowledge of phonics will give children a good strategy for attempting unfamiliar words.
During their early years in school, children need to learn the rules and conventions of writing. It becomes an important tool that they use to communicate with themselves and with the outside world.
Children's writing is not just about the technical skills listed above, it is about content too. Sometimes children become overwhelmed by these technical skills and this affects the content of their writing.
A child who is limited to the words that they can spell correctly or who is afraid to make a mistake will not become involved in or enjoy writing. It will become a task to be completed because an adult demands it.
A sensitive adult will watch the child's progress and introduce the need for correct spelling at the right stage, ensuring that child retains confidence in their writing abilities.
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