Children are expected to learn to write from a young age and there are many activities we can do that will not only prepare them to write but will also make handwriting fun. From the beginning children should be involved in a range of pre-writing activities which will help them to develop their fine muscle control, visual discrimination and co-ordinate eye-hand movement. They will also establish a clear preference for left or right hand.
The activities described here are designed to achieve these objectives and make handwriting fun.
Painting and drawing:
Provide opportunities for children to draw and paint using large sheets of thick, blank paper and a variety of media (e.g. wide and narrow paint brushes, pencils, crayons, chalks and finger paint). Playing music during these activities can help to create a relaxing environment and will also assist in rhythmic control.
Eye-hand co-ordination and the development of hand control:
The following activities can help to support this:
- Threading beads, macaroni or cotton reels on wool, string or fine plastic tubing
- Sewing: threading a large eye needle with wool and sewing simple patterns on hessian
- Paper tearing and/or weaving strips of paper, raffia, fabric scraps
- Pouring liquids from one container to another
- Spoon sand or flour into jars and bottles
- Paper cutting, simple paper folding and/or making paper chains
- Trace over lines or around templates and objects
- Drawing paths through simple mazes
- Using clay or dough to make models
- Making water paintings on fences, walls and concrete paths
- Putting pegs on a line or a coat hanger to make a pattern or sequence
- Tracing and drawing patterns from left to right
- Practising forming individual letters – for example in a sand tray or using a whiteboard
- Joining two, then three letters to make a word – e.g. ‘word of the week’.
- Give the child a purpose and a reason to write – e.g. make a book
- Have a ‘Writing Corner’ – encourage ‘have a go writing’
- Provide a variety of pens, pencils and paper available for children to use.
Finally, making finger puppets and finger plays can work well too! These can be used before writing. For example:
Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed the garden spout, down came the rain and washed poor Itsy out…
Children generally enjoy these activities and they not only help them to develop their ability to write, but also help them to develop a range of other skills and knowledge across many areas of the curriculum, such as Maths, Science, Art, DT and PE.
Anita Warwick is the Executive Head Teacher of Uplands Primary School in Sandhurst and the Forest Learning Alliance (FLA). Anita has transformed Uplands from ‘barely satisfactory’ to ‘outstanding’, and it was awarded National Teaching School status in March 2013. Since 2013, Uplands’ KS1–2 results have been consistently high, placing the school amongst the top in the country. Anita has a real passion for handwriting, helping teachers deliver effective and exciting lessons to pupils in infant and junior schools. Her books include Nelson Phonics, Spelling and Handwriting, and the newly updated Nelson Handwriting, which has just launched on Oxford Owl. Her proven approach to the teaching of handwriting skills derives from 35 years in teaching all ages. Anita is also responsible for the creation of the Inspired to Lead (ITL) training approach, training over 1500 teachers and heads across the country. She is a Local Leader of Education (LLE), supporting heads and schools, and responsible for Initial Teacher Training recruitment and the organization and delivery of a range of CPD programmes.
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