Each year I give the parents a questionnaire asking several questions about their child, family, pets, etc. I also ask if they have any concerns and goals for their child. Many times parents list that they'd like their child to be able to write their own name. This is only one of the many things that is a progressive skill that develops over time, yet one that I often see as a goal of the parents.
I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to participate in Deborah from Teach Preschool's blogger book study reviewing her new book, Ready for Kindergarten! After I read her book, I was ecstatic that FINALLY a book about kindergarten prep had been written that was totally developmentally appropriate and covered such a huge myriad of skills in a very easy to read and able to implement format. I also knew that I wanted to share some of my experience with children and writing their names, which is covered in Chapter 12 of the book.
|Photo courtesy of Deborah Stewart, Teach Preschool|
Note: I received a complimentary copy of Ready for Kindergarten in
exchange for participating in a blog book study. All opinions and
beliefs expressed in this post are my own.
What many parents don't realize is that preparing for writing one's name is a developmental skill that begins long before a child picks up a writing utensil. Play is the key! When children play with blocks, play Bingo/Lotto games, manipulate small items, and play with droppers/pipettes they are preparing for writing.
Some other great fine motor activities include: playing with Bristle blocks, using tweezers, sewing, and manipulating chopsticks.
Even more practice can take place with beading, connecting small pieces like with the Cootie game, painting at the easel, and lacing cards.
We definitely don't want to forget activities such as torn paper art where the child picks up and manipulates small pieces of paper and play dough. All of these activities build up the little muscles that will be needed to write.
Once your child shows an interest in writing implements, it's the perfect opportunity to make sure they have lots of writing utensils available such as: chalk with chalkboards and sidewalk chalk. You can provide pencils and pads of paper for your child to pretend they are writing down an order in a restaurant dramatic play scenario or pretending to work in a post office provides instances of writing exploration.
Setting up a Writing Area will provide your child with many writing utensils, such as: pencils of varying sizes, thin colored pencils, thick colored pencils, thin crayons, thick crayons, thin markers, thick markers, chalk, and dry erase markers. Having a variety of types of papers will provide different textures, colors, and experiences. You can also incorporate chalk boards, magnetic letters, sandpaper letters, tracing cards, stencils, and Boggle Jr. Having cards with familiar words and your child's name are also useful. If you work in a classroom setting, providing the names of all the children in the classroom will provide exploration in writing other's names.
Children enjoy seeing their name throughout their environment and get excited to try to write their name themselves. In my classroom, children find their name in numerous sites, including: our Owl Chart (attendance), name cards, job cards, on the ABC wall, on their sign-in folder, on their sign-in sheets, and in the writing area.
We have a routine when the child arrive daily. They place their jacket/backpack in their cubby, wash their hands, turn over their Owl card (to show they are present), and then they sign-in for the day.
Our three year-olds have a sign-in sheet like this one. Their name is printed at the top and they are encouraged to "write" their name. I tell the parents that the goal at this age if for them to feel good about having a pencil in their hands. It doesn't matter if it looks like "chicken scratch". The end product isn't the point, it's the process.
The sign-in sheet for the older children looks like the one pictured above. The children may trace their name on the left and attempt writing it on the right. We aren't super emphasizing the letter formation specifically, but when the child becomes interested the numbers and arrows can serve as a guide for them. At any point, whether three or four or even five, if a child is upset or distraught over the process, the parents are told to not worry about the task. It's meant to be enjoyable. If it isn't being that way, don't do it.
Before you know it, the children are writing all over the place: in the writing area, on the playground blacktop, in dramatic play, in the block area, and signing their name to their artwork. If a child completes artwork, but isn't able or interested in writing their name yet, we will write their name for them. As we write it we state the letters, so the child becomes familiar with the letters in their name.
Learning to write his or her own name is quite an accomplishment and one to be celebrated, but we must also remember to celebrate all the accomplishments along the way. It's vital to provide small challenges to a child, while not overwhelming him or her.