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Learning to Write - Supporting Your Child at Home

School News

Learning to Write - Supporting Your Child at Home

S Charles

As a parent it can be difficult to decide how to support your child with their writing. We often draw on our own experiences in the classroom, thinking back to the way we were taught by our teachers or the ways in which our parents tried to help us. However as adults we can appreciate that the way we were taught in primary school will differ in some ways to the way in which our children are being taught in classrooms today.

In the following extract, Kaye Lowe from PETAA (Primary English Teaching Association of Australia) provides some insight into how children learn to write in classrooms today and she describes some of the current teaching approaches. In next week’s article we will continue this theme with Kaye’s suggestions on how parents can support their children when they are writing at home.

What we need to know

Children experiment with writing long before they start school. Their early squiggles and drawings are the beginning of writing. Books provide a powerful model of what writing looks like. Books convey the understanding that squiggles on a page convey a message. Reading and writing with your children helps them to make sense of how written language works. We learn to write by writing. In classrooms, children are encouraged to select topics that express their ideas and interests. It is difficult (sometimes impossible) to write about unfamiliar topics or topics that are irrelevant to our life experiences. Before writing, talking about a topic is a good place to collect thoughts and ideas.

When children write and freely express their ideas, this is called draft writing. At this stage, worrying about spelling can hinder their styles, expressions and exploration of words that best communicate their ideas. If the draft writing is to be shared with a wider audience, and has been edited for meaning, the next stage is to proofread for spelling, punctuation and grammatical mistakes. Not all writing needs to be edited. We do not edit our shopping lists, diaries or reminder notes! Children need to be encouraged to write for enjoyment and play with words.

In classrooms, children explore writing as a process from drafts to published pieces. Children are encouraged to write for real purposes and utilise a range of different text types such as report writing, narratives and poetry. They are also taught how to appeal to different audiences.

Some parents confuse handwriting with writing. Handwriting is a surface feature of writing and children who are self-conscious of their handwriting benefit from opportunities to write and draw a variety of different pens, textas, paint, magic boards, chalk and ‘fancy’ pencils. Making available a box of coloured papers, scissors, glue, staples and other construction materials encourages children to experiment with handwriting and writing stories for enjoyment.

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