Learning to Write – It IS Rocket Science!
After I wrote about high tech for last month’s newsletter, I had an interesting experience with low tech that I wanted to share with you. I walked into a preschool classroom to observe, and right away the 4 year olds clustered around me. They were so fascinated by what was in my hand that you would have thought I was holding an electronic high-tech device. But it was just a small ordinary notebook. I told them that I like to learn about children, and I showed them how I write down things they say and do, so I can remember.
They were so drawn to my notebook that every one of them asked if they could write in it -- so many that I offered to tear off pages for them so they wouldn’t have a long wait for a turn. And they brought their pages back, showing me what they wrote. There must be something special about lined notepaper because each of them used it to write their names – some scribbly, some with letters backwards and uneven, and they were pleased as can be.
No wonder they were proud! Think of what they’ve accomplished. For young children learning to write their name IS “rocket science." It’s a complex skill that requires memory, fine motor movements, hand-eye coordination, focus and persistence. As hard as it is to learn how to write, you can see how driven children are to master it. It was clear to me, too, that all through the year their teachers had been encouraging and supporting them to learn to spell their names and write them.
Fred Rogers often talked about that good feeling that comes from learning how to read and write. Watch this Neighborhood video and see how he talked with children about writing – and how important you, as teachers, are in that process.
The children’s response that day was a great reminder to me that you don’t need fancy high-tech devices to motivate them to learn something as important as writing. But we’re still talking about “technology” which is just a fancy word for “tool.” Pens, pencils and markers are, in fact, low-tech “tools” for writing.
Here are some ways you can use those “tools” to encourage writing:
Use writing to express feelings
These are just some of the many ways you can help children see that writing is useful, meaningful, and valuable. That’s what helps them want to do the hard work that it takes – and gives them such a good feeling when they’ve accomplished it. And when they share their writing attempts with you, your warm response will add immeasurably to their sense of “Look what I can do!”
"Children have their own unique ways of relating to books, reading, and words…When we let them know we appreciate it when they take small steps along the way to reading and writing, we’re building a sturdy foundation for a child who will go off to kindergarten wanting to learn…about reading and writing and anything else in this world."
Past issues that can be helpful resources for you.
Last Month's issue.
Over 300 Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood episodes are now available for purchase at amazon.com as downloads or on DVD. We hope the Neighborhood’s timeless messages can be a resource to you in your work.
You can also see selected Mister Rogers' Neighborhood episodes and video clips on our PBSKids website.