Children in kindergarten, and even preschool sometimes, are expected to learn to print the letters of the alphabet correctly. However, these young children often have not developed sufficient fine motor skills to allow them to experience success in forming the required letter forms.
Many articles have been written to address the technical aspects of early writing and / or pre-writing skills, suggesting, for example, that children practice with writing tools such as crayons and pencils. These items can encourage shape drawing and have an adult model using the correct pencil grip. Some articles encourage early fine motor development by suggesting that the child be given the opportunity to use play dough and scissors. These are all valid suggestions.
However, there is another key factor, beyond the technical aspects of letter formation, that can radically affect a young child’s ability to be successful in letter formation or simple word writing. This key factor is motivation.
For many young children, there is little intrinsic motivation to complete the pages of a required writing practice booklet or to spontaneously practice letter formation. Letters are abstractions that may have little or no meaning to children of this age. Therefore, they may have little interest in practicing writing skills beyond whatever practice the teacher requires.
However, there is a simple way to engage children and motivate them to happily practice the same technical skills that will lead to success in letter formation.
Young children love to draw. Initially, they scribble for the pleasure of making marks on paper and for the fun of using colors. Markers, crayons, and paints are “hot” items in any preschool or kindergarten classroom.
However, there comes a time when young children want to represent on paper an image that they are visualizing in their mind, and they can get quite frustrated when they cannot. Children often don’t know how to break down the drawing process, taking a whole picture and breaking it down into the simplest individual pieces that they can draw. Teaching children to visually recognize the discrete components of whatever it is they are trying to draw, and helping them learn to put them in proper settings on paper, allows them to create a drawing that is clearly seen close to the full picture that they are in. trying to draw. create. It is this desire that we capitalize on … the desire to represent on paper those images that children are visualizing in their mental eyes.
I have used a technique, which I call Model Drawing, with great success in both preschool and kindergarten classrooms. With Model Drawing, I work on a whiteboard in front of a group of students, each of whom has a paper, a pencil, and an eraser. My first model drawing project is usually drawing a person. Later projects include vehicles, buildings and animals.
We begin each model drawing project by talking about the item we are going to draw, starting with a person. We first discuss the variations between people. The children offer their ideas and, if necessary, I ask them questions. Together we notice the fact that people differ in terms of attributes such as height, weight, hairstyles, skin tones, etc. This sets the stage to honor the creativity and different abilities of each child, ensuring that children will expect and accept variations when looking at each other’s drawings.
This part of the discussion … noticing the variations … is followed by the observation that there are also some definite similarities. As we discuss the similarities, the drawing begins. It is an interactive process, in which I lead the way through the discussion to focus the children’s attention on some particular part or attribute of the subject being drawn.
Step by step, as we talk about each similarity, I draw that particular part on the board in front of the class. I draw the shape of a head and the students draw something similar on their papers. I walk around the room to make sure each child has something recognizable about their role. Then we move on to the next part. We all have two eyes. After a little discussion about the shape, size, and placement of the eyes, I add them to my model drawing and again walk around the room to make sure each child has succeeded in their attempt to draw two eyes. We continue through the nose, mouth, ears and hair following the same procedure.
For very young children, completing a drawing of a head can be the total project for the first day. For older children, we can move on to adding a body, neck, arms, legs, etc., and continue to add body details according to the skill levels of the students. My goal is to ensure that they are successful because students beginning to gain drawing skills will choose over and over again to practice drawing spontaneously.
I have noticed that children are very motivated to draw. They very much want to be able to make recognizable drawings, and they will spend many happy hours drawing if they are satisfied with their results. They also help each other, thus reinforcing their own skills and adding opportunities for their classmates to observe a classmate complete a challenging assignment.
Of course, as children draw, I know that they are developing the same fine motor skills that they will need to be successful in letter formation. And in fact, I have noticed that children who can draw simple people, houses, vehicles, and animals are the same children who can form letters more easily and successfully when asked.