As you may know, I’m not a fan of pushing kids into learning things they aren’t interested in. I make suggestions, make things into games and fun activities, and encourage them to try things… but I don’t push. I think that trying to force kids to learn something when they aren’t interested is counterproductive. Not only will the child probably not retain the things you’re trying to teach, but their curiosity and love for learning will get squashed a bit, too. If I had to choose one value that I thought was the most important for a child to have, it would be a love of learning.
Like I said, I try to make learning a fun thing to do, and I’ve been working with Miss 4 on her letters, since she’ll be going to Kindergarten next year. She’s loving it! Yesterday, I suggested that we do some drawing and coloring together, but she excitedly suggested that we practice her letters instead! Of course I said yes to that!
Here’s my typical teaching process when I’m working with kids writing letters:
1. Make sure to have some primary-lined paper. You can buy this at the store, or print them out. I’ll give you a link to a great free printable site at the end of this entry. You could even get out your ruler or straight-edged item and make your own, if you like! Sometimes making the paper fun can make a big difference! Find/make paper that has a picture of your kiddo’s favorite animal on it, or make your own paper with their favorite colors (or rainbow colors!). This is a super easy way to start the process out in an exciting, fun way! Make sure the lines are big enough! Start out with bigger lines, then make them smaller as the child gets better fine motor skills.
2. Let the child choose a letter. If your kiddo doesn’t know many letters, give suggestions! Perhaps the first letter of their name? Or the first letter of a favorite toy, animal, or movie? Keep in mind that letters with straight lines are easier in the beginning. Be sure to talk about what sound the letter makes, but don’t overdo it. Even just saying it in passing, “Ok, let’s draw an ‘M’. M says ‘mmmm'”, can make a difference. But follow the child’s lead. He may just want to get to the fun part, which is the writing part!
3. Use a highlighter or light-colored marker to write the letter a few times very neatly on the lined paper. Always encourage the child to watch you writing the letters, and talk through what you’re doing as you do it (“Straight line up, curved line down, etc). Let your kiddo trace over your lines with a pencil. I always use a pencil for writing practice, because that’s what will be used in school, and it’s good for kids to get used to the feel of a pencil. Praise every attempt, and point out lines that are straighter, or letters that are even a little bit nicer than the last. Remember to praise hard work, not skill level. “I can tell you worked really hard on that one!” “Wow- all this practice is helping you get better and better!” NOT “You are such a great writer!” Do this for as long as your kiddo enjoys it!
4. If/when it’s time for a new challenge, the next step is to play “connect the dots”. On the lined paper, put dots where each line will start or stop. Be sure to focus on the order that these lines are made in, but don’t stress if it’s not done correctly in the beginning. Remember that the most important part of this is making sure your kiddo wants to play this “writing game” again! If you’re practicing the letter “T”, there’ll be 4 dots, two for the vertical line and two for the horizontal line on top. If your kiddo knows his numbers, you could play this with numbers next to the dots. Just make sure she knows when to pick the pencil up! Remember to praise every attempt!
5. Eventually (probably not on the first day of practicing), your kiddo will be able to try writing letters without the dots. This will be a lot more challenging, but make sure he feels good about doing something all by himself! And you can go back and forth between highlighter, dots, and all-by-yourself as much as you want. I like to take the kid’s lead and ask what they want to do, tracing, dots, or nothing. End your practice whenever it’s becoming a little less fun. It may be 2 minutes in or 20, but learning only really takes place when there’s interest, so put it away whenever your kiddo is done.
Here’s a great place to find fun lined paper to practice with! Let your child pick his favorite! Printable Stationary with Primary Lines
This is Miss 4’s favorite lined paper sheet. It’s in the “animals” category in the above link. 🙂