Updated: Mar 12
As your child develops their fine and gross motor skills, they will be able to progress in their journey to forming letters.
With computers and phones being used more and more, we can sometimes forget how little our children might see us preform skills without the aid of technology. Your child wants to do what you do so take some time to think about what they see us doing. For example, how often do they see you reading a book for enjoyment or writing with a pen and paper? From personal experience, this can be hard to achieve. For example I am currently writing this on a computer and finding time to relax with a book is difficult with young children but it is something I strive for.
Children will begin with mark making. This is simply making any sort of mark on the page or any other place. These won't have any purpose, they are not a drawing of something. As your child develops their skills, you will begin to see different types of marks being made. These will normally move from big marks across the page in a line shape to more elaborate big movements involving curves. Slowly, they will start to make smaller marks as they become more accurate and aware of their ability to control their pencil. You may also notice that your child begins to label their mark making, 'look at the dog I've drawn!' This is a great opportunity for us as adults to practice the accuracy of our praise. Pick out elements of the mark making to focus your praise. For example 'I love the use of the red colour here' rather than 'great picture'. Slowly, their drawing will begin to resemble what they say. Their next step is to mark make with an intention, such as 'I am going to draw a dog'. Copying different shapes and movements like on our 'Copy me..' page will help your children develop their pencil control.
The recommendation, from the Department of Education, is that children begin to form their letters without lead ins or outs. This means letters in their simple form (not joined) such as in this font. Get children to focus on the accuracy of their letters and their relative size. At first, children will find it much easier to write large letters - using plain or wide lined paper will help. In our adventures, we have used three different height animals to help children learn about the relative heights of their letters. Try to make the difference between capital and lower case letters clear. Even by Year 6, some children struggle with grammar because they have not learnt the difference between lower and upper case letters or their full alphabet. This is a good example of why we shouldn't rush these early steps as they are vital to learning more complex skills later.
The aim with practicing our letter formation is for the skill to become automatic so that when writing children can focus on the content of their writing rather than the formation of letters. Early writers have to think about it all! To do this get your child to slow down. They want a smaller number of accurate letters for their brain and arm/finger muscles to remember than lots of inaccurate ones which will then become their default way of forming letters when they are concentrating on other aspects of writing.
As children enter Year 1, they will be expected to begin to join their letters. These top tips will help them along the way: always start from the line and focus on the heights of letters (capital letters are always tall like giraffes).
Our letter formation packs.
We have designed letter formation packs to support little learners. Between the our normal writing lines (the black line), we have divided the space into thirds to help children learn the correct hights for their letters. Capital letters and tall letters reach up (about) two thirds up the line like a tall giraffe. Other letters reach as high as one third up the line, with some (descenders) hanging a third below like a cat's tail hanging. The colours are included so that children do not need to worry about working out thirds. With practice children will be able to organise the hights of their letters on the line without consciously working out the thirds. In contrast with some other writing schemes, by not getting the tallest letters to reach to the top of the line children will find that there is space for their descenders to hang below the line without going over the tallest letters below.
We have an early letter formation pack for little learners who haven't developed the muscle control to write small enough for normal paper. These letters are on bigger lines to help them learn the formation. Once children are ready we have are next stage pack with smaller lines to develop children's fine motor skills further.