Helping your child to write at home
There are lots of things a child needs to think about when they write:
- Deciding which words they want to say and who will read their writing
- Sounding out words and writing the letters they can hear in the order that they hear them.
- Writing letters correctly and neatly
- Leaving a finger space after each word
- Using a capital letter to start a sentence and names only, and putting a full stop at the end of the sentence.
Children often enjoy writing more if they can see it is useful and/or is written for someone else to read.
Here are some ideas for writing that you could suggest:
Adding some items to the shopping list.
Writing a list of jobs or activities to do.
Writing a message for someone.
Writing a note or card to send to a family member or a friend.
Writing a name or labels for a book character, vehicle, animal, imaginary creature or anything else they have drawn or made.
Labelling a model they have made e.g. with Lego or junk materials.
Drawing a map and labelling the places on it.
Drawing or making a race track and writing directions e.g. start/go, this way, no entry and stop/finish.
Writing a question for someone to answer.
Writing a speech bubble.
Retelling or making up a short story with someone, taking turns to write the words.
Writing a diary.
You and your child may have lots of ideas of your own.
Some examples of what children’s writing might look like.
A child who is just starting to write will make marks like pretend writing or write some letters they know (perhaps from their name) in a line. They may be able to tell you what it means to them. (See examples 1 and 2 below.)
Sometimes children will write words that they have remembered. (See example 3.)
A child who is beginning to know that letters make sounds and the sounds make up words will begin to use these in their writing. They may write the first sound of a word, e.g. ‘mc’ and read it as ‘my cat.’ They may add more letters too which don’t spell my or cat.
Later they will add the last sound e.g. ‘mct’ for ‘my cat’.
You can ask your child to leave a space after each word. They can put the index finger of their non-writing hand on the paper after the last word and then write the first letter of the next word. When they take off their finger, there will be a space! As they see the space appear each time, they may not need to use their finger and will just move their pencil along the line for the next word. Left-handed writers find this difficult so you could draw a finger on card e.g. back of a cereal box, cut it out and use this instead.
A child who can sound words out and hear all or nearly all the sounds in a word will be able to say the word, say the sounds they can hear in order and then write the letters that make the sounds e.g. ‘m cat is big ad fuf’ and read it as ‘My cat is big and fluffy.’ They may still miss out some sounds and write the sounds they hear most easily. If your child can hear a sound but has forgotten or doesn't know the letter or letters that make the sound, please show them on the Phase 2 or 3 sounds mat.
When your child is writing like this, you can ask them to use a capital letter to begin and a full stop to end, e.g. M cat is big ad fuf.’
A child who is confident to write in sentences can be encouraged to write 2 or 3 sentences at a time. Encourage them to choose interesting words e.g. ‘massive’ instead of big, ‘suddenly’ when writing stories, or ‘travelled’ instead of went.
Always ask your child to read what they have written. This helps them check their writing says what they wanted it to say, and helps them to spot mistakes. Your child may say ‘Oh I forgot n in and.’ Use a small arrow going upwards between the a and d so your child can add the missing letter above the word. A little arrow can also be used for a missing word.
Using what they know about phonics to spell
A child who is learning/has learnt Phase 3 phonics may spell fluffy like this ‘fluffee’. This is good spelling because the ee has been used for the long sound made by the y. This is the only way of spelling an ‘ee’ sound the child has been taught so far. Good spelling is also when a child uses a letter or letters for every sound that can be heard in the word and doesn't miss a sound out. Other examples of words spelt using phonics taught so far are;
yelloa/yeloa (y e ll oa/y e l oa – yellow)
dInoasor or dighnosor (d I n oa s or/d igh no s or – dinosaur)
pleez (p l ee z – please)
futborl or footborll (f u t b or l/f oo t b or ll – football)
ighscreem/Iscreem (igh s c r ee m/I s c r ee m – ice cream)
plai (p l ai – play)
hejhog (h e j h o g – hedgehog)
airaplain (air a p l ai n – aeroplane)
In school we would expect a child to use the correct spellings for any tricky words that have been taught. These are
Phase 2: I no go to into the
Phase 3: he she be me we are all you her they was my
Phase 4: said have like so do some come little one were out what when there
If your child has forgotten a word or doesn’t know it, write it for them, look at it together and say the letter names, look at the shape of the whole word then hide the word and ask your child to write it from memory. Praise them for any letters they remember and let them look again if they need to. If they haven’t learnt the word yet, let them copy it.
Please look in the handwriting section for how to help your child to write letters correctly.
Most importantly of all, please praise all your child’s efforts to write so that they enjoy the experience. Just choosing one thing each time to try to improve with your help, is fine. Making sure your child believes they are a good writer is the most important thing.
Below are some examples of children's writing to show you what has been described above.