Kirsten Snook is a Teaching and Learning Adviser for English at Herts for Learning

We tend to think that children are intrinsically motivated to write much later than they are to read. But why? It has, however, been suggested that very young children are more motivated by a shared writing episode than a shared reading one, due to an emerging sense of self and place in the world.

Whatever the truth of it is (and there is usually more than one truth in life!) both are also a perfect way to help the children see and feel the links between oral language, writing and reading…especially at the earliest stages when children may not have the fine motor or phonics skills yet to do these things for themselves.  Can episodic writing really have pay-offs though? And what of ‘reading as a writer’? How do we pave the way for – and develop – children’s emerging literacy skills? Here are 10 things to try out, to keep shared reading and writing fun and impactful. For ‘Diminishing the Difference’, identify precise needs, match with intensive enough provision and own the impact.

  1. Scribe. Do it often. Display and re-read with pointer: “How many words in this caption/label/sentence?”
  2. Use referencing in reading, using book handling and text-concept meta-language: “Where do I start?”, “Which way do I go?” A quality Big Book is still a fantastic modelling-facilitator! Also see: Herts for Learning’s PA+ ‘Reception-KS1 Guided Reading Booklet’ (containing pre-Reception skills and stepped termly targets for YR term 1 to Y3 term 1, decoding, comprehension and self-regulation – always fully consider Reception-appropriate Guided Reading activities, even starting with 2 pink-book-band-ready children hand-over-hand for “point and blend” practice.)
  3. Prepare children for needing footholds in print; “Did I/you point to every word?”
  4. Scaffold spelling: use a whiteboard or ‘Have-a-Go’ paper; and ask “which way looks right?”
  5. Safety nets: provide charts, lists & grids of letters, words and sentence starters and show the children how to use them: “I’m going to show you what this is for.”
  6. Phoneme manipulation experience: do you see thechildren using robot arms to articulate phonemes clearly and successfully blend and segment? Ensure you model how to gradually speed up the blending and the robot arms, so that they see and feel the process of developing fluent blending. As if driving your car onto a motorway and accelerating through the gears, take them through the motions from a slow start to the fully blended word. Once modelled, you can then remind them “Go through the gears.”
  7. Don’t do for a child what they can do for themselves: instead, ask “What did you notice?”, “Great! You spotted what was not right.”, “You try.”.
  8. Scribe children’s spoken captions and take it through into a cut-up sentence, to re-sequence. Always have a stock of 30cm x 2cm strips of thin white card, bright felt tips and safety scissors. Envelopes too for home-sharing. Help thechildren to use their expectancy of the oral language structure they’ve just rehearsed and helped compose, to bring together 1:1 correspondence on familiar text and behave like a reader. “Can you point and touch?” “Can you read it in swoops?” “Can you sweep smoothly underneath the words with your finger like this?”

Also see: Fluency Rubric in HfL’s PA+ ‘KS2 GR Toolkit’.

  1. Phoneme frames: it is a thing of pure joy to see a child empowered by the use of a phoneme frame (a ‘three-er’ is fine, to use Lego language), pushing in some bright tiddly-winks as kinaesthetic sound buttons to help secure that elusive descriptor of Letters and Sounds Phase 1: “orally blends and segments”. For added joy, add the Robot Arms of Gears (see point 6).
  2. Arrange for success. Arrange for a far higher success-to-failure ratio the further behind they have fallen. They will, for a time, benefit from skilled selection of well-matched tasks. Ensure at least 90% of words are easily accessible in Guided Reading (developed in style, format, group-size etc across the YR year), and 95% ‘easier texts’ frequently experienced for developing prosody, automaticity and comprehension (also strengthening capacity for visual memory of words and word-parts).

 

The last point should arguably be the very first consideration. We all too often go racing through learning and experiences without pausing to dwell, ramp up to fluency and apply. Hopefully through trying these simple and quick activity ideas, your children will see and feel how their developing oral vocabulary and sentence structure relate to early concepts about print.

Coming soon: Phonics Project Round 4 (deep diagnostics, immersive subject knowledge, plan-do-review, child-centred).
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