Encouraging Spontaneous Writing Opportunities

Throughout early childhood, children experiment with writing.  They see adults and older children writing and they want to get in on the action!  They understand that writing is a powerful form of communication and will work persistently to learn this important skill.  You may have overheard children talking about “words” that they wrote on their papers.  Children will often tell adults what their marks say.   Most likely, these words and marks are only scribbles to adult eyes, but at this stage, these spontaneous efforts to write should be recognized and reinforced.

Additionally, when teachers notice children’s interest in writing, they should create more opportunities for children to practice with intention.  One powerful word that children are especially motivated to learn to write is their name.  Children should see their names throughout the learning environment and opportunities to write their names should be incorporated into daily routines.

Here are some ideas:

  • Sign-in and out procedures – Programs typically have a formal or even computerized sign-in and out system in place, but preschool teachers can incorporate a similar system in the classroom. Each day, ask children to find their names on a dry-erase board. Depending on children’s abilities and interest level, teachers can encourage children to circle their name, trace the letters of their name, write the first letter or their initials, or attempt to write their first name on the board as a way to check-in. The same steps can be followed to sign out at the end of the day.
  • Poll and Surveys – Teachers can pose questions or choices to children and encourage them to write their name or initials in the appropriate box to respond to the question. This activity is sometimes conducted during large group time, with the teacher writing the children’s names.  It may take too long to adapt this practice to allow children to write their names during large group time, but teachers can introduce the question during group time and encourage children to visit the poll throughout the day or week to respond to the question.  This may alleviate the stress that some children have if they are not yet confident in their skills.  Teachers can work with individual children and modify the instructions based on the skills of the child they are working with at any given time.
  • Sign-ups – Children can be encouraged to write their name (or initials) to sign up for time on the computer, a turn on the tricycle on the playground, or for their preferred chore of the week.
  • Letters and notes– Teachers can encourage children to write their names on letters or thank you cards that are sent to different members of the staff, families, newly enrolled children, or community helpers, just to name a few ideas.

To extend writing opportunities beyond name writing, teachers should integrate writing materials into each of the learning centers of the classroom. Baskets with mini clipboards and pencils can be added to dramatic play to encourage children to write shopping lists. Dramatic play can also morph into other settings beyond a kitchen/home setting.  This can promote writing in many other settings with which children are familiar, such as a school, doctor’s office, or store.

For much more information on promoting emergent writing in early learning environments, click here.