Let’s talk about the physicality of writing.

The pressure is on

It’ll soon be the summer term, and focus will shift to those nursery children going to school in September and reception children moving up into Yr1, and sadly for many, to more formal learning. As a result, around the country, many teachers and practitioners will be doing their very best to ‘get them ready.’

Now, I’ll not argue on the fact that it’s a reception teacher’s responsibility to prepare their classes for school, I will argue that this is what is meant by ‘school ready’ (a blog for another day), but I will interject and add my opinion on getting nursery/preschool children ‘ready to write.’

The ability to write and a child’s level of physical development are inextricably linked.

Children need to have strong muscles, good co-ordination, and balance in order to be able to perform the fine motor dexterity that is required for writing. They also need to have developed a certain level of maturity, which is often why it takes boys often a longer time than it does girls to develop this skill.

Therefore, it is essential to keep in mind, that if you want to your young learners to become self-assured and self-reliant writers, ones who are able to produce work of a high quality and maintain this for extended periods of the day, you must first acknowledge the importance of physical development and devote some of your time to it.

It’s a complex skill to teach, and unfortunately, not always approached in the most developmentally appropriate of ways. There’s a responsibility to create a supportive environment that encourages opportunity and exposure to play, activities and well-informed teachable moments, that develop, promote and challenge the necessary physical development before the honing in on the holding of the pencil itself.  Imagine an Olympic athlete did not have the appropriate physical training, plenty of practise and reinforcement, the ability to analyse their errors, try again, and the self-belief that they can win and achieve their goals, that athlete would not be allowed to compete in a world competition.

They need to be ready

It is important to keep in mind that a child simply cannot learn a skill before their brain has reached the appropriate level of maturity and their muscles have reached the appropriate level of strength, and that attempting to teach the child does little to no good. We have a responsibility to give children as many chances as possible to interact with and investigate the physical world around them, including taking risks, meeting and overcoming obstacles, and gaining an understanding of what their bodies are capable of accomplishing in a variety of settings. As practitioners, we need to be able to stand back, keep a close eye on the situation, and take the appropriate action when it’s required of us. We also need to be proficient and confident in doing so.

When a child is “ready” to learn a skill, we need to provide straightforward instruction that is repeated and reinforced, in addition to providing them with enjoyable activities to practise with so that they can master the skill. Their self-assurance will grow as a result, which will ultimately boost their chances of being successful.

There’s no magic formula

But there is a necessary mix of skills and abilities children need:

  • Maturity,
  • Physical Development,
  • Perceptual Awareness
  • Coordination
  • Making Connections in the Brain
  • Developing Strong Muscles
  • Developing Coordination
  • Making Connections in the Brain
  • Developing Strong Muscles

The best way for adults to interact with children is to have patience, give them the gift of  time, and just observe – watch them closely.

They’ll inevitably show you their readiness for writing

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