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Learning to write through play

My daughter playing a writing game -Game two

My daughter is three and a half years old. I have never taught her to write nor how to hold pencil using a preferred pencil hold. Before she was three she was naturally holding a crayon using the preferred hand grip, and mark making like any other child her age. I never pushed her to write letters as she enjoyed making marks, circles and then faces with arms and legs. Two weeks ago I played a game with her where I wrote her name and asked her to write it too. She watched me closely then copied it. The picture above shows the second go at the game. To say I was taken aback is an understatement.

I teach in reception (4-5 years old) and children have a wide range of writing abilities. On entry in September, a few can write their name, many more can write the first few letters of their name and some use only marks to show their name. The only reasons I can ascertain as to why children can write their names when they start school are
  1. They are encouraged at home
  2. They are encouraged at nursery
  3. They are encouraged by child minders
  4. Points 1-3 encourage them to make marks through play
Encouragement through play not teaching

Initially, you don't teach three or four year olds, you give them the time to explore, to try out, to play. Young children learn through play, teaching comes second. A few discussions on Twitter and blogs have attempted to demean play as an effective educational activity but they all miss the point that they are completely wrong. Children do learn through play. 

My daughter demonstrates this every day. By game three I had taught her how to form the f and e as you can see in the game three picture.

Play first, teach second. When I taught in Year 5 I used the same approach. I used play in a lot of my teaching from the outset and children responded favourably. Too often some of us look down upon play as a form of fun rather than an educationally sound activity . I ask those who do so to look again and rethink how play can be used as an effective teaching and learning strategy.


Game one 
Game three




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