Literacy is a fundamental skill that all children must master early on in their education but it is also a complex skill which takes some time and patience to master. In order to successfully learn how to properly control a pencil, and later a pen, young learners must first master some vital pre-writing skills, which build on their fine motor skills.
Pre-writing skills – also referred to as writing readiness – focus on learning how to properly hold and control a pencil, along with learning how to make the lines and strokes that will eventually become the foundation for letter formation and writing.
Importance of Pre-Writing Skills
Pre-writing skills are a vital part of early years education and lay the foundations for eventually learning how to write correctly. Before they begin learning how to write, it’s important that children already possess the necessary fine motor skills to properly be able to hold and control a writing instrument to produce legible writing.
Without the proper development of pre-writing skills, children can easily become frustrated or feel like they are falling behind their peers in writing activities, which can, in turn, lead to poor academic performance and have a knock-on effect on their self-esteem.
More importantly, writing skills are linked to other basic skills such as reading or listening as children often learn how to sound out letters as they practice recognising and writing them. So, despite the many arguments that handwriting is becoming obsolete in our technological skill, writing – and pre-writing skills – are still essential to childhood development.
There are a variety of activities you can engage young learners in that will help them develop the necessary pre-writing skills. These include arts and crafts which require, and help to further develop fine motor skills.
Sensory play is the ideal first step as it encourages tactical awareness, and can be used in a range of ages as the first stage in a progression of activities geared at increasing dexterity and the development of the hand muscles.
Other activities that can be used to improve writing readiness includes playing with construction toys, threading and lacing, mark making, and playdough activities which require the use of tools.
Once children reach the appropriate age, you can introduce specific school supplies and apps designed to familiarise them with letter formation by presenting these concepts through fun activities.
Beginning to Write
It’s important to recognise the importance of pre-writing skills even as children begin to write, as they will still require some support until they master the necessary dexterity and the confidence to correctly beginning forming letters and, eventually, words.
There are a number of different manipulatives – physical teaching tools – that you can use in the classroom to ensure that the process of transitioning from pre-writing activities to actually learning how to write is an easy one for students.
Make sure that you regularly demonstrate to the class how to properly hold a pencil when forming letters, using the tripod grip. This will help to ensure that everyone in your class is confident in controlling a pencil, and removes the need for anyone to individually ask for help – something which many some children may be too embarrassed to do, causing them to fall behind.
It’s also important to frame writing as a fun activity, to remove any pressure or stress that could negatively impact young learners. To this, make sure that you introduce a variety of writing activities and writing utensils, to keep students enthusiastic and motivated.