Monday, September 9, 2013

Growing Preschool Writers & Learners: 12 Basics

Many parents ask me what they need to do to help their preschool children to become writers. They see this as one of the keys to success in school. Most start by asking some specific questions. Should I:
"Make sure they know their sounds before schools?"
"Teach them the letter names?"
"Teach them to write their name?"
"Make sure they can write neatly?"
"Teach them to read some simple words?"
"Teach them about numbers?"
These are all legitimate questions, but they side step the real writing 'basics' in the preschool years. If you want your child to succeed at school and in the workplace, and be able to use writing as creative people who solve problems, adapt to varied situations, feed varied life interests and become lifelong learners, then here are the things you want them to be able to do by the time they are five and head off to school. Ask yourself about the following areas of learning.

Enjoying playing with language - Do they know unusual words, enjoy finding out new ones, and play with rhyme and rhythm in language? Do they love telling stories, jokes and generally talking with other people?

Enjoying new stories with others in all their forms - Do they enjoy stories you tell them of your life, stories read to them, or even stories watched with others in the form of film and on television? Can they sustain concentration across a story?

Interest in numbers, letters and words - Do they want to learn about numbers, letters and words (e.g. "Show me what a thousand is Mum")? Do they try to write symbols and even include them in their creative play and drawing?

Creative story making with skills established early
Staying on task and sitting still for up to 30 minutes - Are they able to play alone or with others, complete a task they're interested in, listen to stories, engage in a play situation etc?

An expanding vocabulary - Are they learning new words, trying to invent their own, asking you about words and what they mean?
Learning from experience & support

Enjoying knowledge and the gaining of it - Are they curious about some area of interest (e.g. insects, dragons, horses, pets), and do they have a desire to know more and share it ("Did you know Mum that a stick insect is called a Phasmid, and there are lots of types")?

Possessing a love of books - Are books amongst your child's most special possessions because of the knowledge, stories and wonder that they hold?

Having an emerging knowledge of words, letters and the sounds associated with them - Does your child have some knowledge of letter names, some concepts of print and an interest in knowing how to read and write?

An interest in technology - Do they have a desire to explore their world with computers, and an interest in the knowledge and learning that technology can deliver and how it can expand our world?

An ability to be creative and inventive - Do they draw and make things inspired by a story, TV show, movie or experience? Do they want to dress up and act out characters and experiences, making shops, cubbies under the table, giving names and characters to their dolls and toys, using toys and other objects for creative story telling or re-creation?

Creative play in action, the foundation of imagination & problem solving

An interest in problem solving - Do they try to see how things work, try fixing things that are broken? Do they try to come up with ideas for how the problems of his or her world can be solved ("Mum, if we could knock off three palings on the fence I could make a gate to Cheryl's house")?

The ability to listen to, learn and comprehend - Do they listen to and learn from stories, lifestyle programs, movies, television shows, stories you tell them, recipes and instructions (spoken or pictorial)? 

The above are the real basics that children need to know to become greater writers and learners at school. The problem with them is that you can't just cram in the year before school. These basics are things that take time and effort by parents and preschool teachers. Each requires knowledge of the child, an interest in their learning and interests and the ability to observe our children in order to scaffold their learning. It takes years to create a writer and a learner.


Alison Paris Posner said...

I love this and couldn't agree more (with this post and everything you write!) So many parents view the year before kinder as the crucial year to acquire basic skills for kinder readiness. Parents often don't seem to believe that kids become readers, writers and learners over many years of experience and support, and that so much of the foundation for later success is not skills that can be taught quickly.

Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks Alison, I appreciate your comments.