Writing in Kindergarten

As in all other areas, kindergarteners start school with a range of writing abilities: some don't yet know how to hold a pencil correctly, while others are able to write their names (often all in capital letters), or even--rarely, in my experience--sentences. Our state standard is for students to leave kindergarten able to write one sentence correctly, but many leave writing paragraphs!

Here are a few tips on how you can support your child's development as a writer at home:

Beginning Letter Formation
  • Name First: Start by teaching your child to write his/her name, capitalizing only the first letter. It may help to write the letters in yellow marker or highlighter and have your child trace over them at first.
  • Mr. Bear: When teaching kids to write on lined paper, we have a clip art "Mr. Bear" on the left-hand side, with his hat next to the top line, his belt next to the middle (dotted) line, and his shoes at the bottom line. We teach letter formation by modeling how to "start at the hat and make a straight line down to the shoes" and so on.
  • Leap Frog's Scribble and Write is a fun computerized toy that teaches letter recognition and formation.
  • Basics: There are billions of handwriting worksheets on the internet, and workbooks in every bookstore; but try to keep writing fun by having your child practice making letters in shaving cream, with Play-Doh, using sidewalk chalk outside, with a wet sponge on concrete, etc.
Beginning Writing
  • This article from Scholastic gives a good basic description of what writing skills you can expect your child to learn in kindergarten.
  • Real-World Writing: At home, try to involve your child in everyday, authentic writing activities rather than sitting down for practice drills and workbooks. Have him/her help you make the grocery list: "Hmmm...we need milk. What letter do you think milk starts with? That's right! Can you make the m for me?" and so on. (Obviously, sounding out an entire grocery list is too huge a task for a 5-year-old, so keep it simple and upbeat and stop when s/he seems restless.)
  • Dory-Style! Practice having your child "stretch out" words to sound out their spelling. We tell kids to "say it like Dory" (from Finding Nemo, when she's talking like a whale) and write the letters they hear.
  • Kid Spelling: Beginning writers do not need to spell words correctly--if your 5-year-old can write "apl" for apple, s/he has great letter-sound knowledge for that age.
  • Copycat: We encourage students to use our word wall and their environment to copy words they need. This isn't cheating--it's being resourceful!
Kindergarten Writing Goals
By the end of the year, our standard is for kindergarteners to write (at minimum) one complete sentence, including
  • capital letter at the beginning
  • ending punctuation (period, exclamation point, question mark)
  • spaces between words
  • sounding out words
  • spelling basic sight words (the, and) correctly
  • legible letter formation
For example: "I see the big red apl."

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