By GreatSchools Staff
Many children first learn about writing in kindergarten. That’s why teachers often start the year by introducing the letters of the alphabet — the building blocks of writing. Kindergartners learn how to form the shapes of letters, what sounds they’re associated with, and how to combine letters to create words.
Throughout the year, kindergartners participate in activities that should help them begin to understand the purpose of writing, activities like:
Nicola Salvatico, our consulting teacher and the 2005 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, explains: "Kindergarten begins to expand the journey of writing from 'magic writing' (such as scribbles and pictures), where the child can only read it, to emergent writing, where their message is readable by most adults."
By the end of kindergarten, children should have had opportunities to create stories with words and pictures, revise their writing with a teacher’s help, and share with their work with the class.
Kindergartners begin to learn about spelling by connecting the sounds they hear in words to the letters they represent. Teachers introduce the letters of the alphabet early on, presenting one letter at a time.
Kindergartners can explore letter sounds by starting with the letters in their own name. Many teachers use hands-on activities to teach these sounds and might ask students to make a collage of cut-out magazine pictures that begin with a particular letter.
At many schools, students in kindergarten are encouraged to spell words the way they sound using something known as “invented” or “inventive” spelling. For example, with inventive spelling, a student could spell the word cat by writing “ct.” When they’re first learning to write, children are often more comfortable using consonants and sounds at the beginning of words because they’re more distinct than vowels or sounds at the ends of words.
When children use invented spelling, they’re actually demonstrating their knowledge. Research shows that letting children use invented spelling allows them to focus on the purpose of writing: communication. Eventually, as they learn the rules of spelling, they begin to apply them and make the transition to conventional spelling.
By the end of kindergarten, students should be able to spell:
Because kindergartners’ motor skills are still developing, they get introduced to handwriting with a range of approaches. Kids might try writing letters with finger paint, salt, or sand, and other tactile techniques include writing in the air with a finger or tracing letters an adult has written on the blackboard beforehand.
Students should learn how to hold a pencil and practice forming letters by writing their names. They’ll get practice writing upper- and lowercase letters, learning how to shape and space them correctly. As they learn to write a letter, students should be encouraged to memorize the sound associated with that letter. And kindergartners should know to write from left to right and from top to bottom.
In addition to the mechanics of writing, kindergartners should also learn about why people write. To put writing lessons in context, teachers might read different styles of writing aloud, discussing the author’s intent and the material’s significance. They’ll also work to point out writing’s many classroom uses, among them labeling a graph in math, composing a thank-you note to a class visitor, or recording the results of a science project. Simple exercises can offer insight into writing’s real-life applications.
Many classrooms start the day with a shared writing activity in which students brainstorm a sentence or two. The teacher then writes the sentences on a whiteboard while the class follows along and makes suggestions. Teachers can make suggestions about how to sound out a word or when to use a capital letter. Other skills to address include punctuation, prefixes, and suffixes.
Many kindergartners keep daily journals, which can be especially valuable as writing practice. At the beginning of the year, some students can only draw pictures or write random letters, but by the end of kindergarten, most students use invented spelling to write short sentences that tell a story and describe their experiences.
Updated May 2010