I just realised that I still haven't told you what type of pre-writing exercises we offer the children in our classroom. The year is passing by so quick and the children have really progressed. So time for a bit of Montessori and educational theory (with the help of Maria Monessori!)
What do we do in class to prepare the children to writing?
Well, the first thing I need to mention is probably the series of exercises of Practical Life. These exercises help your child to strengthen his/herfinger muscles by tonging, tweezing, stringing, and twisting. The childrenare showed how to use their thumb and first two fingers while doing these activities (the same fingers that hold a pencil).
When your child is painting, colouring, lacing or gluing (that is to say "crafting"), she/he is learning important writing skills too. The children learn to control their hand/eyr coordination. Even when the "marks" he/she makes on the page seem to be random, you soon get to realise that he is improving his movements as circles, legs, eyes etc.. start to appear. Scissors activities also provide pencil control.
And of course, we have the sandpaper letters in our language corner. We guide the children's first two fingers along the letter, saying the sound. He/She feels the shape and repeats the sound. And in fact, the first two fingers with which he traces the letters are the same two he uses when holding a pencil.
And how many traced shapes have they brought you home? The children use what we call Metal insets, designed by Maria Montessori to teach handwriting. These frames teach them to control their pencil because they act as guides. We show the children how to trace the insets and draw lines within the shapes, imitating strokes used in forming letters.
And I have also added a small dry erase board. It is a fun interactive way for the preschoolers to become familiar with writing.
To be ready for primary school, your child needs to know how to cut and paste, copy simple shapes, trace vertical and horizontal lines, trace his or her name, and hold crayons, pencils and scissors correctly.
All the activities I have mentioned above help them to build confidence until they are eventually ready to write their own names down. The dry erase board is very popular in the class and the children use it daily. I would write their name on the top and they would work at it. We don't expect perfection. Learning to write is a fun process that must give children a boost in confidence and solid foundation for future studies.
Last Christmas, when I was in France visiting my family, I came upon these dry erase books which help the kids to practice recognising and writing letters and numbers. It is a brilliant activity and they really like it too. So it was definitely worth a few euro!!
We do use worksheets too. However, I do not want to use them too much as I don't believe they are developmentally appropriate for preschool-age children. Why? Worksheets don’t engage the whole child and tend to limit their fine motor development. I really think that if used too often, it becomes stifling for them. Don't take me wrong. I do use some now and again in the classroom. But only when the concept represented in the worksheet has been mastered by the child beforehand through hands-on experience with the Montessori materials mentioned above. I also think that it is a way to communicate to parents all that the child is learning. (We glue their worksheet in their work copy that they bring home at Christmas, Easter and in June). For more information on the pros and cons of using worksheets in preschool classrooms,click here.