No matter how long you’ve been in front of the whiteboard, and whatever the subject – enthusiasm can be notoriously hard to nurture.
When children in KS1 are first getting to grips with their pencils, it’s a critical time to instil both confidence and eagerness in the writing process; but of course, it’s rarely as simple as that.
The appeal of full stops and capital letters can often find it hard to compete with your average classroom distractions (Evie does have a wonderful new lunchbox, but do we need to talk about it right now?), so you might have your work cut out for you – but it doesn’t need be war over writing hour.
Try our top tips to foster early love of literacy, in no time.
1. A Sensational Story Box
Finding activities ‘boring’ is essentially a child’s default response. Why create a story when break time is a mere hour and a half away? There’s critical daydreaming, paper scrunching and general fidgeting to be done!
You can bust the boredom in your classroom with a ‘story box’, which is bound to get those imaginations flowing. Rather than dictating a topic, or asking the children to create it off their own steam (we’ve all fallen into that trap at least once), try filling a box with story cues.
Whether it’s a football, a rubber duck or an old penny, you’ll be surprised how creative the class can be with a choice of physical prompts to pique their interest.
2. Take Your Pencil for A Walk
Whether you’re in Reception class and grappling with sentences, or in a university hall of residence and clawing for essay ideas, this trick can work wonders.
If your class is struggling to ‘make a start’, take away the pressure with this brain-waking task. Simply ask the children to ‘take their pencil for a walk’, and write whatever pops into their head, for five minutes (or less).
The paper won’t be seen by anyone else, or marked. They just need to keep writing, without hesitation.
The result? A mind that’s dusted off the cobwebs and is ready to be on task – perhaps even with some great creative ideas produced in the process.
3. Pick a Pencil Partner
When children are first learning to write, it can actually be pretty uncomfortable; they’re not used to gripping pencils for long periods of time, or able to master the strange shapes required. As a result, tired hands can make for slow, cumbersome work.
Encourage children to pick writing tools that they personally find comfortable (a ‘pencil partner’, if you will). Triangular pencils and rubber grips are a good place to start, but this could expand to a choice of place to sit (on a chair, or on the floor), or even standing up and writing on the whiteboard.
Whatever makes the children comfortable, within a normal classroom setting, will help to make writing a more pleasurable experience.
4. Confidence Starts with Kindness
Many children get embarrassed or worried in regard to learning new skills – particularly when they may need to share ideas, too. As they’re only just learning how to express feelings appropriately, this may result in challenging behaviour; a distraction from the real issue at hand, and creating a real problem in your classroom.
When children anticipate that their peers will be tolerant and considerate, they’re more likely to engage with tasks – as they won’t automatically anticipate ‘negative’ feedback, like giggling or whispering.
Make kindness your classroom’s culture, starting with story time. The book ‘How Kind!’ by Mary Murphy demonstrates how kindness can be infectious, and will encourage all of your little learners to be thoughtful in their words and actions.
5. Second Language Superstars
Children who speak English as an additional language (EAL) are bound to find learning to write a little more of a struggle.
English may be spoken less frequently at home, and also present a processing delay when lessons are being taught. These children really are superstars, and their grasp of two languages will no doubt be used to impressive advantage, after they push through the initial stumbling blocks.
Try some ‘copying’ games, to help your EAL pupils to keep up with literacy tasks. By using the rest of the class as a guide, they can ‘follow the leader’ until deeper understanding is achieved.
The ‘jumping game’, for example, asks children to read a pre-written sentence (from the board, perhaps) and jump if the sentence applies to them – ‘jump if you have long hair’, for example.
Confident children, who react quickly, will help others to understand the context; and if you ask for the sentences to be transcribed afterwards, it will give the task further, comprehensible meaning.
Looking for more inspiration? Mighty Writer will turn even your most reluctant writers into stellar storytellers, almost overnight. Download the Teacher’s Guide today!
Are you looking for your next role? Search our job site here.
About the author
Emma Ralph was an Assistant Head Teacher at Hillbourne Primary School in Poole, where she helped to improve the school’s literacy standards. Spotting a gap in the market for a literacy resource which taught children the fundamentals of punctuation, vocabulary and sentence structure in a visual, fun and engaging way, Emma developed her own product: Mighty Writer. It is now transforming the literacy of tens of thousands of children in over 550 schools around the world.