Let's put things in logical order...
As a child's ability to be active learner develops so to does their need for more challenging and abstract ways to explore and practice the same skills. Sequencing skills are extremely important in everyday life and in the new language curriculum sequencing has it's own learning outcome. Retelling and elaborating in sequence plays an important role in the development of a child's language skills and comprehension of written texts. It is one of those foundation skills that children will use to build on other skills in the future, while also helping children to recognise patterns that make the world around them more predictable and understandable. There are plenty of daily activities that offer opportunities to practice those important sequencing skills... story time, aistear play, P.E., art. Most activities involve some form of sequencing. Sequencing can be practiced in a simple two minute activity, a whole lesson or even a whole class project worked on over a week. Ideally the language of sequencing could be integrated into most lessons.
Now they're ready to write...
In most European countries, children are not expected to start formal handwriting with a pencil until they are 6 years old (or the countries the do best in international comparisons scores in Literacy, until they are 7). So, when are children ready to learn letter formation? Once children have are fluent in their phonological awareness and after months of working on mark making, building confidence with their writing tools, perfect pencil grip by everyone, great hand eye-coordination, good drawing skills, I know that all the children (bar the exception of a child how might have specific needs) are ready to write letters with little difficulty and less stress. The average age when I start formal letter formation is 5 years old, in February of Junior Infants. I do this simple assessment with my children just to make sure they are ready to write letters before I start. Children should be able to write these 9 pre-writing strokes before asking them to write letters, as mentioned in my previous post on Mark Making.
The importance of continuing to develop fine motor skills in and beyond the pre-school years...
I believe it is our fellow pre-school educators who are the experts in this area. It wasn't until my daughter went to play school that my eyes were opened to the wonderful range of fine motor activities that were available to help her specifically develop her fine motor skills. I realised then, just how important it was that we continue to develop these skills when children arrive in junior infants before we make any attempt to teach letter formation. In this post I set out to compiled a selection of fine motor activities that will help infants develop their fine motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination, while also making them a little more challenging and fun by integrating them into our early maths and literacy learning. Building the muscles in their hands and fingers does not stop when we begin to teach letter and number formation either, teachers should develop these activities, integrating more hands on tasks into children's learning as an alternative to worksheets and workbooks.
Focus on speech before print - What you can teach in the dark!
Therefore, it is vital that we teach phonological awareness skilfully, using teaching methods that are informed by current research. The good news is that when taught this way, most children will learn to read at acceptable levels.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”- Dr Seuss