'Is this write?': learning to write and writing to learn
Children should have the opportunity to put their thoughts into writing from as young an age as possible, so that they can begin to make sense of the process for themselves. They should be given the chance to ‘say’ what they like in their writing as this will help them to develop a sense of authorship. As they engage in this they are likely to experiment with a number of principles which are integral to the process as well as growing in their understanding of the symbolic nature of writing and how this relates to the arrangement of letters and words on the page2. For example, Lisa, aged three years and nine months, demonstrated a recurring principle in her writing – that letters are made up of circles and lines – which she replicated with great care in her patternmaking by covering a strip of centimetre squared paper with a series of circles and downward strokes. Edward, aged four years, showed flexibility in his first attempt at writing his name, ‘Ed2wrd’, thinking, at this stage, that letters and numbers are interchangeable. (To fully appreciate the logic of his response you need to hear him say it aloud.)
Harshita at five years of age knows that writing is made up of shapes that are generated over and over again and uses the letters she is familiar with, i.e. those in her own name, as well as word-length squiggles to produce her writing. In addition, she is aware that print is permanent and was able to tell her teacher what her story, modelled on Alan Ahlberg’s Funny Bones, was all about:
In the following example Ben, aged six years, shows that he has not fully come to terms with the arrangement of letters and words on the page.