Teaching your child to go from writing single words to putting their thoughts and ideas into sentences seems like a big leap, but it is a skill that anyone can teach. This is my favourite stage of teaching children to write because it is where I see the most rapid improvement. There are many skills that need to be mastered when learning to write; the trick is to break them down into achievable goals.
Before beginning this stage your child should be able to write the letters of the alphabet and hear the sounds in words. I want to share with you a simple method that I use in my classroom that gives children the skills and self-confidence to put their thoughts and ideas into writing. It is called ‘dictation’.
You will need a whiteboard, whiteboard marker and whiteboard eraser.
What is dictation?
Dictation involves saying a sentence to your child and then your child needs to write that sentence. This technique allows children to focus on letter formation, hearing sounds in words and other early writing skills without the extra burden of thinking about what to write. I like to use whiteboards with dictation because mistakes can be erased without fuss.
How to use dictation?
To begin with, choose a sentence that contains words appropriate to your child’s writing ability. If your child has learnt the short letter sounds then try to incorporate words that are made up of these sounds. You simply need to say the sentence to your child and then ask your child to write the sentence.
Here are some sentences to get you started:
- The cat sat on the mat.
- I got mud on the rug.
- I can jump on my bed.
- Can we get a dog?
- I went to the bus stop.
- We went to the shops.
- I love my mum and dad.
- I had fun in the sun.
- I slept in my bed.
- My pet frog can jump.
I have highlighted the words: the, I, my, we and love because these are ‘high frequency’ words that cannot be blended. High frequency words (also known as sight words) are commonly used words that your child will need to learn by memory.
Here is a video that demonstrates dictation
Writing skills to focus on while doing dictation with your child
- Teach your child that when we write, we first say the sentence/idea and then write each word in the correct order. Encourage your child to continuously read what they have written before writing each word. For example, if the sentence is ‘The cat sat on the mat’ and your child has written ‘The cat sat…’, teach them to go back and read what they have written before writing “on”. This demonstrates that our writing has to make sense.
- Encourage your child to say each word slowly and listen for the sounds. When children gain the confidence to write the sounds that they hear their writing will improve dramatically.
- Monitor your child’s letter formation and pencil grip.
- Monitor that your child is using the correct sentence structure. For example, putting spaces between words, starting the sentence with a capital letter, ending the sentence with a full stop.
I hope you feel confident enough to give dictation a go.
Here are some related blog articles for teaching your child to write:
- Teach your toddler or preschooler to correctly grip a pencil
- You can teach your children to write by writing for them
- How do I teach my child to write words?
- One simple activity that will teach your child to turn writing words into writing sentences
- What is phonics and how do I teach it to my child?
- Words that you need to teach your child to spell to make writing easy