You may feel unsure about what words you should teach your child first. Beginning with your child’s name, is a great place to start. But where do you go next?
A good starting point will be to begin with the sound we teach children when learning the letters of the alphabet. Beginning with the short letter sound, is really important as this will allow your child to naturally progress to reading and writing words that contain the short letter sound. Click here to read my blog explaining this in more detail. In the early stages of learning to read and write it is essential to understand that the skills required to write words are slightly different to the skills required to read words.
Reading a word involves: recognising the letters, saying the sounds and then blending the sounds together. Writing words involves: saying the word, hearing all the sounds in the word from the beginning to end and then using the correct letter formation to write each letter pattern for those sounds.
The keys to teaching your child to write words are:
- Practise hearing the sounds in words.
- Practise hearing the short letter sound and writing the letter that makes that sound.
- Learn to write three letter words that only contain the short letter sound.
- Develop the confidence to ‘have-a-go’.
1. Practise hearing the sounds in words
Guess the Word
This is a simple game that encourages your child to hear the sounds in words that are spoken without having the extra burden of writing the word. You simply need to say the sounds in a word and ask your child to guess the word.
For example, you might say “t-r-ee”, and your child needs to guess that you are saying “tree”. Since your child only has to hear the sounds and does not have to identify the letters or write the word, you may use any word your child knows for this activity. Once your child becomes confident at guessing the words, swap roles so that your child has to say the sounds and you have to guess the word.
‘I spy with my little eye……’
This is an excellent game for teaching your child to hear and say the first sound in words. Identifying and pronouncing the first sound in a word is one of the most essential early reading and writing skills. If you are not familiar with this game, you simply need to choose something that both you and your child can see and say “I spy with my little eye something beginning with ……….(say the first sound in the word)”.
For example, if you are sitting outside and there are clouds in the sky, you might say ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with “c”’. Your child then needs to guess that you can see clouds using the first sound as a clue.
2. Practise hearing the short letter sound and writing the letter that makes that sound
Say each of the short letter sounds and ask your child to write the letter that makes that sound. The aim is for your child to practise hearing the sound and then writing the letter that represents that sound.
Note: in future stages your child will need to learn that one sound can be represented by different letters, but that is not the focus at the moment.
Click here for the checklist of the short letter sounds.
3. Learn to write three letter words that only contain the short letter sound
Now that your child is able to write letters and hear the short letter sound, start putting these sounds together to write three letter words. I have created a list of words below to get you started.
All twenty-six letters of the alphabet are included in the list.
The School Start Handbook has more words that contain the short letter sound.
4. Develop the confidence to ‘have-a-go’
At the moment, the focus is on hearing the sounds in words. This means that it is normal for your child to write something like: “I luv mi mum and dad”. This is because they have correctly listened for the sounds in words. In my teaching experience, when children ‘believe’ they can write, then they are more inclined to write. This produces more rapid improvement in their writing.
Many teachers now use whiteboards to teach children how to write. This is because mistakes can easily be erased and children are more likely to own a ‘have-a-go’ attitude.
Where to go next?
Once your child has developed the confidence to write simple three and four letter words, the next step is to:
- Teach your child that letters can be put together to make a single sound. For example, “sh” as in “shop”. The School Start Handbook has an easy activity that utilises the resources in the School Start Buddy to teach this skill. It also has a checklist of the approximate 43 sounds in our English language and the different letter patterns that make each sound.
- Learn to put words into sentences.
- Learn to spell commonly used words by memory.
- Learn how words are put together and the rules that affect the way words are spelt. The School Start Handbook explains this in more detail.
Teaching your children is a great opportunity to spend time with them. I hope that these useful tips and ideas on writing will aid in your school journey with your children.
Here are some related blog articles for teaching your child to write:
- Teach your toddler or preschooler to correctly grip a pencil
- One simple activity that will give your preschool child a head start to reading and writing
- You can teach your children to write by writing for them
- 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