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:
Now 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’s called ‘dictation’.
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. It also mean you can choose a sentence that has lots of words your child can write with some simple prompting.
How to use dictation?
First, choose a sentence that contains words appropriate to your child’s writing ability. 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 words that your child will have to memorise rather than listen for sounds to spell correctly.
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.
Why use the School Start Buddy?
√ Young children learn to write best on whiteboards. This is because any mistakes aren’t permanent and can be easily erased without fuss.
√ You and your child can easily access the clearly displayed magnetic letters. In the video below, you can see how the child constantly refers to these to reasure herself what a letter looks like or to practise hearing sounds in words.
Here is a video that demonstrates dictation
I hope you feel confident enough to give dictation a go.