Rebecca Reynolds is an independent early years literacy consultant; this is the third blog in a series on children’s early writing that she has written for us.
What does moving at your own speed look like in the classroom?
In my second blog about handwriting (as distinct from writing in its other forms), I explored the idea that all children showed ‘readiness’ for letter formation at different times and arrive in school with vastly differing skills and experiences which pave the way towards ‘readiness’. In a well-planned classroom many resources for the year ahead can be made before the children start in September. This ensures that valuable teacher time is not spent during the week, or even weekends, making resources or preparing for the fast moving demands of a child’s individual progressions. (Full details of ideas for these can be discussed with me directly.)
The bigger decision to be made is when and how to implement a program which allows every child to make their own progressions at their own speed whilst still maintaining a free flow of other activities during the day. Within a class of 20/30 children how do I reach each one every day? Confident handwriting is build up in tiny daily steps. Try to picture a time of day when a child can routinely complete a 5 min task within the framework of a free flow of other activities. Some practitioners favour on entry to the classroom first thing in the morning. Many children seem to settle better when they know they have a routine, familiar activity they can go to. Building independence during such activities is key to good classroom management and also gives the child a huge sense of achievement and self-esteem before the day has begun in earnest.
Imagine the classroom where some children are playing with fine motor control games, some outside, some tracing their names, some choosing puzzles, drawing or on a computer. With the practitioners managing the flow of children subtly, each child could manage a routine motor control/name writing or handwriting task in under 5 mins, enjoy a morning greeting from the teacher, greet their friends and play all within 20 minutes. There are numerous great ideas, tips and resource lists to be found regarding pre-writing and writing activities at : Oxfordshire County Council’s site, the document entitled ‘Supporting children’s writing in the reception class.’
Once the child is well versed in the routine and is working on becoming independent the teacher is able to efficiently manage the micro progressions for everyone. They are barely perceptible to the naked eye, being so small, and of course, with everyone travelling at their own speed. Rather like an army of little ants, all with their own tasks, moving purposefully from one to the other.
The greatest joy when children are moving at their own speed, is that they recognise their own achievements and delight in their own progress because they are not being ‘held’ in a group, compared to anyone else, or made to feel that they are being restricted by a task which is too easy or too difficult. Rather like a 6-lane motorway, everyone is heading in the same direction, at different speeds and able at any time to accelerate, decelerate, change lanes or overtake whenever their skills, confidence and concentration allows!
If you would like to find out more about Rebecca’s work, please visit her website or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org