Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Kids to Write: The Letter-Like Symbols Stage!

This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale.

The Developmental Writing Stage of Letter-Like Symbols: 4–6 years old

Children in this stage of writing are beginning to make symbols that resemble letters of the alphabet. They typically do not know the names of letters, but are beginning to understand that the symbols on a page represent specific letters or sounds. The symbols are randomly placed on the page.

A child in this stage can tell marvelous imaginary stories about their writing or drawing. You may wish to write down the message as they dictate. Gross motor skills of holding on to a writing tool continue to develop as their hand muscles strengthen. Attention span and the ability to stay with a task are short. Providing appropriate materials with which to experiment is important:

*preschool crayons

*large paper and preschool pencils

*sidewalk chalk

*Magna Doodle type writing/drawing board

*drawing easel with paper

*finger paints

Speaking vocabulary and listening ability are growing. Reading aloud and talking about the stories will aid vocabulary growth. Wordless picture books give both participants an opportunity to express what they see in the pictures. Listening to their creative ideas will amaze you. Encourage writing attempts and display finished products. Sharing with a grandparent, friend, brother or sister sends a powerful message to the child that their work is valued.

There are wordless picture books in the Zoozoo Into the Wild series that could provide a catalyst for story telling and writing. In the book Snack Time, a lion looks at an apple hanging from a tree. The apple falls, and the lion catches it in its mouth. A lioness comes along and tries to take the apple. This makes the first lion angry, but in the end, he decides to share the apple.

A preschool or kindergarten child could talk about foods they eat for snacks. Connect their knowledge of snack time with the title and the pictures in the story. You could prepare some type of snack with apples and share it with a friend.

After talking about the story, provide them with writing tools and paper to express their ideas. As they draw, encourage them to think out loud about the story. If they have seen a lion or read another book with lions in it, help them to make a connection. What color is the lion? Where does a lion live? What sound does a lion make? If this is the first time they have seen a lion, compare it to an animal that they know such as a dog or cat. Which animal looks smaller or larger? Is the lion furry? How many legs does it have?

SNACK IDEAS:

*Have a tasting party of apple products: apple juice, applesauce, apple pie, apple cider, and an apple tart

*Taste different varieties and/or colors of apples: sweet, sour, tart, juicy, green, yellow, red

*Apples dipped in peanut butter or cream cheese

*"Ants on a Log": celery pieces with peanut butter and sunflower seeds or raisins

The book Hands (level B) from the Kaleidoscope Collection is a fun book to share with your young child. Photographs in the book show children doing many things with their hands such as eating, cooking, washing, playing, reading, and sleeping.

You could trace the child’s hand onto a paper and compare the size of two or three other people’s hands, then ask the child to write about something they do with their hands. They will probably think of many ideas: brushing teeth, combing hair, petting the dog, throwing a ball, swimming, playing a piano, holding a baby, planting a seed, picking a flower, drawing a picture, writing a story, or clapping.

You may want to play a guessing game by acting out a particular thing that we do with our hands. This builds real world connections to literature and writing.

As a follow-up to this story and writing activity, you might want to play a game like Red Rover that involves holding hands.

Red Rover

You will need a group of six to ten children. Form two teams. Each team member stands side by side holding hands facing the opposite team.

Team A will select a child from Team B and say, “Red Rover, Red Rover, we call _______ over.” Then the child whose name has been called runs over and tries to go through the clasped hands of the other team.

If they are successful in breaking through the line, they can select a friend to take back to their side. This continues in alternating turns until there is only one person left on a side. The winning team has the most people on their side.

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For more information on Zoozoo Into the Wild and the Kaleidoscope Collection, you can download information sheets by clicking on the links below.

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