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Helping your Child with Early Writing

Emergent Writing Stages

It takes a long time to get from stage 1 to stage 8


Writing for Real Purpose

Writing for real purpose is helpful for children.   Ask your child to write the following for you:

  • A shopping list
  • A letter or envelope
  • A birthday or celebration card
  • A postcard
  • A small book
  • A label to go with a picture they have drawn

Moving in to Formal Writing

Once children know about letters, they are taught how to form them.

Children need lots of opportunity to develop physical control:

  • Balancing, climbing, moving to movement and outdoor play.
  • Manipulative skills, cutting, using tools, cooking - using utensils.
  • Fine motor control and hand eye co-ordination - threading, jigsaws, small world equipment - train sets, dressing dolls.

There are three main movements to handwriting:


Practise large scale by:

  • Swing arms - one arm, other arm, both arms together.
  • Sky writing.
  • Using large equipment and paper.

Scale down by:

  • Using chalk on an outdoor surface.
  • In sand, rice, salt or couscous placed in a tray,
  • In shaving foam on a table.
  • Old paintbrushes and bucket of water to paint on an outside wall.

Even smaller scale:

  • Felt tip pens.
  • Crayons.
  • Pencils.
  • Different colour and sizes of paper.

Boys are attracted to paper in the shape of vehicles amd animals.
Children often want to write their name long before formal writing begins.
It is important to use the school handwriting style (see below)
It is important that children do not over learn incorrect movements,
All letters start on the line to aid joined handwiriting.
Joined up handwriting helps with spelling patterns.

Helping Children to Develop and Effective Pencil Grip

It is important that your child develops a correct pencil grip.  Help them by:

  • Correcting them should they hold their pencil incorrectly.
  • Guide their hand to trace letter shapes (you can download the handwriting template below).
  • Do not push children to write a length if they cannot manipulate the pencils correctly.  This will be painful and can put them of writing.
  • Encourage drawing and putting detail on to their drawing - this is one of the best things you can do to encourage your child with writing.
  • Do not waste money buying handwriting books, as children enjoy colouring their own work and making patterns much more.

Moving to Key Stage 1

Once your child has mastered the basic skills of writing:

  • Grapheme phoneme recognition.
  • The difference between a letter, word and sentence.
  • What a sentence is - the Captial letters, finger spaces, full stops, neat handwriting and making sense (Magic 5).

The most important things is to rehearse what they are going to write before they begin.  This enables them to concentrate on the skills of writing not what they are writing.



A review by the government was conducted on the treaching of early reading, and concluded that for  most children, phonics was the best method for teaching reading.  This runs alongside guided and shared reading.  

A written language is basically a kind of code and by teaching phonics, we can help children to crack the code in a systematic way.

Definition - A method of teaching people to read by correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system. 

A way of teaching children to read quickly and skillfully is teaching them to:

  • Recognise the should that each individual letter makes.
  • Identify, the sounds that different combinations of letters make, such as sh, ch, th, oo
  • Blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word.  Children can use this knowledge to 'de-code' new words that they hear or see.

Children are taught 3 main things in school:

Grapheme Phoneme Correspondencethis simply means that they are taught all the sounds in the English language and ways to write them down.   These sounds are taught in a particular order, called phases.  There are 6 phases.  Phase 1 is the 'listening' phase and runs through all the phases.  Phases 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are progressive and therefore taught systematically.  Children are assessed during and at the end of each phase.

Blending - this skill is for reading.  This is when children say the sounds that make up a word and are able to merge the sounds together until they hear what word it is.

SegmentingThis skill is for spelling.  The opposite of blending.  Children are able to say a word and then break it up with the phonemes that make it up.

What makes Phonics tricky?

The English language has 44 phonemes, but there are around 120 graphemes or ways of writing down those 44 phonemes.  We only have 26 letters of the alphabet, so some graphemes are make up from more that 1 letter, for example:  ch,sh, th, oo, ay.  Some have 3 and 4.  Another probelm is that some graphemes can represent more than one phoneme, for example, ch makes very different sounds in the words chip, school and chef.

How is Phonics taught in school?

Phonics is taught for 15-20 minutes every day in Reception to Year 2.  The children always begin the lesson by revising what they have already been taught, then they learn a new sound, practise it and then apply it to their reading or writing.

Phonics Tests in Year 1 (Phonics Screening Test)

Phonics tests help to confirm whether your child has made the expected progress.  This  takes place in June for Yeaer 1 children and is a mix of 40 real words and non-words.  This test is carefully designed and administered not to be stressful for your child.

How can you help your child?

  • Play lots of listening games, including 'I spy' and 'I am thinking of a ....'
  • Make the correct pronunciation of the phoneme.
  • Say the sound and its name.
  • Talk to your child about the homework they bring home.  This is what they have been learning in school during the week.  Use this to help them apply it to their reading and writing.
  • Don't let your child become reliant on sounding out every word.  There are lots of words you cannot sound out.

For further informatioin regarding Phonics, click on the logo below and search for Phonics.



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