Writing for purpose, pleasure and play
What makes children keen to write? This question is often in our minds as we work with our beginning writers in Autahi. In our phonics and writing sessions, we focus on practising the technical and mechanical skills that our children need in their writing toolkits: letter formation, phonics, identifying and recording sounds, and using high-frequency (Rocket) words are high on the list right now. But, while a well-stocked writing toolkit makes it possible for children to write, they also need a reason to put their toolkits to work.
Here are some recent examples from Autahi.
Here, we are writing invitations for our families to the Autahi Stay and Play. Writing for a purpose is very motivating, especially as the children know that they will take their writing home to share. In this case, the writing has to be as clear and accurate as possible so as to communicate some important information.
Here is a short piece of writing about that took on a life of its own! The idea of a magic donut captured this writer's imagination. Before we knew it, he was writing through Morning Tea time and at home, too. The story grew to seventeen pages of sweet, donut-y fun. A Principal's Award from Jude was the icing on the cake (and motivation to write even more!).
Writing with a buddy can be great for sharing ideas and building confidence. On Whānau day, siblings had the chance to collaborate on some poetry together.
Not all writing happens during our timetabled writing sessions. A lot of writing goes on during Discovery Time, and it is always exciting to see how children make writing part of their games, inventing their own purposes for putting pen to paper. This imaginative writer needs a label for the secret computer he is making.
This writer also has an important purpose for writing: making an invitation for a friend to a playdate. Children are often keen to write letters and cards to friends and family in Discovery Time, including little notes and greetings for friends in class. This writing is fun, but is also a low-pressure way of experimenting with newly-acquired skills. Successfully communicating a message by writing is very satisfying and encouraging further writing.
Here is another kind of experimental, playful writing in Discovery Time. This writer has found a form to fill out on the back of a piece of scrap paper. He knows, probably from watching adults at home, what this activity looks like and is roleplaying being a form-filler himself. For this, he uses a mixture of words and letters he knows, and wavy play 'writing' to fill in all the spaces on the grid. Job done!
These writers are engaged in collaborative roleplay. They have set up a cafe and created a menu. They have been asking different class members what they would like to order and writing it down. They are practising their writing skills and also emulating ways they have seen writing used in the real world. And it's lots of fun, too.
It is fascinating to see how our children are influenced by the adult writers they see in their lives. As Jude reflected in last week's Newsletter (31st July 2020), understanding why our children choose to write is just as important as equipping them with the skills to do so: pleasure and purpose alongside technical know-how. It's an on-going exploration for us all.