Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Child Led Learning: Reading and Writing

My daughter is 8 so my almost 4-year-old is familiar with the idea of homework.  Last week he came to me saying, "Mom I want to do my homework."  "Homework?" I asked.  "I want to write letters.  I want the blue sheet, " He told me.  The blue sheet?  Blue sheet?  What was he talking about?  After printing some worksheets with his name on them for letter practice and much frustration from him that it wasn't the "blue sheet", my daughter finally figured he was talking about the blue letter stencil we have.  So we sat down together to practice writing letters.  

My son knows most of his letters.  Between books, educational TV, and the LeapFrog letter magnets (Best learning toy ever!  I've had it since my daughter was a baby and it's given both children hours of letter learning fun!) we have, he has learned them well over the years.  His interest now is in writing letters and learning their sounds.    
I don't like this particular stencil but Michael loves it.  The letters are small and it doesn't really teach how to write proper letters.  But as a child-led activity, it's good fine-motor skill practice.  We started with a pencil because, well, that's all that works with this stencil.
We practiced holding the pencil together so he could feel how to form the letters using the stencil.  
Once Michael understood how to write using the stencil, he moved on to asking questions about letter sounds as he wrote each letter.  "How do you write ta-ta-ta 'F'?  How do you write ga-ga-ga 'O'?"  I gently corrected each sound with him as he wrote.  Sometimes he repeated me, sometimes he didn't.  At least he heard.  Eventually he began asking me about nonsense sounds/letters and we laughed but it was obvious he was ready to move on.  He then showed interest in writing his name with the worksheet I printed online. 
We started with pencil.  I showed Michael what to do with the first letter then he tried it on his own.
Then he tried crayon, which is easier for little hands.  Orange is Michael's favorite color.
  Michael thought he'd try writing with glue.  He quickly realized it wasn't easy.
 Then he tried glitter glue which was a little easier.  
Michael's completed worksheet.

Fine motor skills, letter practice, name practice, and letter sounds, all rolled into one...and all led by a 4-year-old!  I didn't push, prod, or nag.  Young children should be encouraged, but if you push a child to do something, before they are ready and willing, you risk the chance of creating a child who struggles with learning.  Something I don't want with my kids.

Other child-led letter/reading activities we do:

  • While driving my son will spot an item then ask me what letter it starts with (for instance "tree" or "sign").  We then try to think of other words that begin with that letter. 
  • Magnet letters- Michael has access to cheap-o magnet letters and an old cookie sheet.  The LeapFrog magnet letters recites the name and the sound(s) of the letters.  It also sings the "ABC" song.  Those are on my fridge.  
  • Michael loves to "read" signs, DVD covers, book titles, etc.  He often tells me what it says.  I then take my finger and point to the words and gently read the true words to him like, "oh, you mean right here where it says, 'blah, blah, blah.'"  He will either argue with me or agree with me.  If he argues, I just say, "oh, ok then".  He thinks he's reading and I want to encourage that.  If I argue all the time with him, he'll stop, then I'll have a bigger problem on my hands then him pretend reading the wrong thing!  
  • Free drawing is also a prewriting skill.  Michael is always welcome to grab scratch paper and his crayons, markers, or pencils and draw.  
  • Of course we read, read, read together.  My children and I love to read together.  And of course I get tired of reading the same books over and over, but I do it, because that's how we learn; through repetition.  
Do you have other reading/writing ideas to share?  Please feel free to leave me a comment below!  I'd love to hear from you.


  1. He's doing a great job and so are you! Something that my son likes, also four, is to use letter stickers. We talk about the letters and spell out different words, or he just makes a big letter collage. He loves the foam letter stickers the most. He has also grown even more excited about writing now that he has a pen pal. He wants to draw and write a bit to his new friend. He gets practice in signing his name. And its not "work" because he wants to do it. I have also discovered that he loves longer stories. I'm not sure why I hadnt tried before. Until this past week, we read a lot and told stories, but it was short stories before bedtime and picture books. I started reading "The Indian In the Cupboard" and whereas hes not looking at the pictures and words as I'm reading, hes being introduced to new words and language. He loves it too.

  2. That's great. I love how you just play with letters and sounds. I bet he will become a boy who loves reading-- and does it well.
    We also love the Leapfrog magnets, well really the leapfrog everything!!!



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