Preschool and elementary school teachers often display the alphabet on their classroom’s wall, but it is how they incorporate specific writing activities in their curriculum that promotes children’s writing development.
Gary Bingham, professor in the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education and director of the College of Education & Human Development’s Urban Child Study Center, co-authored an article in American Educator that details specific practices that early childhood educators can incorporate into their teaching to support literacy development for children ages 3-5.
“Recent research indicates that most preschools could offer far more opportunities for children to write for communication,” Bingham and his colleagues wrote. “Early childhood educators would benefit from opportunities to reconsider the many ways that early writing reinforces fundamental literacy goals – like developing young children’s concepts of print – and encourages children to share their thoughts.”
To start, teachers can provide writing materials to students in both a designated writing area and in other parts of the classroom so that children can write in multiple contexts. They can ensure the interesting writing materials are included in science, dramatic play and library learning centers and urge children to incorporate writing into their play – for example, drawing and writing out menu items for a pretend restaurant.
Teachers can also encourage more forms of writing, including early scribbles and attempts at writing letters, and offering opportunities for interactive writing, when teachers and students write and talk about the student’s writing together. These experiences should be meaningfully connected to children’s interests and curriculum units (i.e., transportation, insects, community helpers).
Incorporating these and other early literacy practices into classrooms can give teachers more insight into what their students know and what they still need to learn, which lays the groundwork for creating individualized literacy instruction and building a strong foundation for early reading and writing skills.
“Imagine a preschool classroom where children have regular opportunities to engage in early writing with support from adults who provide writing materials, draw children’s attention to print and its purposes, express genuine interest in and ask questions about their ideas as they write, help children to segment the sounds in words they want to write and show children how to form letters that represent those sounds,” Bingham and his colleagues wrote. “For children, the focus is on communicating. For teachers, these writing experiences also provide meaningful opportunities to strengthen children’s critical early literacy skills and to ensure that all children feel that their ideas are worthy of sharing.”
About the Researcher
Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education
Gary Bingham is a professor in the Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education and the director of the College of Education & Human Development’s Urban Child Study Center. He is also a governing board member of the Institute of Education Sciences Southeast Regional Education Laboratory and a steering committee member of the Board of Regents Research on the Challenges of Acquiring Language and Literacy Initiative. His scholarship examines home and school factors that contribute to culturally and linguistically diverse children’s learning and development. His work supports preservice and in-service teachers’ implementation of emotionally and instructionally sensitive pedagogical practices that promote children’s literacy development and academic achievement.
Gerde, H.K., Wright, T.S., and Bingham, G.E. “Sharing Their Ideas with the World: Creating Meaningful Writing Experiences for Young Children.” American Educator, Winter 2021-2022 issue. https://www.aft.org/ae/winter2021-2022/gerde_wright_bingham.