For Parents: Writing vs. Printing in Kindergarten

A child writes a plan for a snowflake cake she saw in a cookbook. Then she dictates a shopping list, folds it up and writes my name on it.
A child made a book for her bear she brought to school. “We made a school for them and we need books for them to read, very small books, just their size.”
After capturing a carpenter, a child makes a plan – make a house for a carpenter.

Printing is forming letters. Writing is communication. And if you think that children need to learn how to print before they learn how to write, please keep reading.

Beginning writers do not begin writing by learning to print the alphabet. Although it may appear as if children learn letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories in a sequential order, it just doesn’t happen that way.  Writing is way more complex than that and it begins early, long before children can put pencil to paper.

Writing is about expressing yourself and telling about your personal experiences. This is why it is absolutely vital that young children TALK. They need to talk. A LOT. They need you to talk with them, about them, not for them. They need people to listen to them, other children to socialize with, and experiences to talk about. Passively watching television, spending hours on electronic devices, or spending time playing video games — these are not activities that help children develop oral language.  The early years before school are when the brain is acquiring the most language and children need to be exposed to a lot of language during this crucial time. Ask children what they like, what they want, what they need, where they want to go, what they want to do. Talk about all the things you see, hear, and experience. Make sure your child sees and hears you talking to others as well. Sing songs, chant rhymes, tell stories.  They are learning a language and YOU are their teacher.

Writing begins with mark making, drawing, and creating. Making a picture, a card, a note for a friend or relative is what beginning writers do. Children  tell you what they drew or what something says long before you can recognize or read it. They make marks to label things, draw pictures to express their feelings, and experiment with different materials on different surfaces. Buy paper and lots of it. Different sizes, different types, different colours. Buy crayons, markers, paint, chalk, etc.  Keep these items readily available and make sure your child sees YOU using them. Write and draw in the snow, in the mud, on the beach, on a tree. Draw on their palms, their bellies, and their backs. Let them know that people will see these marks, read these marks, feel something from these marks. Their marks MATTER.

Writing and reading are interconnected. When you point out pictures and words in books, signs, advertisements, cereal boxes, you are helping your child understand the role of writing and representing in the world. Children read people’s faces when they look at them, they read expressions on characters’ faces in books or ads, and they read colours on signs to alert them or evoke feelings. Talk about what you see and why people drew, painted, or made them that way. You don’t need all the answers. You just need to wonder about things with your child.  Read great books. Look for books with detailed illustrations, interesting photos, and rich vocabulary. Talk about words you read and hear, words you don’t know, words that are hard to say. Words can be funny, strange, scary, and even beautiful. Our language is huge, with an incredible number of words so that you can describe just about anything exactly as you want. Words can also make music and sounds.  You can even make up your OWN words.

There’s a LOT to writing and I’ve only just begun to explain it. There are hundreds, even thousands of books about teaching writing.

Now, let’s talk about printing. The sounds of our language are represented by symbols called letters. They are made with straight and curved lines, circles and dots. They are joined at some places. There are 26 uppercase and 26 lowercase. Your child will see them, use them, play games with them, and have conversations about how to form them in school.

The most important thing they need to know about letters is that they represent sounds in oral language. Your child will need to hear these sounds separately and understand that sounds make up words that we say.  The purpose in forming them is to represent the sounds of the words they want to write, the words they say aloud or hear inside their head, the message they want to convey.

Printing letters is a very small part of writing. So, if you are interested in helping your child learn to write, start by talking.

And remember, writers don’t write because they can print letters. They write because they have something to say.



Cathy 🙂








Cathy Baker View All →

Dedicated teacher for the past 18 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy

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