Developing writing skills through play

Learning to write is a complex process that requires children to master a number of different literacy skills. While writing can be enhanced with reading, continual practice and the use of a number of literary devices, there is a more practical, hands-on way that children can develop their writing skills.

Children learn through play throughout their school lives, but particularly in the Early Years foundation. Below are a number of 'play' activities that will also boost literacy skills.

Play to boost fine motor skills
Fine motor skills are needed to help children grip pens and pencils correctly and form letter shapes across a page. Manipulating play dough will give children the chance to strengthen the muscles in their fingers. This can also be achieved by using scissors to cut paper or playing a game of catch with bean bags, balls or other objects.

In addition, research conducted by Stroud (1995) in Block play: Building a foundation for literacy described how blocks can assist with fostering literacy skills. This is because as children use building blocks to make structures, they help to define fine-motor co-ordination.

Writing words in soil or sand, as well as using chalk to form shapes in the school playground or areas in the garden, will also help to build the foundation for children's writing skills.

Increased social interaction can boost writing
Interacting with their peers and role-playing can aid children's storytelling ability in later life. The conversations children engage in can provide a bank of stories that they can draw upon, according to Stadler and Ward in a journal article entitled Supporting the narrative development of young children. The Talk for Writing scheme, developed by educational consultant Pie Corbett, also makes the link between oral and written literacy skills:

'There has been a major effort to improve standards in writing and we still have a long way to go. However, this has often been at the expense of reading not receiving sufficient focus. Neither will really flourish without speaking and listening. I am a passionate believer in the power of storytelling which should lie at the heart of every primary school.

'Children learning, retelling and creating new stories orally is the most effective way I know to really have a dramatic impact on their writing and reading.'
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