In Writing For Pleasure schools, children in the EYFS and KS1 are invited to make books every day (Young & Ferguson 2022a). We find that book-making is the most developmentally appropriate writer’s process for children this age (Young & Ferguson 2022a, 2023a). It is also particularly effective for children with SEND (Young & Ferguson 2023b).
To find out more, we can recommend accessing our eBook Getting Children Up & Running As Book-makers: Lessons for EYFS-KS1 Teachers.
Planning: play, talking and drawing
One of the best ways to improve the quality of young children’s writing is to give them copious amounts of time to plan (Young & Ferguson 2023c). And one of the best ways for young writers to plan or rehearse their writing is through play, drawing and talking (Young & Ferguson 2023a, 2023b, 2023c).
The importance of drawing as a form of planning cannot be underestimated. We stress this because we have heard of instances where children are only allowed to draw after they do their writing. This is a serious instructional mistake because drawings are the fuel for children’s writing. A drawing immediately allows the teacher and the child to discuss their content, teasing out lots of information and then dabbling and playing with key words, phrases or ideas for their writing.
When students who struggle with talking or writing can put down their ideas in a visual format other than words, they have the cognitive capacity to consider important aspects of quality writing (Young & Ferguson 2022). For example:
|Daniel, a bilingual preschooler, is composing a written narrative to accompany his book illustrations.|
Teacher: Ah, ok. And what is Mario doing? [prompting verb elaboration]
Daniel: Running! [child enacts running and rapidly gestures running movement with hands]
Teacher: Ooh, is Mario running really, really fast? [showing excitement and interpreting child’s enactment to suggest further elaboration]
Daniel: Yeah! [accepting elaboration and repeating enacted movements]
Teacher: ‘This is Mario. He is running really, really fast!’ [adding character introduction and repeating words aloud as Daniel begins encoding the sentence into his picturebook]
Daniel: Yeah! Mario is running really, really fast! [begins encoding the sentence under his illustration]
Teacher: Ah that’s brilliant. Your friends are going to love it when you read them that page [reminder that books are made for sharing with others]
(Adapted from Byrnes-Cloet & Hill 2022)
Encouraging writing is linked to the quality of children’s ‘planning’ and their ability to look at their illustrations prior to composing their text. As we can see in the example above, teachers can respond to children’s illustrations during a pupil-conference and in the process help children find what it is they want to write down.
We recommend that, when book-making, children start by making their front cover (Young & Ferguson 2022a). This is unconscious planning, helping them focus on what their book is going to be about. We want them to spend a good amount of time on their front cover. Next, we ask them to do all the drawings for their book (Young & Ferguson 2022a). Again, this acts as their planning, and makes the drafting part of the book-making process a lot easier.
When their drawings are done, you can invite the child to write about them underneath each one. The most inexperienced writers may write just a single word, short phrase or single sentence, while others may write a paragraph. Incidentally, this is an ideal time to teach at the sentence-level (Young & Ferguson 2023d).
This is the real beauty of book making. Every child can access writing, but there’s no ceiling.
To find out more, consider downloading the following eBooks: No More: I Don’t Know What To Write Next… Lessons That Help Children Plan Great Writing, Getting Children Up And Running As Book-Makers: Lessons For EYFS-KS1 and Sentence-Level Instruction: Lessons That Help Children Find Their Style & Voice For 3-11 Year Olds.
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