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How to Teach Sentence Writing in Kindergarten?


Us teachers know that introducing kindergarten students to writing is an important step in their literacy journey, sparking their creativity, communication skills, and ability to express themselves. In the first few years of your students’ education, teaching writing goes beyond the formation of letters; it encourages a love for language and empowers young learners to become confident communicators. Through a balanced approach that combines playful exploration, intentional instruction, and meaningful experiences, teachers lay the groundwork for students to develop the skills and strategies needed to express their thoughts, ideas, and experiences through writing.


What age is best to teach writing?


When considering if your students are ready to learn how to write you may ask yourself, what is the best age to teach writing? Your students may be able to mark make at age 2 and generally at the age of 4, children are ready to trace and copy letters. When your students reach 5 they are usually ready to expand on this.

The age at which it is best to start teaching writing to your students can vary depending on individual children and their developmental readiness. However, most children begin to show interest and readiness for learning writing skills around the ages of 3 to 5 years old. Below I have explained a general guide of what to expect at each age.

 

Toddlers aged 1- 2 years old may hold a writing tool in a clenched fist and understand that crayons etc are used for mark making.


Children aged 2-3 years old may engage in pre-writing activities. These are activities that help to develop their fine motor skills and can include drawing, coloring, playing with clay, using finger paints and practising hand-eye coordination activities.


When children are aged between 3-4 years old, they can start learning the basics of writing such as how to hold a pencil correctly and creating simple shapes and strokes. Children at this age may also begin to trace letters and shapes which contributes to their understanding of the concept of writing. At this age they may even write their name or begin to make distinct marks that look like letters.

 

As children approach preschool age (4-5 years old), they may become more interested in letters and start attempting to write their names (if they haven’t already) or simple words. Providing opportunities for children this age to practice writing and encouraging their efforts can further develop their skills. Children this age may also hold a pencil correctly and begin to know sounds different letters make.


When children reach between 5-6 years old, they are typically ready for formal writing instruction. This is where children learn to write letters, form words and then sentences. This is the time for teachers to introduce writing activities that challenge students’ abilities and encourage their literacy development. At this age you may see children spelling some common words correctly as well as begin to use synonyms for words such as “walked” etc.



How do you know when a student is ready to write?


Determining when your students are ready to learn how to write involves keeping an eye out for various developmental signs. Here are some indicators that can help you assess if a student is ready to begin learning how to write:


Fine Motor Skills Development: Children need sufficient fine motor skills to control writing tools. Look for signs that your student can hold a pencil or crayon with a tripod grip (using thumb, index, and middle finger), make controlled movements, and manipulate objects with their fingers.


Interest in Writing: Children who are ready to learn how to write often show interest in letters, words, and writing tools. They may ask questions about letters, attempt to write their name or other words, or making marks on paper.


Hand-Eye Coordination: Watch for signs of hand-eye coordination, such as being able to follow lines and shapes with their eyes, copy simple shapes, and engage in activities that require coordination between their hands and eyes.


Understanding of Symbols: Your students should have a basic understanding that written symbols represent words and ideas. They may recognize letters in their environment, such as on signs or in books, and show curiosity about their meaning.


Cognitive Readiness: Cognitive readiness involves skills like attention, memory, and understanding concepts like sequencing and directionality. Children who are ready to learn how to write can focus on tasks for short periods, remember instructions, and understand basic concepts related to writing, such as left-to-right progression.


Physical Readiness: Your students will need adequate physical stamina and posture to engage in writing activities comfortably. Ensure that your student can sit upright and maintain focus on a task for a reasonable amount of time without becoming tired.


Social and Emotional Readiness: Consider your students’ social and emotional development, as writing can be a source of frustration or stress for some children. Look for signs of readiness, such as confidence in their abilities, willingness to try new things, and resilience in the face of challenges.


What skills do students need before teaching writing?


The skills children need before learning to write include proper pencil grip, the ability to draw pre-writing stokes & simple pictures and the ability to recognise letters.

Children should also have hand dominance before learning how to write, it should be clear which hand your student prefers writing with. If you are unsure, watch your student and see what hand they eat with, throw a ball with, zip up with or pick things up with. Once this has been determined encourage your child to use this hand when drawing, coloring and writing.

Properly gripping the writing tool such as a pencil is also a useful skill to have before teaching writing. The most common grip is the tripod grip, but this can be different depending on what your student prefers and finds most comfortable. If your student uses the tripod grip, they will find writing easier and will progress with their writing more quickly.

Being able to draw prewriting strokes such as horizontal lines, vertical lines, diagonal lines, zig zags etc is another useful skill to have before learning to write. There are 9 different pre-writing strokes. You can give your students activities such as tracing activities to encourage them to practise these 9 strokes. Being able to create these strokes will help your students with their letter formation. When teaching letter formation, you can start with capital letters as these use these 9 strokes. The 9 strokes include:


  • Vertical Line: Drawing straight lines up and down

  • Horizontal Line: Drawing straight lines from left to right.

  • Circle: Drawing round shapes in a clockwise or counter clockwise direction.

  • Cross: Drawing a horizontal line intersecting a vertical line.

  • Diagonal Line: Drawing lines slanting from one corner to another.

  • Square: Drawing a shape with four equal sides and four right angles.

  • Triangle: Drawing a three-sided shape with three angles.

  • X: Drawing two diagonal lines that intersect in the middle.

  • Zigzag Line: Drawing lines with a series of sharp turns or angles


Children also need to be able to draw simple pictures as this will give them practise at putting together the pre-writing strokes to create something with meaning.

Letter recognition is another important skill to have developed as children will need to know what letters they are aiming to write to give their writing meaning. Children are often most interested to learn the letters in their name as they have a personal connection. If children don’t know the meaning of letters, they could lost interest and lose motivation to write.



At what age do children learn sentence structure?


Children may learn about simple sentence structure around the ages of 3-4 years old, but this will probably be explored more verbally. Start off with using one word or short phrases when children are around the age of 2 – 3 years old and they will begin to combine these words and phrases to give more meaning.

Around the ages of 3- 4 years old, children will begin to form verbal sentences that have become more complex as their language skills develop. They may begin to say 3–4-word sentences.

As children reach the age of 5-6 years old, their sentences will become more complex and use words such as “and” and “because” and they will begin to combine shorter sentences into longer sentences. At this age they will also begin to use different sentence types such questions etc.

Children aged between 5-6 years old are usually ready to learn sentence structure. At this age they may also be ready to learn to use pronouns, past tense and create more complex sentences. At this stage students may also be able to explain “why” when writing sentences.


Why is writing sentences important?


There are various reasons why kindergarten students should be learning to write sentences. First, is it will encourage language development as it allows them to express their thoughts, ideas etc and encourages them to be creative.

Writing sentences also allows students to develop their communication skills. They learn how to convey meaning through written language, which is an essential skill for future academic success and everyday communication.

Learning to write sentences also encourages reading readiness. Learning to read and write are closely connected. By writing sentences, kindergarteners become more familiar with written language conventions, such as word order, punctuation, and capitalization, which prepares them for reading and comprehension activities.

Learning to write encourages children to express their creativity and expression. By writing sentences, they learn to articulate their ideas and experiences in their own words, giving them a sense of ownership and pride in their work.


How to introduce sentence writing in kindergarten?


Often it is easy to teach children that a complete sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop (or period). Often it is trickier to ensure students know how to structure a sentence and ensure it makes sense. This is where the need to learn basic sentence structure comes in.

When you have determined that your students have the previous skills required such as letter recognition, pencil grip etc discussed earlier, it is a good idea to start off with creating sentences that feature one noun and a verb. Encourage your students to verbally come up with a sentence. You can use picture cards, illustrations, or other visuals to help you with this. Ensure your students are saying the sentence they have come up with out loud to ensure the structure is correct. Then you can model how to write the sentence to your students. Encourage and model reading back over their work to ensure it makes sense. You can also discuss different features of the sentence like capital letters, full stop (period), nouns, verbs and finger spaces.

Another effective activity to help introduce sentence structure is where you write a sentence and deliberately make mistakes which your students must correct. Your students can then write out the sentence again correctly. My Fix the Sentence Activities are perfect for developing this skill!

You can also give your students a jumbled-up sentence and ask them to rearrange it ensuring it is correct and makes sense. This type of activity focuses on sentence structure as well as capitalization and using punctuation correctly.

You can also practise dictating a sentence and asking your students to write it out correctly.

Ensure there are lots of opportunities for continued practise with writing. This could be having writing areas in your classroom or having writing centers with lots of different writing tools and materials. You can also consider integrating writing activities with other literacy-based activities, so even though the focus isn’t writing children are still getting regular writing practise. My Roll & Write a Sentence activity is a fun way to encourage your students to create exciting sentences!


What are the stages of writing in Kindergarten?


Children will learn to write at different speeds and will move through the stages at different rates. The different stages you might see are:

 

Drawing & mark making: You may also see a difference between uncontrolled and controlled mark making. This type of writing will have meaning to your students.

 

Shapes that look like letters or other forms: Children will begin to understand that letters etc have meaning and will attempt to write their own. Your students will want their writing to have meaning so will ask others what it says. They may also begin to write a string of letter like shapes.

 

Letters: Children will begin to use random letters but formed more correctly. They may even use letters in their name and will string letters together. However, they may still not be quite applying the correct meaning or sounds to letters. Your students will then move onto attempting to write correct letters for sounds and will often start off with the correct beginning sounds for words.

 

Letters & spaces: Your students will then move onto writing letters with meaning which have been sounded out more correctly and include spaces. Children may write the correct beginning and ending sounds for words and attempt to sound out phonetically. Your students will then move on to writing simple sentences.



Tips on teaching writing sentences


When teaching writing to kindergarten students there can be a lot to consider. Below I have outlined a few tips to keep in mind.


Start with the Basics: Begin by introducing your students to the basic features of a sentence, such as capital letters, punctuation marks (periods, question marks, exclamation marks), and finger spaces.


Model Sentence Writing: Model the process of writing sentences for your students. Demonstrate how to form a complete sentence using simple language and familiar vocabulary. Think aloud as you write, explaining the steps involved in creating a sentence.


Use Visual Supports: Provide visual supports such as anchor charts, picture prompts, and word walls to help your students generate ideas and remember sentence structures. Use illustrations and symbols to represent key concepts like nouns, verbs, and adjectives.


Encourage Drawing and Labeling: Encourage your students to draw pictures related to their sentences and label them with simple words or short phrases. Drawing allows students to express their ideas visually and provides context for their written sentences.


Use Manipulatives: Incorporate hands-on manipulatives such as magnetic letters, letter tiles, or word cards to help your students build and manipulate words and sentences. You can allow students to physically arrange the letters or words to form sentences.


Provide Guided Practice: Offer guided practice opportunities where your students work collaboratively with you or their peers to write sentences. Ensure and provide feedback and support as needed, focusing on areas such as spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure.


Celebrate Successes: Celebrate students' efforts and accomplishments in writing sentences. Provide praise and encouragement to build confidence and motivation. Display students' work in the classroom to showcase their progress and give them a sense of pride in their writing.


Make it Fun and Engaging: Incorporate games, songs, and interactive activities to make learning writing sentences enjoyable for students. Use movement, rhythm, and repetition to engage students and reinforce learning.


Provide Differentiated Instruction: Differentiate instruction to meet the varied needs of students in your classroom. Offer support and extension activities based on students' individual abilities and readiness levels.


How to differentiate teaching writing in kindergarten?


There are different ways to differentiate for kindergarten students when teaching writing. You can do this through expected output. Depending on where your student is in their learning, you will have a different expectation of their writing. You can do this through differentiating their success criteria.

Another way to differentiate your writing inputs is by giving your students different visuals and support aids. You can give them different materials and resources such as a word wall, spelling mats, etc depending on their learning needs.

Breaking the writing task into smaller more manageable steps is another way to differentiate teaching writing to your students. You can ensure to check in more often with your student’s progress after they have completed each step, and you can give support to your student if needed.

You can also differentiate writing prompts for your students. So, if you are giving a sentence starter as part of your lesson, you can differentiate this depending on your student’s ability.

You can also give your students more challenge by giving them more choice during your writing lessons. This will also give your students more freedom about the style or topic of their writing.



How do you assess student’s writing?


Assessing students’ writing can be done through either formal or informal methods. More formal methods can include asking students to create a piece of writing on a certain topic in a certain style and assess this piece of writing using criteria they are expected to meet. You may look at writing pieces from across your school or stage and discuss with colleagues to ensure you are happy with the expectations. You may also have a check list or rubric of what you are looking for.

You can also look through a range of writing samples taken from smaller writing tasks across a period of time and look at how your students’ writing has progressed. Keep in mind if these tasks were completed independently, in pairs, in groups or with support etc.

You can also observe how students engage in more informal writing activities such as writing areas or centers that are set up around your classroom. You can also record if your students write for a purpose such as creating a sign, write a letter etc.


Activity ideas for teaching sentence writing


Below are a few more activity ideas you could try out with your kindergarten students to help teach sentence writing skills.


  • Sentence dictation – Teacher says a sentence and the students write it out correctly.



  • Unjumbling sentences: Students are given mixed up sentences on cards, blocks etc and then must put them into the correct order.


  • Creating own sentences: You can give students cards or visuals with nouns and verbs. Students then build their own sentences which they can first say verbally then write out. My Roll & Write a Sentence Activity is a fun actvity your students can do to help them come up with thier own exciting sentences.


  • Sentence bingo: Where students match spoken sentences to written sentences on a bingo card. You can use interactive whiteboards or digital games to practice sentence formation and punctuation in a playful way.


  • Take writing activities outdoors for a change of scenery and inspiration. Give students clipboards and pencils and encourage them to write sentences about things they observe in nature or during outdoor play. Students can write about the weather, plants, animals, or their outdoor adventures.


  • Guided Writing Practice: Provide guided writing practice with worksheets or templates that scaffold sentence writing skills. Offer worksheets with sentence starters, fill-in-the-blank sentences, or picture cues to support students as they write. Gradually increase the complexity of the writing tasks as students become more confident.



Overall, teaching writing to kindergarten students is an important aspect of early childhood education that lays the foundation for their literacy development and academic success.

Remember, by providing engaging activities, modeling writing processes, and nurturing a supportive learning environment, teachers can encourage young learners to explore, experiment, and express themselves through writing.

Keep in mind by investing in early writing instruction, teachers not only prepare students for future academic challenges but also spark a lifelong passion for learning and self-expression.

 


 

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