Early Years Teaching Ideas: Reading and Writing

It can be difficult to follow the various debates on methods of teaching reading and writing for younger children. This article describes lots of different ways to approach this kind of teaching, including showing how an education can happen in various different locations and situations.

Starting to Read

One of the advantages of a home education is its flexibility; parents should exploit that while teaching children to read. Emphasise print awareness, how words has different meaning according to their context, so when you’re in a restaurant show a child how menus list types of food and drink, novels relate stories, a road sign can indicate the presence of danger, for example. These kinds of lessons will help children to gauge early on that words are made of letters with spaces between them.

Parents will monitor their own children’s progress while teaching them reading and decide on the best method, but one idea is phonics teaching, which emphasises the sounds of letters and their patterns. Teaching phonics relies on the alphabetic principle, that there are predictable relationships between letters as they are written and sounds as they are spoken aloud. More information about phonics and learning to read is available all over the internet as well as in books you will find in the local library. The BBC’s literacy site Words and Pictures also has useful worksheets and activities to help young children learn to read.

Starting to Write

Most children will begin to write by copying what they see in print, so their early attempts at writing will probably look to you, the parent, like squiggles. Still, it is important to encourage these early attempts! Help them to hold a pencil, and then to recognise and write their name.

The skills of knowing how to spell, use neat handwriting and correct punctuation are obviously important, but in these early years confidence is more important than writing really slowly in order to ensure ultra neat handwriting, for example – it’s not easy to remember all the ‘rules’ of writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, writing patterns, the actual content that is being written) in one go, so allow the child to progress at his or her own pace.

Praise is very important to boost a child’s ability to write: it may be the content of the writing that you praise, or its formation, of the very fact that the child has written something, but remember to provide clear and frequent praise, even if a piece of writing is not perfect in every way.

Skills will be built up gradually, so it’s not a good idea to focus on all the errors in one go. Instead correct some spelling at a time, and maybe make posters together about spelling ‘rules’ or lists of often-misspelt words. Think about how to spell words while in the car or about and about, for example while horse riding you could ask an advanced child how to spell ‘equestrian’! Remember that an education can happen anywhere.