Gene needs a lot of incentive to write these days. Well, he's always needed a lot, but lately I've been neglectful and haven't found any inspirations for him. I was thinking about it a lot, though, and finally came up with something...
Now, to preface this, I'll let you know that I haven't yet gone through the Language training in the classes I'm taking, and an online course I took (where I got to have access to someone else's albums) did not have writing activities beyond the initial "learning to write the letters". So, there are probably a lot of good writing activities out there in Montessori world that I just don't know about yet. Please let me know if you have any ideas!
We did a lot of writing over the summer, while we were reading the Little House books. I would write a question on a piece of paper, and he would answer the question in a complete sentence on writing paper. That was fine, but he was dependent on me writing the question and couldn't do it on his own. It also was a bit forced...he never begged me to do it with him:) But it did REALLY improve his writing, and very quickly. He went from not being able to even write about half of the lowercase letters of the alphabet on lined paper, to being able to write them all pretty darn legibly.
I also initiated a daily spelling test, and by daily I mean it happened about 3-4 days out of the week:) I based it off an idea I got from reading a book I found at a garage sale...a great book, by the way! Called An Acorn in My Hand by Ethel Bouldin, it lays out in a very easy to read manner how one teacher taught her first graders how to read and write...by the end of the year, they were able to read the newspaper, and write 2-3 page book reports. And, most importantly, they LOVED to write and they LOVED to have spelling tests. They were up to over 30 spelling words A DAY by the end of the year. She taught them phonetic spelling rules, and then just gave out 30 new words a day based on those rules. Every week she would introduce new rules, and therefore the kids were able to spell many new words just by learning the rule!
I can't recommend the book enough. I think every elementary school teacher should have a copy, and it definitely comes in handy to lay the groundwork for reading and writing at the preschool level. I started giving Gene spelling tests in the summer, and while he's only learned about 6 rules, he can spell MUCH better than before. And it really is fun:)
But...spelling tests are also dependent on the the teacher. I did think about recording the tests so he could play them back on his own time and write the words, but I haven't gotten there yet.
We have had a break from all writing for probably 2-3 weeks now...we've been busy with other work, and then everyone got sick. So I wanted to get back into it. But in a way that Gene could be independent. And a way that he would LIKE TO DO. I started thinking that, while he can write sentences, it was a lot of work for him. I want him to get comfortable just writing words, before he tries to string them together. So, I needed a word writing activity, that he could do by himself.
Here's what I put together:
On the tray is a jar with slips of lined writing paper, on cardstock so they will be easy to get out of the jar, and a little sturdier to work with. I found a website that offers free writing paper to print, and if I right click on the image and go to "copy image" I can paste the image in a new document and save it. Once printed, it's easy to cut into strips.
So, a strip can be chosen from the jar, and a picture chosen from the pile. Then, simply write the word that corresponds to the picture. I wasn't sure that Gene would think it was much fun, so I came up with a "point of interest" to entice him to do the work.
Here's where he puts the strips once they are written on:
I found this box at Wallmart in the sewing section, to hold sewing supplies. It cost under $2, and seems pretty sturdy. I labeled the sections alphabetically, and there's enough room in each section to hold quite a few strips. It would have been most ideal if there were 26 sections, but as it is this is pretty good.
He still wasn't keen on doing it, but once I said I would do it with him, he was all for it. We took turns choosing a picture and writing the word. He got to choose the pictures I would write, and immediately gave me the hardest ones! We made it through probably 20 pictures. Then, there were still some sections in the box that didn't have any slips, so I asked him if he could think of any words we could write for those sections, even if we don't have a picture for them. He didn't really want to write more, but once I wrote one word, he decided he wanted to write a different word, and we ended up writing a few more before putting it away. It went pretty darn well!
Now, I can definitely come up with more picture cards (I actually made those cards last year by cutting out pictures from magazines and laminating them on white paper, and I have a lot more in storage), but I also had ideas for extensions:
-laminate magazine pages that have multiple items in the same picture, and have the child write words that correspond to all the items he can find. This could be fun, since some items hide in most pictures (i.e. wall, door, floor...)
-once the pictures have worn out their appeal, encourage the child to look around the house for more ideas.
-the strips of paper in each section could be counted, and special effort could be made to find words to write to fill up the sections that have the least amount of words.
-turn it into a math activity as well, and keep a tally chart under the box. Label columns at the top of the chart that correspond to each section of the box. Each time a strip is put in a section, add a tally mark to that column...and the child will always know how many strips he has. Or...for number writing practice (which Gene needs as well!) just have the child write the latest number of strips in the column...
All right- this was only the first day of use. We'll see how the Word Box actually does in the long run!