Writing can be difficult in the early years of school. Sometimes I pause and think about how much a little 1st or 2nd grader must put into writing something. Handwriting is still developing in these grades even if it is much improved since kindergarten. Add this to a vocabulary that is still developing plus an attempt to spell words that are in the child's speaking/writing vocabulary but are not yet in their reading vocabulary. These small students are working so hard to write what they do...and sometimes they get frustrated that what they are thinking in their head is not what comes out on the paper.
Let's look at how it might look for a 1st grader trying to write about their weekend.
1. Think about all the cool things I did this weekend. I have a great idea!
2. Grip pencil- readjust to make sure I am holding it right.
3. Begin to write my first sentence, run into a word that is difficult to spell...struggle through it.
4. I've lost my place, I start writing a different sentence.
Often young students write stories that get jumbled. The words can be squished together or too spread out. Many students struggle to get what they are thinking in their head down on the paper because of all they must focus on. Words often get left out of sentences, making writing incoherent. When the student is asked what they wrote they are often able to tell a beautiful story that just didn't quite make it to the paper.
We have to help our young students progress in their writing so that what they write on the paper can be read by others and used for academics. But where do we start?
My favorite place to start, and a place that often creates great improvement is using Vygotsky lines. These sound complicated but I promise you they are far from it!
Sit down with your struggling writer with a piece of writing paper, a pencil for them, and a colored marker for you. Ask your child to tell you the first sentence they want to write on the paper. For each word your child says, put a line on the bottom of the line (like you are underlining the word that isn't written yet). End the sentence with a period and turn the paper over to your child. Have them write their sentence putting each individual word where you wrote the line for it. You may need to help your child remember their sentence when they are new at this. You can also do a few words at a time instead of a complete sentence. Continue doing this sentence by sentence until your child decides their piece is complete and then have them read it back to you.
Continue to help your child write with Vygotsky lines until you feel like they are comfortable keeping track of their writing on their own. While sitting down and doing this with your child you can also reinforce other good writing habits such as making sure that sentences start with a capital and end with punctuation.
This little intervention can yield lots of writing improvement for young students! Let me know how it works for you.