Write or wrong: pre-school teaching “bad for kids” claim teachers

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Teachers say children who are taught to write before school pick up bad habits

CHILDREN who are taught to write before school are being put at a disadvantage, teachers claim.

They say that encouraging a basic level of literacy prior to entering education could lead to youngsters developing bad writing habits which could prove difficult to correct in their early years at school.

Teachers say that they way children learn to write could have an impact on their reading skills.

Elizabeth Watt, a retired teacher with more than 30 years experience in the Scottish classroom, said: “Some children coming to school having learned how to write have picked up bad habits, such as not holding their pencil properly and writing letters back to front.

“A school, we teach writing using a series of techniques, following specific patterns for certain groups of letters.

“If kids don’t follow these techniques it can lead to problems later, especially when they come to master joined up handwriting.

“Also, many children learn to write at home in capital letters which can cause problems with their reading, because they don’t recognise the small letters in print.”

Challenge

She added that breaking these habits can be difficult.

“This can make it more difficult for teachers – if a child has been holding a pencil wrongly for two years before they come to school then we have to retrain them.

“And getting rid of bad habits can be a challenge.

“I’m not saying parents shouldn’t encourage their children to learn because I’d never hold a child back.

“But perhaps parents could encourage creativity in the form of patterns and swirling movements.

“This is what the writing techniques we teach at school are based on, so while they might think this kind of thing isn’t important, it sets them in good stead for lessons at school.”

A Glasgow-based primary school teacher, who did not want to be named, agreed.

“All schools have different handwriting programmes,” she said. “As many adults write in capitals, for example when completing forms, children tend to copy and write capitals in the middle of words.

“Overall it’s good if children have evidence of pencil control before starting school but not actual writing knowledge.”

However, literacy expert Sue Ellis disagrees, saying that not teaching children to write could affect their confidence.

The reader in literacy and language at Strathclyde University said: “Young children are always curious about the world around them.

“They watch what their parents do and they copy it, from pushing a shopping trolley to dressing up to writing.

Transitions

“Because they’re kids they‘re not going to do things perfectly, but letting children have a go when they are ready is very important.

“Schools focus so much on children getting the physical side of writing correct from the very start that they often lose the essence of the other things that writing is about.

“If kids get overly concerned about getting it right, they lose confidence.

“If you can’t make mistakes at five years old, when can you make them?”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We want to see children developing educationally, emotionally and socially.

“It is well recognised that teaching staff both in nurseries and schools, as well as parents and carers all have an important role to play in supporting children to learn.

“It’s important to encourage good transitions from nursery or other early years settings into primary school.

“Curriculum for Excellence spans the period from age three to early primary school and aims to provide young children with new and exciting opportunities for meaningful and challenging learning experiences.

“Staff work together to plan a child’s learning journey from three to 18, across different subjects and curricular areas.”

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