Effective Practice Guides

Writing: Do


Try the following practices with preschool-aged children. Use as much of the child’s home or tribal language as possible. Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.

Preschoolers [1]

  • Offer to take dictation to provide captions for children’s art or describe what’s happening in a photo.
  • Offer opportunities for children to draw pictures.
    • Drawing strengthens the fine motor skills needed to produce letter-like forms. It is also a way for children to be intentional in making meaning.
  • Help emergent writers form words by demonstrating on a separate piece of paper, segmenting the sounds, and discussing the letters needed.
  • Offer ways for children to write with their fingers (e.g., with finger paint or trays of sand) or use “found” objects such as sticks to write in sand or dirt.
  • Provide materials for children to create print props for play (e.g., a sign for a pretend lemonade stand or roadside restaurant).
  • Encourage children to write their names during everyday routines and play (e.g., when entering or leaving the setting, on their paintings and drawings).
  • Model writing and explain what you are writing and why.
  • Provide a variety of tools to write with and materials to write on, as well as opportunities to write for a purpose (e.g., make a shopping list, create a card to send to someone).
  • Encourage children to explore, practice, and enjoy their writing experiences. [2]
  • Express appreciation for children’s attempts at writing.

Home Visitors

Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas.

  • Talk with parents about their child’s experiences with print and writing, as well as their own experiences.
    • Keep in mind that some children and families come from rich oral language traditions but have little experience with print and writing, some use non-alphabetic writing, and others are not written down. Knowing this information can help you and parents plan writing experiences that are appropriate for the child, build on the child’s home language and literacy background, and support the child in learning English.
  • Brainstorm ideas with parents for what their child could use to write on (e.g., the backs of cut-up cereal boxes, old mailing envelopes, newspapers). Strategize with parents about where they can find appropriate writing tools for their child.
  • Encourage parents to model writing for a purpose with their child (e.g., making shopping lists, keeping track of appointments on a calendar, filling out forms, or writing letters or emails to relatives and friends).

[1] California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 1 (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2010), 159–165, Writing Strategies, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1.pdf [PDF, 8.8MB].

[2] National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning (NCECDTL), "Planned Language Approach: Alphabet Knowledge and Early Writing" (Washington, DC: Author, 2019), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/pla-alphabet-knowledge-early-writing.pdf.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 13, 2019