It is clear that throughout history humans have always wanted to leave their mark. We see this in ancient hieroglyphics and carvings in prehistoric caves. Through spoken word, people can easily express ideas from one person to another. These words can only be transferred orally when the other person is physically there. Before humans could formally write, people would draw pictures on caves trying to preserve their history and culture. This, in a way, helped the idea of symbolizing or permanently marking something. Over time, the alphabet formed as a way for humans to make their communication permanent. This is a newer form of communication compared to spoken language.
When we introduce the sandpaper letters to a child and she traces it for the first time, it is a foreign world to her. This letter the child is tracing has a long history to it. The child should understand the deep impact writing has on the world and develop an appreciation for it. The children understand this appreciation through the support of the adults own appreciation for writing. We don’t want the children to simply be reading focused.
Writing gives children the opportunity to express their ideas, emotions, thoughts and dreams. We need to make the child’s discovery of reading and writing powerful and meaningful. When we support the child in developing the capacity to write, we are supplying the child with a tool that took thousands of years to develop and perfect. It keeps the human future documented. This is like an art form that preserves humanity.
Writing is presented before reading because it involves fewer thought processes. When a child reads he must analyze the text, take words apart, put them back together, and make meaning of someone else’s words. When a child writes, he finds the symbol for the sounds he wants and expresses his own idea from his mind. The child simply finds the correct symbols that correspond to the ideas in his mind. Because writing comes more easily to children, many four year old’s are extremely happy and excited to do the moveable alphabet.
There are two aspects to writing; intellectual and mechanical. This requires the child to use his mind and hand to work cooperatively. The child is prepared indirectly and directly for writing. There are four main areas used to indirectly prepare for intellectual aspects including three-period lessons, story-telling, experiences the children have in the children’s house and beyond, and poems, songs, and riddles. These all provide content for the child’s writing. The cycle of activity in practical life supports the child in seeing a beginning, middle and end. This helps build order and logic. Memory games assist in writing as well. Nomenclature cards and sound games support the child in understanding individual sounds.
Direct preparations include beginning with sandpaper letters which allows the child to use tactile, visual, and auditory senses to help identify the graphic symbols representing the sounds. The moveable alphabet allows the child to express his thoughts and explore the sound symbols relationship between the letters and their sounds. It also frees the intellect from the hand so the child can express himself without having to form it with their hand. The mind is prepared much earlier than the hand. We prepare the child directly by modeling handwriting frequently in front of the child. We model handwriting by writing in cursive. The mechanics of handwriting are equally important to prepare children to write on paper. We help prepare the child’s hands through exercises of practical life that build muscle control of the hand, strengthen the wrist and fingers, lightness of touch, ability to make shapes by using the geometry cabinet, and the writing grip through the knob cylinders. Using the stylus directly relates to how the child will hold a pencil. The child is prepared for handwriting through the metal insets by holding the colored pencils how you’d hold a pencil and keeping the pencils in contact with the paper.
All of the art of handwriting exercises like sand tray and chalk boards help form the shape of letters without being permanent. Then when the child is ready we move to paper, then hitching letters together. First by writing only middle space letters, then middle and ascending, middle and descending and then middle, ascending and descending. The child should experience an explosion in writing and develop a deep love and appreciation for writing in the Children’s House.