Writing is an important part of Literacy. The NEPS document explores how handwriting, spelling and meaningful writing are part of the writing process in Literacy development in Early Years. This is show in The Literacy Tree below.
*Literacy Tree from NEPS Balanced Approach to Literacy Development in the Early Years
I was guilty of focusing on the mechanics of writing and handwriting, while I agree it is important to teach the mechanics beginning with fine motor and pencil grip before letter structure. It is also important to provide the children with free writing activities and opportunities to engage in meaningful writing.
Children, even in the early days of Junior Infants, must be made aware of how marks on a page are forms of communication and messages. In my classroom I had a writing area which was a huge attraction to everyone. Children had access to markers, post-its, pens and a variety of other writing materials for everyone to use. If i ever needed to send a note to another class/teacher I would use the writing area too. In this way the children saw me use writing as meaningful communication.
I used a variety of strategies to encourage free writing, each child had a free writing copy on their desk, along with whiteboards and chalkboards for the children to use around the room. Some Aistear topics led to more meaningful writing activities than others. But I would encourage the children to label different things for me during Aistear. Especially in construction and small world, so when I visited that area during Aistear the children could explain to me what they had made/built that day. Children in socio-dramatic were always encourage to write forms or other notes too.
From early in Term 1 I would introduce play diaries to my Senior Infants. I used clipboards with record sheets but I also added a high frequency word list and a topic word list. The topic word list changed with the topic in Aistear. I found these topic word mats on Twinkl or Sparklebox. Sample word mats can be found here.
At the end of the session the children were encouraged to write about or draw what they had done in Aistear that day. The children loved these play diaries. In term 2 Junior Infants were given a blank copy which was their play diary and they were also encouraged to write about their play in Aistear. Senior Infants were then able to share their word mats and encourage and support the Junior Infants in their play group.
Play diaries encourage the children to use approximate spelling and it will also give the teacher an outline of what stage the children are at in relation to writing development and spelling. Play diaries also provide the class teacher with a level of assessment for Aistear and Literacy.
These are some examples to encourage meaningful writing through Aistear. If you have any questions please send me a PM.