Writing Lessons For Your Preschooler

Simply defined, literacy is the ability to read and write, but these skills emerge through the development of oral language and vocabulary. Learned in this order - - oral language, reading, and writing – these skills are the key to creating literate children.

Writing, then, is the glue that cements the mastery of oral language and reading for the child. This is why it is so important that children not only learn to write, but learn to see themselves as writers. 


Here are suggestions to helping children become life-long writers.

Label – Label items around the house.  Offer index cards and work with your child to label items in their room.

Model - Just like we model what good readers do, we model what good writers do.

Modeling includes things like finding simple writing activities in everyday experiences, writing a note for your child next to their breakfast, placing a post-it note on the bathroom mirror, writing out the literacy story, or you can model making a shopping list.

What to model?

Below is a list of things you can model. When you get in a good routine with your child and you get more comfortable with the modeling portion of writer’s workshop you will find your child needs additional practice.

-writing the sound you hear at the beginning of words.

-putting spaces between words

-labeling your pictures

-swiping words from the word wall

-sounding out long words

-saying your words before you write them.

-pointing out your words on your fingers.

-putting lines to represent your words

-what to do when you get to the end of the paper.

-how to write a quick sketch before you write your words.

-I forgot what I was writing about!  I’ll just make up a new story.

-My writing doesn’t have to be real – I can make up stories too!

As a reading coach, I would sometimes go into a teacher’s class for a Shared Reading observation. I would purposely NOT ask what the focus of their lesson was.  The reason was simple, if I couldn’t understand what the focus was, how can we expect children to?  With Shared Reading, it is difficult to stick to a focus.  Your focus might be on “Using Picture Clues” but halfway through the story you ask the children to retell what happened at the beginning or to predict what is going to happen in the story.  A great author, Debbie Miller once explained that she could use a handful of books for an entire year, simply because she could go back and change her focus each time she reads the book.

The same is true with Writer’s Workshop.  Stick with one focus.  If your focus is getting the beginning sounds, make sure you stick to that focus.

How can you keep your child engaged?

Writing is a developmental process just like walking, talking, reading.

It starts out with scribbles and drawings and progresses into one of the most important communication tools there is. To keep you child engaged in the business of learning to write, try these tips:

Ask about a drawing: “Tell me about your drawing” – mark down quick dictations.

 Always date your child’s work so you can see the progression.

As your child is drawing, use terms such as “what are you writing” or “I love your writing.”

If you’re in homeschool classroom:

Model writing a morning message

Make Charts in progress

Make small books with your child that he can fill in the ending. “This is my…..” or “I like to eat…..” or “I like to go to the….”


The Writing Lesson

If your child asks you what a word is, encourage him to hear the sounds and write what he hears.  You can also sound out the words. Do not tell your child the letters.

Refer to the word wall while you are writing the morning message, model writing, writing a note, etc.

Although these seem like a lot of steps, they move very quickly.  Watch my video labeled “Steps of Writers Workshop” to see this modeled.

When I am working with a small group I have them start with their sketch.  This allows me to conference with individual children while the other children are sketching their illustration.

When I am working with a large group of children I tend to have the children write first.  I do a quick conference with each of them about what they want to write about before sending them off to write.  If they write first they are less likely to forget what we had mini-conference on.


1.   Name on your paper

2.   Brainstorm things you could write about.

3.   Say the words you want to write.

4.   Point to your fingers to indicate the words you want to write.

5.   Point the words out on the paper.

6.   Make lines to represent the words.

7.   Put a circle around the lines that represent swiping words

8.   Sound out and write the sounds you hear in each word.

9.   Swipe any words you can from the word wall or from around the room.

10.  Reread your sentence.

11.   Because you are a teacher, you are going to write the correct spelling above your words.  That way if your child wants to “swipe” a word they can.

12.   Draw your picture

13.   Label your picture

14.   Your child’s Turn!  Talk with our child about what he/she want to write about.

15.    Solidify their thoughts by saying, “So, do you want to write I got a new blue bike?”

16.    Say the sentence

17.    Point the sentence out on your fingers.

18.    Point the sentence out on the paper.

19.    Make lines to indicate where the words go.

20.    Circle the lines that indicate swiping words.

21.     Work with your child to write out the words.

When I was a reading coach, our writing supervisor told us never to write on a child’s paper.  We don’t want to diminish the child’s effort.  After your child is finished writing, write what he “wrote” on the back of the paper or on a post-it and stick it on.

The only time I sway away from this practice is in the phonetic stage of writing.  If I have a child that is beginning to write the beginning letter of each word, I like to remember what they wrote and mark this huge step.  But I always ask the child.  I simply say, “This is fantastic work! Do you mind if I make a few notes on your paper?”

Say the first word, sound out the word for your child and then encourage your child to write all the sounds he hears. You may need to sound out the word a few times.

 Encourage your child to at least write the first letter.

 If you say a sound and your child doesn’t remember what the letter looks like, quickly model writing that letter and encourage your child to copy it.

Encourage your child to label their illustration, again sounding it out if needed.

Note:  As you continue with writing with your child you will find that you do not need to offer as much support.  This is called the Gradual Release of Responsibility. Give your child ONLY the support he needs.  When your child is able to sound out the words and hear the sounds, do not do it for them.

Lastly, Never correct your child.  If your child puts a d and it is supposed to be a b. That’s fine!  Reversals are normal at this stage.  If your child adds an extra letter, no biggie.  We want to allow them to take risks and to be rewarded for them so that their confidence grows as well as their love for learning.


Andy Green