Writing is one of the most challenging things we ask our children to do and knowing what’s expected in each year group and how to help your child can be hard. We’ve taken a look at some of the writing skills taught in each year group and suggested ways to help your child with them at home.
Writing in Reception is about laying down the skills children will use for the rest of their lives. Whilst it’s tempting to push your child to master more advanced writing skills, it’s important to be led by your child and not put them off writing by expecting too much too soon. Lots of activities such as drawing with chalks on the pavement, cutting out shapes from paper and tracing pictures and patterns are important for developing the skills needed to for writing with a pen or pencil. Giving your child access to pens, paper, pencils and paints is a really great way to support their future writing.
Your child will have had phonics lessons throughout their time in Reception. They won’t yet know the correct letters for all the sounds they want to write but praising them for choosing letters that make the right sound (if not the right spelling) will help them view themselves as writers e.g. the car is bloo (blue).
Showing your child that writing is a useful skill is one of the best things you can do. Writing lists is a simple way to do this. Involve your child in writing shopping lists and job lists and encourage them to write their own lists e.g. of favourite toys, foods they like to eat or tv programmes they enjoy watching.
Children in KS1 still find it hard to sit for extended periods so keep writing activities short and active and, where possible, based on things your child has done. Making a healthy snack, such as beans on toast, and writing this up as a set of instructions is a good place to start. Your child can write a list of ingredients and then write out numbered directions about how to make the healthy snack. Instructions are often easier to follow when the sentences are short and not too detailed, which makes them good for children who are reluctant to write.
To help your Year 1 child improve their instructions, check that they have used full stops, capital letters and have spaces between each word. If your child is in Year 2, help them check that their sentences are commands by looking for action words (verbs) at or near the beginning of each sentence e.g. Put the bread in the toaster… Next, pour the beans into the pan…
Lower Key Stage 2
Grouping sentences into paragraphs is a skill taught in Year 3 and Year 4 and it’s one that many children find tricky. Encourage your child to use books and the internet to research a subject they are interested in e.g. pandas. They should make notes and sort the information they find into different categories e.g. where pandas live, what they eat, what they look like etc. They should then use their notes to help them write an information text about their subject of interest. They can use the headings from their notes as paragraph or section headings to organise their writing.
Another way to help your Year 3 child improve their writing, is to encourage them to write longer sentences by joining information with words such as because, so and therefore e.g. Pandas are an endangered species so we need to look after them carefully. If your child is in Year 4, you could encourage them to check that they don’t repeat the name of their subject (e.g. panda) by using pronouns such as they, it, their to replace the repeated word e.g. Giant pandas live in China. They are black and white. Their favourite food is bamboo.
Upper Key Stage 2
Most children have strong feelings about specific issues e.g. plastic pollution, conservation, animal rights etc. Encouraging them to write persuasive texts, encouraging their reader to take up the cause, is a good way to get children in Year 5 and Year 6 motivated about writing. If you’re confident with technology and are able to ensure you child’s online security, enabling them to write their persuasive texts as a blog or series of blogs can raise their enthusiasm for writing. If you’re not so confident with technology or worry about online security, encourage your child to write pamphlets about their chosen cause and share these with friends and family.
You can help your Year 5 child write persuasively by encouraging them to use words such as might, should, will and must (modal verbs) to shape their persuasive points e.g. We must all play our part in reducing plastic waste; you might want to think more carefully next time you throw your plastic wrapping away etc. Support your Year 6 child by encouraging them to organise their persuasive writing with headings, sub-headings, bullet points and tables of additional information.
Rachel Clarke works with schools across the UK and beyond to raise standards in literacy. She is the author of several education books published by Collins and writes regular articles for education magazines and websites.