I prefer the pen. There is something elemental about the glide and flow of nib and ink on paper.
Handwriting and phonics teaching have to be another two areas that must be non-negotiables in our school.
Handwriting is one of those skills that, when done well, gives immense pride to the pupil who is able to model fluent joins and consistently well-presented work. Just by demonstrating beautiful writing in books, the whole ‘feel’ and look of exercise books seems a higher quality – it shows that the pupils ‘care’ about their work. I have been trying to get the teachers to have their children practice handwriting at least three times a week. We have a chosen handwriting font on all of the computers that makes this an easy task to do. Spellings in cursive up on the board as children settle in the mornings, is an easy way to achieve this. I do fundamentally believe that children must learn how to ‘print’ words before they begin to join their letters. Very often I have seen teachers in EYFS teach cursive before the children have even learnt how to form the letter by itself in print. First, they must learn how to recognise the letter and then how to write it on its own.
In EYFS and Key Stage 1, children should be having daily phonics sessions to prepare them for Key Stage 2. I have worked with Debbie Hepplewhite in two of my previous schools, using her Phonics International program to implement phonics all the way to year 6. Having her work in school has only highlighted how crucial it is that children understand all the different ways of spelling certain sounds. Very often the children who tend to have the most mature writing styles, suffer from a lack of as mature, phonetical awareness, causing them to misspell many of the vocabulary words they are choosing to use.
Debbie has some excellent charts that allow older children to begin thinking about or at least consider the spellings of the words they are unsure of. A range of Debbie’s free charts can be found here: http://www.alphabeticcodecharts.com/free_charts.html
I have not yet discussed phonics in detail with the teachers yet as there have been other basic priorities that I have had to roll out for this year. However, next year, phonics will feature very highly on our ‘to-do’ list. When I am ready to tackle this area, Debbie will be the first I call on. However, this will be to get teachers in Key Stage 2 thinking about how they can begin delivering phonics session to their classes. I am shocked that daily phonics lessons in EYFS and Key Stage 1 aren’t just assumed in every school, but the more I investigate this, the more schools I am finding out, don’t.
How does your school approach handwriting, phonics and spelling? Is it an integral part of the ‘learning’ as children progress through your school?