From reception to production

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Now that they can read, how do we help the learner to become an independent writer? One of the difficulties is gaining the confidence to produce words yourself. We gamified (made fun) a writing practice activity that lays the path to long term retention of word shape or spelling.

My daughter is now becoming quite an accomplished reader. She has her ups and downs, but she’s coming along nicely πŸ˜‰
During our morning practice sessions however, I have always been challenged by the writing practice. Was it effective? Was it engaging? Was it even necessary in the digital age? That final point I will save for another time. This post is about making the writing activity both engaging AND effective.

As the title image details, sensory input can be lost quite quickly if it is un-rehearsed (not practiced). The challenge for long term retention of information is to move it from the short term ‘immediate need’ area of the brain to the long term storage area. In terms of my daughter’s writing skill, this means helping her to remember the form/spelling of many key words. The ultimate goal of this is empowerment.

In reality, it was very easy to implement a long-term, rehearsed element to our practice activity. It just took a little imagination and gamification to make this engaging and effective.

We used:
– Lined writing paper (the sort that helps young learners to size the upper and lower case characters correctly)
– Our Jolly Phonics practice cards (cards with target/key words)
– My daughter’s collection of foreign coins from my travels

The activity runs as follows:
Choose 10 target cards (level appropriate) and shuffle.
Offer them face down to the sprog who chooses one.
Show the card to the sprog and count down from 5 to 0. Once you reach zero, hide the card.
Now count up from one to 5. Once you reach five, ask the sprog to write that word on the practice paper and read the result.
If they were correct, they get a coin.
Repeat.

In my daughter’s own words, ” I’m glad we did that game. It was fun. I want to play it all the time.”

They have 5 seconds to remember the word form, and have to retain that information for a further 5 seconds before reproducing it on paper. During that 5 seconds of retention you can almost see the word settling in nicely between the neurons πŸ˜‰

Obviously this activity by itself will not be enough, but it is adaptable. We could lengthen the wait time or shorten the look time. I plan to follow this up with a weekly review of words covered in a similar fashion. It is however a fantastic was to begin that journey towards long term memory retention and independent production, and it’s fun too.

If you have any similar activities or experience then please share.

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