Prehandwriting Lesson Ideas

Sequence of Prerequisite Skills

The following prerequisite skills are a general guide for planning instruction.

  • Student draws a picture to convey a message.
  • Student makes symbols (not letters) and attributes a message to them.
  • Student writes strings of letters (no correspondence to sound or spelling).
  • Student adds spaces to their strings of letters.
  • Student adds a letter to a picture indicating the first sound of the word.
  • Student writes their own name.
  • Student uses invented spelling.
  • Student writes phrases and then moves on to sentences.

  • Model for students how to trace shapes (start at one spot and trace around in the direction of the arrow)
  • Repeat the instructions as students try it themselves.
  • Have students attempt to draw the shapes they have traced on their own. 
  • Now have the students try drawing the shape from memory.
  • Use multi sensory materials (like sand) for tracing practice. Mistakes can be wiped away so that students can focus on successes rather than a string of corrections on a page. Think sugar free gelatin, finger paint, or corn meal. Or why not make  make the shape out of twigs, pebbles, pine cones or even cheerios or raisins. 
  • When teaching students to draw simple shapes like circles, plus signs or x's be sure to point them out in the enironment or in words. It is important for students to know why they are working on this skill.

  • Set up pretend play situations where students have the opportunity to "pretend write" like a restaurant, hardware store, market, doctor's office.
  • Read a book about families and then have students draw a picture of their family. Work with the students to add detail to their pictures so that they represent each member of their family. Offer to write the names of the family members for them.
  • Have a writing center in your classroom where students can experiment with a variety of writing tools and materials.

  • Give students journals. In their journal they can:
    • practice their letters or their name
    • draw pictures of stories they have read or events that have happened
    • write their own stories or draw original pictures
    • write or draw observations from a science experiment, walk, play

  • Plant some seeds in the classroom. Make a schedule of who will water the seeds every day - write the student's name beside their day. Have the students draw a picture of what they see each day. Once the flower blooms make a book about the stages of plant growth.
  • Write with yellow highlighter and let students trace your letters. 
  • Erasing with Water :   Teachers write, with chalk, the letters, numbers or words for the children to practice on the chalkboard.  Have the children dip their brush in the water and "erase" what you have written by painting over it with the water.  I have used this activity with 3,4,5 and 6 year old children.  We practiced with shapes in the younger groups and moved on to letters, numbers and our names in the older groups.  Often the older children started writing their own letters to "erase", therefore getting double the practice!
  • Coloured Salt Names and Initials: Place salt in a zip-locking bags (about one cup) add food coloring. Close bag. Have children vigorously shake the bag until all the salt is coloured. Open the bag and spread the salt onto paper towels to dry. Have children write their names or their initials using large paint brush with slightly diluted white glue on paper. Immediately, have them sprinkle on the coloured salt. Let dry, then shake off the excess salt


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