Enticing literacy. Making and writing words.

Oct 24, 2013

Today's activity is part of an ongoing series, Exploring Reggio. Our co-creators for the series are, The Imagination TreeAn Everyday StoryOne Perfect Day and Twodaloo

Maddie (almost 5), is starting school next year so we've been filling out a lot of transition paperwork lately. I was asking her about what she's looking forward to learning at school and one of the main things she was interested in was, "writing and reading new words."

She's always shown a great interest in reading and writing and in the past we've done many activities around learning letters, writing your name and basic sight words. Like most children her age, things like letter formation are still yet to be perfected as she continues to develop her fine motor skills and coordination.

As a way to help her in her quest to write and read new words, as well as paying closer attention to how letters are formed, I set up an invitation (or provocation) to entice her to hopefully want to read, write and play around.

Next to a large, bright window, I set up a little area to entice her curiosity.

In the hope that she would use the provided materials to form letters and words, I provided just one example of what was possible and left it there.

The main material that I used as a way for us to work on the letter formation, and hopefully discover some more about shapes along the way, were a couple of the sets from our open-ended wooden Spielgaben play set. I set out the rings, semi-rings and sticks which all come in a variety of sizes.

(You can read what I have to say about the Spielgaben play set here and why I think there are some educational toys that are worth the money! This is certainly one of them!) 

For the word inspiration I put out some of the nature cards that we have. These are Baby Einstein brand which I purchased a few years ago. I had some lying out flat and some I propped up using some cook-book stands to give them a different dimension and the whole work space a nice feel.

You could always use your own photos with added words to give it an extra personal touch and perhaps make it more relevant to your child.

Without needing to explain any intentions, she saw the activity set out and jumped right in.

The activity was great for letter recognition as she stopped and talked about each individual letter as she went along.

She really enjoyed the challenge of trying to find the right shapes that could form the letters. It made her stop and examine the shapes within the letters and how they could be recreated using the materials she had. We talked about "straight lines" and "curved lines" a lot.

I had placed some paper and markers up the back and she spotted them and asked me what they were for. "Whatever you like" I replied and she leapt up to get them right away.

She wanted to write the words. Yay! I found it interesting that she used her word made out of the Spielgaben to copy from, rather than the word written on the picture card. 

You may be able to notice she then wrote her "S" in 2 parts as a result of copying from her creation. We stopped and talked about this for a bit and how when we are handwriting, we would keep the line continual.

"I made an "f"!" I asked her at this point if she thought she'd chosen the right length stick for the line across (the yellow stick)? She looked at the sticks again and at the letter written on the picture card and decided, "no!"

"This one is a better size!" She chose a more appropriate length and was happy with it. 

"Look an "O"! I don't have to make anything!" she said. "You're right," I said, and then asked her if there was a way that she could make it if she needed to. "2 half circles of course!" she said. I sure love it when math and literacy combine :)

Those little fiddly materials were not only great for looking at shapes, size, length and colours but were also great fine motor practice as well!

There was of course a lot of reading and sounding-out. Having the picture cards made guessing at the words nice and easy but I encouraged her to also have a look at the first letter, say the first sound and then try the sounds after that so she could confirm that what she guessed it would say, it really did say.

Adding in some drawings.

It was beautiful with the natural light coming in. Our house can get reasonably dark in the centre of it without lights on so we often set up our activities and play spaces near the windows.

She created, wrote, read and drew for probably around an hour or so before she declared she'd had enough.


I was really pleased that the original intention I had with this activity was achieved. It made me feel happy about the way that I had set it out and delighted that my daughter saw making and writing words in this way to be a fun choice.

I considered the idea of adding a mirror into this provocation (because I'm obsessed with mirrors now, haha and Reggio seems to love mirrors) but made myself take a step back and have a think about what the mirror would provide to the experience and if it was necessary in the explorations or if it could actually distract the activity away from my original hopes and intention. I decided in the end that for this particular activity, the lighting we had was great and I also wanted her to see and examine the shapes of the letters, words and materials as they were without necessarily seeing them from other angles.

I am going to repeat this activity again though and add in a mirror to see how that changes her actions and what else can be discovered. I anticipate being able to explore symmetry and having some fun trying to create letters using part mirror, part materials! Can't wait!


Join us in a fortnight for another Exploring Reggio post and don't forget to check out all the other great activities from our co-hosts. Check them out via the links below.

Library Role Play Area (The Imagination Tree)
A Literacy Rich Environment (An Everyday Story)
Create a Literacy Table (One Perfect Day)
Meaningful Literacy (Twodaloo)

If you missed our last Exploring Reggio post about Exploring and Printing with Paint on a Mirror, go and check it out. We had such a fun experience!

Happy playing,
Debs :)

{Disclosure: I have provided the link to the Spielgaben site for your convenience as part of a paid ambassadorship with Spielgaben. All opinions in this article, as always are my own} 

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