Students learn to write in first grade. However, from kindergarten, they should have the opportunity to handle letters as often as possible.
This is a way to significantly reduce the gaps between students, says Marie-France Morin, professor at the University of Sherbrooke.
“Students do not arrive with the same background in kindergarten. For example, there are children who have been read a lot of stories, others not at all. These differences must be taken into account by the school,” says this expert in learning to read and write at school.
In Ms. Natacha’s kindergarten class at the Val-Joli school in Quebec, the students regularly play with letters. Every morning, the teacher writes a message of the day on the board where sometimes a word is missing. The students must then, as a team, try to write the missing word.
On Monday, after drawing an activity that represents their weekend, the students choose a related word and try to write it, with the sounds they know. Those who went to the rink can write “ai”, if they recognize the vowel sound. Some even sometimes try to write their first sentence.
“I really reassure them a lot, I tell them that they are doing it their way, like a friend of five years, and that I am proud of them, no matter how many letters they find. The important thing is to go there with pleasure, to give them a taste for writing. It doesn’t have to be scary,” says teacher Natacha Gros-Louis Lessard.
According to a study carried out by Marie-France Morin with kindergarten students, having students write regularly from preschool can halve the number of students at risk at the end of the first year. “I’m not saying that all students should learn to read and write from kindergarten,” says Ms. Morin, however.
The important thing is rather that students have opportunities to “make attempts” in writing, according to their development, through different activities which must be “frequent, numerous and rich”, she says, so that students “s ‘train to play with letters, sounds and words’.
Have the right to make mistakes
A child who writes “bato”, rather than “boat”, will also have correctly identified the sound that all these letters make, she adds.
At the Association des orthopédagogues du Québec, its outgoing president, Isabelle Gadbois, also insists on the importance of screening from kindergarten. “If you feel that there is something sticking, you have to intervene quickly. There are plenty of development activities that can be done,” she says.