Mark making and early writing skills

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By Sue Cowleyeducational author and trainer

Original article published in 2011

The process of learning to write begins in the very earliest years of a child’s life. Sue Cowley explores issues surrounding early writing skills.

Mark making

The process of learning to write begins in the very earliest years of a child’s life. To the outsider, young children’s mark making might seem to have little connection to writing as we know it as adults. But those early writing skills that the children develop at this age are the backbone of all the ‘proper’ writing they do later on in their lives. One of the key objectives of early mark making is to encourage the children to want to express themselves; to feel engaged with the idea of using marks on paper (or on other surfaces) to put across their ideas, feelings, thoughts and wishes.


Learning to communicate

All writing is about communication – right now, I’m speaking to you through the medium of writing. In the best writing you can ‘hear’ the voice of the writer. It follows that there is an essential link between children learning to speak and communicate well, and children developing the skills and attitudes needed to become effective writers. It’s our job to help children literally ‘find their own voice’ – first verbally, and then on the page.


Speaking and Listening

Both speaking and listening play a crucial part in communication. The high quality opportunities for talk you provide in your setting will allow young children to develop a whole variety of skills. They will learn:

  • How to form sounds in their mouths, building the necessary muscles to speak correctly;
  • To listen, hear and pick out sounds within words when other people make them.
  • To build up a wide vocabulary of increasingly complex language;
  • To become more confident about expressing their needs, wishes and interests through language.
  • How to concentrate and gain meaning from the spoken or written word.
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