Saturday, June 7, 2014

Celebrating Literacy: Developing my son's love for writing

Pretty much since he could talk, my son has been able to sing the ABC song. It's gone through a myriad of versions, though, each one closer to enunciating the letters more clearly. Now, as the older cousin, he helps his little cousin learn the ABC song:

When it came to identifying and writing his letters, though, my son refused! I had managed to get him to identify a few letters, such as S or O, while playing with our alphabet puzzles, but once he realized what I was doing, he would stubbornly stop.

As a teacher and a Mommy, this disheartened me. I found myself in a conundrum: I didn't want to force my young son to learn his ABCs for fear of tarnishing his desire to learn but I really wanted him to learn them! So, I began looking for engaging, authentic ways to help him identify and practice writing his letters.

From my research and reading on emergent writing, learning to write as a social activity was a common theme. As an educator, I already knew this! From my own experiences collaborating with peers and through my use of cooperative learning with my students, I know that we learn through our interactions with others. What I failed to realize with my son was that our daily interactions were ripe with opportunities for him to practice his writing!

I touched on some of these possibilities in an article written by Kelley Mayer (2007) titled "Emerging Knowledge About Emergent Writing". In her article, Mayer suggests children help their parents "construct grocery lists or writer letters or emails to distant family members" (p. 35). This was the spark I was looking for to ignite my own inspirations, and I began seeing our daily routine through a new perspective, that of opportunity :-)

One day, while thrift store shopping (one of my favorite past times), I came across a simple, wooden easel. On one side, it had a chalkboard and on the other, a white board. Seeing it from my new lens, I saw its potential as a Menu board....

The next morning, I made a huge production about our new Menu board, and how I was going to write our breakfast on it, just like we see at restaurants. Well, this intrigued my son so much that he wanted to help! I wrote the first letter of each breakfast item on a piece of paper. Using my paper as a model, my son wrote the letters on our Menu board: "W" for waffles and "S" for sausage...

A lover of silliness, my son likes to make silly faces for our pictures, but Mama loves his handsome smile; so we compromised and took one of each....

The next morning, without my prompting, my son asked if he could change our Menu board. Of course!! He erased yesterday's letters and, with my modeling, wrote a "T" for toast and an "E" for eggs....

Later that day, he was really inspired and wanted to write our lunch menu down: "N" for noodles and "C" for carrots...

I couldn't believe the reaction my simple thrift store Menu board got! In Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write, the authors say, "children who are successful at becoming literate view reading and writing as authentic activities from which they get information and pleasure" (p. 2). This is what I want for my son; and, through activities such as our Menu Board, I think we are on the right track!

Certainly, a feat worthy of celebrating :-) Share your celebrations at Ruth Ayres Writes!


  1. I love watching literacy grow through your son. Who would have thought that a simple chalk board could be so engaging! Little do they know that they are learning in the process! That is a good parent/teacher secret! Hee hee!

    1. Hi Leigh Anne, I think my 12 years in the elementary classroom prepared me for Motherhood, as many of my "secrets" come from those years :-) This is one of the things I love most about teaching, being creative in how we reach our students! Thanks so much for stopping by :-)

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Crystal! As I shared in my response to Leigh Anne, I learned my "sneaky" ways while teaching elementary school :-) It's fun and challenging to work with my son because my experience teaching is with older students!

  3. Authentic reason to write is motivating. And it wasn't just one time case in your household. Celebrating your clever solution and your son's writing. I love seeing the pictures - the silly and the smiling, but best of all the writing ones.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words, Terje! Yes, it is an ongoing solution; he just wrote an "O" and a "T" on our board this morning for oatmeal and toast :-)