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How to Support Mark-Making in Early Childhood

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Mark-making refers to the improvised marks made by young children. A mark might be a line, a dot, a shape, or a pattern. The foundation of every child's early writing skill is mark-making.

Seeing children experiment with marks is one of the most rewarding aspects of working in their Early Years. A child's marks provide them with the opportunity to express themselves and their ideas, and will eventually lead to writing and drawing. Children's marks give us insight into their thinking even before they can talk fluently. All forms of writing are powerful tools for communication. So, how does it all begin? And what role does early mark-making play?

Physical Development includes Writing.

Writing is both a physical and intellectual skill. Early development should focus on the physical aspect of mark-making – building the strength and coordination needed for making those marks. When children exhibit problems with motor control and writing later, it is often due to their physical development not being adequate to build the strength and dexterity needed to write.

Develop Fine & Gross Motor Skills

The most effective way to develop the physical skills necessary for writing is to involve children in lots of physical play, which includes activities that promote both fine and gross motor skills. Children can build this core strength in a variety of ways - climbing, lifting, carrying, hanging from bars, etc. The development of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination will be enhanced through activities such as pinching, grasping, twisting, squashing, and squeezing. Threading, weaving, and manipulating small items with tweezers all help build fine motor control and eye-hand coordination.

Help Children Learn to Focus

Writing also requires the ability to focus exclusively on one thing. The best way for children to learn how to concentrate is to make learning exciting and engaging for them. Multi-sensory activities tend to help children focus their attention and develop their fine motor skills at the same time.

Provide Lots of Multi-Sensory Opportunities

Early mark-making can be done with a variety of materials, not just pencils and crayons. Marks could also be made in natural materials such as mud, sand, or snow. A variety of tools, including grasses, sticks, and feathers, can also be used to make marks. It's important that children explore different media engagingly and creatively.

Encourage Children to Talk

In essence, writing is the act of turning our ideas into marks on paper. To write, children need a topic. As well as learning how to formulate and structure their thoughts, they must also develop lots of vocabulary to help them explain those thoughts. Talking is the best way for them to accomplish this.

'Serve & Return' Conversations

Language and communication skills are built through 'serve and return' conversations. As a result of a 'serve and return' conversation, the child and practitioner exchange information back and forth in a responsive exchange. By using the technique of sustained shared thinking, you will be able to build these serve and return conversations with your pupils. Through open-ended questions and conversations during play, you can help children increase their understanding whilst helping them build their thinking skills.

Celebrate Acts of Expression & Communication

Writing and its predecessor mark-making are acts of expression. We write to ‘make our mark’ too. Making marks helps us communicate with other people, helping them to understand our ideas and feelings. Consider the different ways in which you can encourage your pupils to express themselves.

Allowing children to express themselves in different ways is a critical aspect of self-regulation and understanding their emotions.

Create An Audience

When considering ways to engage and motivate your pupils, it is imperative to consider the role of an 'audience' in writing. It is only when someone reads a piece of writing that it truly comes to life. It is possible for parents and carers to act as audiences for children's mark-making, even when it is something as simple as drawing or writing cards for special occasions.

Wedge White Boards are the perfect resource to explore mark-making. By integrating our Dry-Wipe Whiteboards in your play-based learning activities, children will enjoy and develop confidence with mark making, helping you to create a positive attitude towards learning and promote imagination. Teaching academic skills such as language in a way that enables children to be creative and interact with others is made possible with our portable range of dry-wipe, magnetic boards.

Writing is a process that takes time, but it begins with the belief that people will value what you write. Practitioners in early childhood play a crucial role in helping children to take their first steps along the 'road to writing'. Being involved in the first part of this process is a wonderful part of what Early Years Practitioners do every day in their settings.

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