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Emergent Writing

Mom is a silly goose.

Mom is a silly goose.

“My kid writes upside down and backward!” Should you freak out?

Answer: Is your child mid third grade or older? Then yes, be concerned and look into it. Younger than third grade? Don’t sweat it.

My daughter is a classic emergent writer. All of the pictures in this blog post come from the past two weeks. I didn’t help her spell or write anything. The words come from her 5 year-old brain.

Here’s a picture of reverse writing, starting from the bottom and working it’s way up:

I'm sorry for being mean to mom. ???

I’m sorry for being mean to mom. ???

 

In this card to her uncle, she experiments with punctuation:

Uncle Steve. You are nice.

Uncle Steve. You are nice.

 

Here she starts writing in the middle of the page, but runs out of room for [with me] so she adds “wis me” at the top.

God is at Grammy day with me.

God is at Grammy day with me.

 

Here she starts at the top left–yay!– but then decides to go right to left again.

A bee is just right.

A bee is just right.

 

I wasn’t present when she wrote this one so I’m not 100% sure what it says. It looks like another bottom to top piece.

I want to do bedtime with me.

I want to do bedtime with me.

I’m a certificated, experienced K-4 teacher, and I’m telling you, this is what normal looks like for four and five year olds. So if your child is writing like this too, don’t freak out and think your child has a learning disability.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to help kids move past this stage. The #1 tip is provide lots of opportunities to write. It’s also helpful to focus on three types of writing:

  • Free writing (pictured above)
  • Scaffold writing (with dot letters or tracing)
  • Handwriting practice (worksheets that only focus on proper letter formation)
Handwriting

Handwriting Practice

 

And Remember! By winter of third grade, if your child is still doing reversed or backwards letters, that is the time to seek evaluation for a possible learning disability. I’ve consulted dozens of teachers on this, and that is the general consensus. By the end of third grade, backwards letters should be gone.

 


2 Comments

  1. Chino says:

    Hi Jennifer, I volunteer in my son’s full day kindergarten class two days/five hours a week, and I often run literacy or math stations with three to several kindergarteners. The other day I had a boy who turned the paper upside down to write a few numbers. When he turned the paper back upright I saw he wrote perfect numbers. If this happens again, should I just let him write this way or should I hand him a number sheet and encourage him to write “right way”? Thank you for your input.

    • Ooooh! What an interesting question. I’d probably say something like, “Wow! Cool! You can write upside down.” Then I’d hand the paper back with a few dot-to-dot numbers written out and say, “Can you write your numbers like this?”

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