On Wednesday mornings, I often pass our nursery children as they return from their Write Dance session in the hall.
This encounter always makes me smile. The enjoyment is so evident on their faces that I don’t need to ask if they had fun.
One child has a dollop of shaving foam on his chin, another has a mark on his cheek. They march back to class happily covered in chalk lines.
Writing in EYFS
I find it really sad when some children start school and have already decided that they dislike writing. This happens from a very early age.
I know many teachers find this resistance frustrating. We could debate the reasons why, but for me, it all boils down to the same issue: that children’s earliest experiences of writing can significantly shape their confidence for years to come.
As early years teachers, the job is to reverse this. And at times, it really is hard work.
For this reason, I feel passionate about providing the right sort of introduction to mark-making in school from the earliest opportunity. And it all starts in our nursery class.
A little bit of dance
If you were to peer into the hall during Write Dance, this is what you would see: children dancing around with scarves to music, children lying on their tummies giggling as they use both hands to draw, messily making circles to the rhythm of the music, hammering their crayons on to the paper to fire dots to the beat (known as “scrimbling”).
It’s busy, messy, and chaotic at times but there is laughter and, most importantly, a fun introduction to writing.
The programme combines movement to music along with a variety of mark-making techniques, allowing children to really explore pre-writing shapes using gross motor skills and developing confidence through a multi-sensory approach. It can be used for reception and nursery-aged children.
Write Dance has been a really positive development for the nursery team. Through discussions with the team, we recognise the powerful impact that this is having on the children’s motivation in early writing skills.
It is great that children can work at their own ability level. There is no planned outcome, and therefore no pressure. One child will be able to make small circles and use both directions, another will make larger, less controlled movements. The focus is on the skill and not an end product.
Providing different sensory resources like shaving foam and hand soap takes the pressure away from children who may be conscious about their marks. They feel happier knowing that marks are easily rubbed away. The mark-making experiences offer sensory feedback, which enables children to better retain motor patterns and letters.
Children have an opportunity to really feel the movements, becoming confident before attempting to make the shape during the mark-making aspect.
The structure of the session allows children to really consolidate their memory of shapes as we visit the key movements in both parts (the dancing and the mark making.)
It is beneficial to have a good number of trained adults available to model the movements, and the mark-making.
If you haven’t already tried this approach with your children, I would really recommend it; it’s so much fun for children and teachers.
Last year we organised for the whole early years’ team to receive training. This means that all of the children have been fully supported with the same approach, and we have established a clear progression between nursery and reception.