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Infant teachers to get writing advice

Geraldine Hackett reports on the Government's attempt to bolster the weakest aspect of primary literacy.

ADVICE on how to teach writing is to be issued to all reception and infant class teachers as the Government focuses on what many see as its biggest literacy challenge.

The guide, which is expected to be ready before the end of the summer term, aims to ensure that children can write instructions and simple stories by the time they transfer to the junior stage.

The decision by the Government to give schools the comprehensive guide was taken because writing among seven and 11-year-olds has been much slower to improve than their reading. Last year, the National Literacy Centre produced Grammar for Writing - a primer intended to be used in junior classes.

According to Laura Huxford, the centre's director of publications, young children find writing a complex task. "They have to think about handwriting and spelling and then they have to think about wht it is they are going to write," she said.

The book suggests reception children should start by writing the letters they know from their sound. In shared writing, the teacher might do most of the actual writing, with children contributing to the story or the list of instructions.

By the time they reach Year 1, children could be set the task of writing an explanation of how a scooter works or a description of how the rider feels on a scooter. By the end of Year 2, children should be starting to recognise nouns and adjectives.

The book acknowledges that young children, particularly boys, lack the fine motor skills required for handwriting and it suggests exercises for refining such skills.

"It is very important for handwriting that the child begins the letter in the right place. The letters A, C and S all require the pencil to move in an anti-clockwise movement and that can be practised without loads of mindless copying," said Ms Huxford.

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