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Manual spells out lessons in writing

TEACHERS are being advised to make sure children aged between five and seven spend at least 15 minutes a day on spelling and handwriting. In the most prescriptive manual for this age group so far, teachers are told that they must teach the handwriting and spelling separately and not just as part of story-writing.

The manual from the national literacy centre, Developing Early Writing, is the centrepiece of the Government's strategy to bring writing in line with rising standards in reading. National results for 11-year-olds suggest that the literacy hour has failed to improve standards in writing.

The 170-page manual, which will be sent to all infant class teachers, emphasises that phonics, spelling and handwriting have to be taught systematically and directly so that children develop accuracy and speed.

It says a lack of confidence in handwriting and spelling "can create a cycle of difficulties for children. They ten to write only the words they can spell, pay too little attention to the way words and sentences go together in written language, fail to develop sense and purpose in their writing, become over-dependent on adult help and are reluctant to write."

Reception classes teachers should get children to write shopping lists and birthday cards. Much of the work should be oral so they can understand story structures. Children need to develop the fine motor control necessary to write, via activities such as sewing and using tweezers.

According to the manual, the most effective way of teaching writing is to work initially with the whole class, rehearsing sentences orally before writing them down so the class get used to rewriting.

The National Literacy Strategy - "Developing Early Writing" - is available from the Department for Education and Employment ref: DFEE 0055200. Tel: 0845 602 2260. Website:

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