By Matthew Scott, Head of Young Learners, British Council Singapore

11 July 2017 - 14:10

Reading and writing are two of the key skills a child needs to acquire when they enter primary school.

If they have attained a sound grasp in both of these areas, then they will find it easier to manage the challenges they encounter throughout their school years. However, with many pre-school children it can be difficult trying to motivate them, especially in writing. Therefore it’s important that we make any activity we do in the home ‘fun’ as this will prove more motivational.

Below is a list of activities and resources that will support the growth of your child’s literacy skills.

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This sounds far more complicated than it actually is. All it really means is matching cards together, usually a picture with a word. To make the words have some relevance to your child, you could find out what story book they have been using in class and then use some of the vocabulary featured in the text. Be careful not to use too many words as the game can then take too long and your child may find it hard to concentrate. I would suggest eight to ten matching cards for each game.

Go Fish card game

This is another card game that pre-school learners enjoy. Firstly, five cards are dealt to each player (a group of two, three or four people). The remaining cards are shuffled and placed face down between the players. Players hold their cards so they are able to see them, but no one else can.

Before starting the game, all of the players put any pairs they happen to have in their hand down and earn a point for each pair. A designated player then asks one of their opponents 'Do you have a ____?' The card requested should be one the player has in their hand. If the opponent has the card, they must give it to the player who earns a point for making a pair. If the opponent does not have the card they say 'Go Fish!' The player must then pick a single card from the face down pile of cards. If they make a pair, they place it down. The winner is the one who has managed to lose his/her set of cards the first. If two players lose their cards at the same time, the player with the most pairs is the winner.

Mystery Word bag

This is a fun activity to practice your child’s reading of individual words as well as their comprehension skills. Place six to eight words from a featured story into either a box or a bag and then take turns picking a word from the bag. Read the word together, breaking up the individual syllables if the word is proving difficult to read. Once this has been completed, ask your child to think about the word and where it occurred in the story.

Board games

Board games are always fun and are a great additional way of bonding with your child. Rather than use existing board games, create or print off a blank board game template and add either words or initial phonemes to each square. Then take turns with your child moving counters around the board and reading the words or phonemes. As they progress you can ask them to write and spell words that include the phonemes on the board.

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Guided handwriting

The first steps to becoming a confident writer are challenging for all pre-school children. The motor skills involved in holding a pencil properly and then controlling it can prove extremely difficult. To help them overcome these difficulties, make sure that your child starts writing by using pencils that have fat tips. Then hold their hand and guide them through the shapes of the letters. This will help to build their confidence and familiarity with the letters before they start writing independently.

Writing stencils

These are fun tools that build your child’s motor skills to write letters. They are also useful in raising their awareness of the differences between small letters and capital letters. Many different types of stencils can be found in bookshops and stationery shops.

Sand writing

This was a suggestion from a colleague of mine who got his students in the Middle East to practice writing letters in small sand trays. Most children enjoy playing in the sand and this was a fun way of channelling that enthusiasm towards a literacy aim. As their writing confidence develops, you can ask them to spell whole words in the sand. One piece of health and safety advice for parents: make sure that your children are not touching the sand and then their mouths.

Sandpaper letter tiles

These can be found in many pre-school materials shops. They are small tiles about the size of eight square inches and have various phonemes written in sand paper in the middle of the tile. Cover your child’s eyes and then ask them to follow the letter and guess which one is on the tile. This is a tactile game that will appeal to your child’s sensory perceptions. 

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Useful Websites

  • LearnEnglish Kids – A regular feature in many British Council classes. This site includes many stories and accompanying worksheets of various grades of difficulty.
  • LearnEnglish Kids Playtime - This is a relatively recent App from the British Council. It features a number of stories being told with supporting activities. (Paid subscription needed)
  • Starfall – This is a favourite used by many pre-school teachers that focuses on improving awareness of different phoneme patterns and build basic reading fluency.