The meaning of scribbles


November 21, 1999

Editor's note: Jerdine Nolen today writes about scribbles and their important link to reading and writing. Her column appears biweekly.

Children always want to show us things: "Look what I did!"

But when you look, you may only see a page of scribbles.

If you're like most people, it's hard to figure out what the young artist wrote or drew. If you are not sure what it is, say, "Tell me about it!" After you say something nice about their efforts, of course. "What does this mean?" "What is this over here?"

If it is appropriate, label the things in the picture. Or write the story they are telling you on the paper. Read it back to them. Remember that reading and writing are different sides of the same coin.

Doing these activities can show that writing and even scribbles have the power to make things happen.

*Make scribbles on a piece of paper. Look for unusual and usual shapes. Turn the paper all around. Color and explore them.

Find your child's initial within the scribbles.

Show your child how to create actual letters based on his scribbles. A circle teamed up with a short line can be the letter "a"; a long line, "b"; and when you place the line here, here or there, it's a "g," "d," "q," "p."

* When alphabet letters are made from scribbles: Associate them with their sounds.

Practice making/saying the letters.

Use flashcards to recognize the letter.

Create funny pictures with the letter(s).

Make easy and familiar words.

Make shapes from these words.

* Keep writing materials within easy reach -- pencils, markers, crayons, paper.

*Put magnetic letters on the refrigerator.

* Let children trace the outline of the letter, spell words, etc.

* Display their scribbles.

* Display their writing.

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