Academic journal article Childhood Education

This Is My Name

Academic journal article Childhood Education

This Is My Name

Article excerpt

"Hi, would you like to come sign in?" When I worked at the Lucy Brock Child Development Center this was how I typically greeted the 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds enrolled there. Most of the children would greet me with a smile and then write their names on the sign-in sheet, using markers in their favorite colors. Parents often stayed to watch their children sign in and observe as I facilitated their children's attempts to represent their names. I was able to greet each child and provide encouragement or assistance with name writing because the children entered the center only one or two at a time. After hugging parents or grandparents good-bye, the children either continued their activities at the writing center or chose other areas of interest in the classroom.

Signing in was much more than a routine at Lucy Brock - it became an important cognitive and social activity within the framework of our overall curriculum. This article will address the following questions: 1) Why should preschool children be encouraged to write their names? 2) How can the sign-in process be organized and facilitated? 3) How do children develop their ability to write their names? and 4) What are the benefits of having a sign-in procedure in early childhood classrooms?

Why Should Preschool Children Be Encouraged To Write Their Names?

Children as young as one seem to be spontaneously attracted to markers, pencils, crayons and paper. Preschoolers enjoy opportunities to explore with these materials and see the results of their movements on paper (Neuman & Roskos, 1993). By age 3, children can begin to differentiate between pictures and print when they are exposed to print in the environment and in books (Harste, Woodward & Burke, 1984). At this point, the marks children make that are meant to resemble letters will begin to look consistently different from their drawings. Early explorations of writing may eventually appear as "gross approximations" of conventional letters (Clay, 1975). These mock letters will assume increasingly letter-like characteristics as children experiment with writing, and observe environmental print.

Children acquire knowledge, including literacy concepts, at widely varied ages, of course. It may take as long as two or three years for some children to perfect the technique of writing their names (Hildreth, 1936). Patience is the key, for children become writers by writing (Smith, 1982). Consequently, the more opportunities children have to practice writing throughout the day, the more skilled they will become; in addition, they will better understand the variety of ways writing is used in society.

Children's competence in name writing depends on fine motor control, an awareness of letter features (lines and shapes), and an understanding that letters are separate units (McGee & Richgels, 1996). Novice writers must also understand that letters have names and certain formations, although knowledge of all the letter names and forms is by no means a prerequisite to writing. Many children begin writing their names when they know only a few letter forms. Children also must be able to pay attention to letter features in order to distinguish among letters, and to recognize and write their names. In the interim, children use mock letters that share some features common to letters, yet lack the characteristics of conventional alphabet letters.

By inviting the children at the Lucy Brock Child Development Center to practice signing their names each day, we gave them opportunities to develop motor control. Adult-created name cards allowed the children to see their names written conventionally. I would occasionally repeat the names of the letters and point to them as the child wrote, helping them understand that letters are discrete units that have certain names. Sometimes, I described the features of the letter (e.g., the "d" is a circle with a straight line touching it) while tracing the letter with my finger. …

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