As you will already know, mark-making is one of the earliest stages of writing. If children are to become confident writers, they need to partake in as many mark-making activities as possible, at as early an age as possible.
When mark-making, you are looking for children to make marks on both a large scale and a small scale – thus working both their gross motor skills and their fine motor skills. If a child can’t make a huge ‘s’ shape in the air, they are going to struggle to make their fingers draw a small one on paper.
Here are some multisensory ways of encouraging mark-making. For any of the options below, a child could use their finger to make marks, or they could hold a paintbrush, stick, pen, pencil or piece of chalk – whatever they like! As long as they are using the muscles in their hand and arm to make different shapes, then they are on their way to becoming a writer.
- Draw in different mediums: e.g. mud, sand, snow, paint, shaving foam or flour
- Draw with scarves and ribbons in the air
- Fill a plastic wallet with paint, sequins and glitter and get them to mark-make over the pattern
- Put on gloves and use a block of ice to make marks on the ground
- Use coloured chalks on black paper – perhaps draw fireworks
- Paint water onto walls and fences using large paint brushes
- Use highlighters to draw over the lines of an existing drawing
- Draw on whiteboards and chalkboards
- Free drawing on an interactive whiteboard or iPad
- Trace pictures, letters and/or numbers
- Use stencils
- Run their finger over multisensory letters such as sandpaper or felt
- Write on a Perspex sheet
When encouraging mark-making, think about how you feel when you use a pen – how does your favourite pen feel? If you use a pen that is drying out, it doesn’t feel good against the paper. A new pen on a whiteboard, however, feels lovely and flows easily. A child is far more likely to want to mark-make if it feels good. Have sharp pencils and good quality pens for children to use.
If a child is struggling to hold a pencil properly, get them to hold a much shorter pencil or a broken off bit of chalk – this naturally encourages a proper grip since they physically can’t manage the palmar grasp.
As always with young children, making things multisensory is the key to engagement. Offer fun and interesting ways to mark-make and your children will be on their way to mastering the physical side of writing.
About the author
Gina Smith is an experienced teacher with experience of teaching in both mainstream and special education. She is the creator of ‘Create Visual Aids’ – a business that provides both homes and education settings with bespoke visual resources. Gina recognises the fact that no two children are the same and therefore individuals are likely to need different resources. Create Visual Aids is dedicated to making visual symbols exactly how the individual needs them.