Melinda* had drawn a picture. “It’s for my Mum”, she said. I asked if I should write that for her – then thought to ask if she would like to write it herself. We settled that she would write ‘Mum’. I wrote it for her and she copied.
Melinda went to put the drawing in her bag. I asked her please to put it in her folder so it would not get bent. She was dubious about this, so I showed her the hanging folder with her name on it.
“But why doesn’t it have an A like my name”, she said. The lower case, serif font [a] is not what she is used to at the end of her name.
I got out my computer and showed Melinda her name written in CAPS and in lower case letters in various fonts. I showed her the difference between a big [A] and a little [a].
I had recently seen a blog post about writing in a tray of salt. So I grabbed a tray from the kitchen and a layer of salt and brought it back to the room.
I got Melinda to write her name in the salt. Then I showed her the difference between a big [A] and a little [a], writing with my finger in the salt.
We had an audience by then: 8 or 9 kids had a turn at writing their name in the salt. I took photos of their writing, then rubbed it out and shook it smooth again for the next child. Melinda waited patiently for another turn. She wrote in the salt a couple more times. Then she went to play somewhere else.
Noel* was not so confident at writing his name. I wrote a big [N] for him, and got him to trace it with his finger. We did it several times. Then I smoothed the salt and told him to try it himself. What he wrote did not much resemble an [N]. So we tried again. I wrote it for him, and got him to trace over it. Over and over. I told him to feel the movement, and try to remember how it felt. Then I smoothed the salt and told him to try for himself again. This time he wrote [M]. I quickly rubbed out the spare leg. “Well done”, I said “That is [N] for Noel. You wrote it yourself.”
Later, when Mum came to collect her, Melinda grabbed her by the hand. “Come and see”, she said as she pulled Mum across the room to the salt tray.
Melinda wrote in the salt. “This is a big [A] and this is how you do a little [a]” she said. And she was right.