One of the first exciting milestones that many preschoolers meet in their pre-k year is learning to write their name. While this process can be exciting, preschool teachers often face the challenge of keeping track of where each child is on their name writing journey. Not every child is ready to jump in and write their full name. It’s a process and one that we must respect for each child.
And respecting that process is the exact reason I created the Personalized Name Writing Notebook my second year teaching pre-k. I was finding that tracking where each child was and remembering any progress made wasn’t as streamlined as I wished it would be.
You see, my first year of teaching preschool I used a ‘sign-in’ book approach. This is where each child would trace their name as the first thing they did that morning. But, after taking some time to observe what was really happening – I gave this approach up. Since so many children were coming in at the same time, I couldn’t help each child indvidually. And so, children traced the best way they could. Many times forming the letters – or even the order of their name – incorrectly. Why reinforce bad letter and name formation habits?
Now, I use the Name Writing Notebook and have since I realized how damaging the ‘sign-in’ approach could be. The notebook isn’t just a collection of worksheets. It was thoughtfully designed to be a progression, each building upon the previous one to guide young learners through a natural learning trajectory. Starting with tracing their first letter to ending with confidently writing their full name. And since everything stays in one notebook – I can easily remind myself where each child is in the journey right inside their personalized notebook.
The Name Writing Notebook was also created to be easy to put together. Since these notebooks can’t be re-used each year, I didn’t want to put a ton of time into creation. So, with the help of Adobe Reader, all I have to do is input each child’s name and first letter once and all the notebook pages are magically created! Then, I just print and bind. And if I need more copies of a certain page – I can just print them and staple them to the back. Seriously it’s easy – see the process in the video below:
When we use the Name Writing Notebook
As far as the time of year, we don’t usually start the Name Writing Notebook until after Winter Break (so half-way through our year). This is purposeful. It allows time for routines to be built and gives me time to get to know each child. By waiting until mid-year, I also have given myself lots of time to observe what each child can already do as far as fine motor, letter formation and name writing go. Simply put – by this time in the year I know exactly what each student needs.
As far as the time of our day we do the notebooks…since I don’t use the sign-in approach and have all students practice name writing as soon as they come to school, I had to find a different time. And for me, that time is small group.
When first introducing the notebooks, I work with children one-on-one. I show them their special notebook and explain that it stays at school. I also make sure to have golf pencils near by for them to use in the notebook. We start on the first page and generally only do 1 pages at a time – making sure to teach children the order of the stroke for their first letter. And sometimes, we only do one name or letter tracing – based on the child’s interest and ability level. I also don’t let them cruise through the whole thing in one or two settings. I be sure to observe any name writing that they can already do BEFORE creating the notebooks. That way I know if I need to differentiate (more about that later).
Then, after children get the hang of tracing their names and are forming letters fairly consistently, I call multiple children over at a time. I can still watch and help when needed, but it makes the process go by a bit faster.
Differentiating the Name Writing Notebook
I love how the Name Writing Notebook is able to be differentiated.
Let’s say I have several students that still aren’t consistently able to form their first letter. When I go to print their Name Writing Notebook I am going to add in multiple copies of the first letter pages. I’m already aware that extra practice will be needed, so I can add it in from the start.
Or, let’s say I have a student who can already write their first name and does so by forming letters correctly. Obviously they do not need to practice their first letter or their first name. So, I can plug in their last name into the notebook to work on that instead. Or, just fore-go the notebook altogether (if they aren’t interested and wouldn’t feel left out).
Things to know about the Name Writing Notebook
- Students usually finish their Name Writing Notebooks at different times. That is okay because each child’s on their own journey.
- I take pictures of the child’s ‘work’ to send to parents to share progress (I never send the notebook home, as I’m afraid it will never come back).
- I print the cover page on cardstock. It just gives the whole notebook a little structure and less likely for the inside pages to get mauled.
- If you have a left-handed writer, consider binding at the top of the notebook.
- We don’t always use the notebook. If a child needs some extra practice, I grab a different medium and we practice with that. It makes the practice process less mundane. We might write using fingers in shaving cream or sand. Or we might use dry-erase boards or chalkboards. Basically just anyway to make the same practice process feel a little new.
Ready to grab your own copy of the Name Writing Notebook?
Looking to learn more about Name Writing in Preschool?
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