Arechildrenwritingwithnospaces? Istheirwritingtoodifficulttoread? ……Try this!

It’s early in the term and I’m sure you, like me, have some pupils who are writing with little, if any, spaces between their words. So – what do you do?? 

First – check the pupils know what a word is… this may sound strange but don’t ever assume! I was amazed that a Year 2 child didn’t know this although he knew that a sentence had words! He was leaving a large space after every letter. They may have to physically see a human sentence made up of word cards with a different child each holding a different word in front of them to make the whole sentence. They will need to be clear about what a letter is and what a word is.

I would then add two things to this: punctuation and spaces.  Again, physically placing an obvious space between the children holding each word card will help, and when reading the sentence, say ‘space’ where the spaces belong.  Some teachers use the phrase ‘finger space’, which is fine, although as the children reach the end of Y1 and the beginning of Y2, they will need to use a space appropriate to the size of their letters.  I try to relate this to a keyboard – each letter is about the same size and we press the space bar just once when typing, so when writing we need to leave just one letter space.

Active punctuation – this will help with changing the writing from a list of close together words into a sentence.  It is not a sentence until it is punctuated correctly – so add a child as the first place holder holding a large ‘Capital Letter’ sign and saying”‘Capital Letter”, and add a child as the last place holder holding a large ‘Full Stop’ saying “Full Stop.” In addition to this, a child holding the word ‘space’ could squeeze in between each word saying, ‘Hey, leave room for me, I’m a space!”  The sentence is read out by the pupils saying all the words as well as the spaces and punctuation.  Some schools add actions to their punctuation too, sometimes called ‘Kung Fu Punctuation’ – also very appealing to pupils.

Move on from this after modelling it as often as you need to and move on to using coloured counters to try and work in independent application.  I have purchased many counters online for little cost (click on the picture for a link), but most schools may have some spare for this.  Choose one colour to write on for the punctuation and write ‘CL’ on one counter and ‘FS’ on another.  I then choose a different colour to write ‘sp’ or space and a different colour to write ‘word’ on. 

As the children orally repeat their sentence, show them how to pull out a word counter for each word they say and then arrange a sp counter in between each word, the CL counter at the beginning and the FS counter at the end.  They then write out their sentence moving each counter away as they have used it.  

If you prefer to use a finger spacer, there are many available online and one is shown below.  I tend to use them upside down otherwise they get in the way of the physical writing.

Or – use a wooden lolly stick with a double arrow drawn on it.

As an aside, this may seem strange, but I have had children adding a full stop in the middle of the letters in last word of the sentence as they explained it ‘was at the end’, meaning the word was at the end.  They had not realised it needed to be after the last letter of the last word and not after any letter in the last word…

To move on – add extra conjunctions.