You’ve probably witnessed a young child scribbling on a piece of paper. What looks like random, meaningless markings are actually a young child’s first attempts at engaging in the writing process. Adults play a key role in teaching children that the scribbles they produce are meaningful. This supports a child’s understanding of why we write – to communicate ideas, stories, and facts.
So how can we support the development of emergent writing for young children who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)? It is crucial that our young AAC Users are given opportunities to actively engage in emergent writing activities.
This is where Predictable Chart Writing comes into play! Predictable Chart Writing is a structured writing activity that supports emergent writers and allows them to generate their own ideas. It allows parents, teachers, and therapists to not only begin to teach young AAC Users about our inner voice, how sentences are made up of words and words are made up of letters, and that we write from left-to-right, but that writing can be fun!
I will be outlining Step One of Predictable Chart Writing – Writing the Chart – and providing an example of how I recently used this with one of my clients.
- Child’s AAC system
Step 1 of Predictable Chart Writing:
- Introduce a meaningful and motivating topic.
- Introduce the title and write it at the top of the chart paper (read each word as you write).
- Introduce the sentence starter.
- Model generating the first sentence using the child’s mode of communication (also referred to as aided language stimulation).
- Write the first sentence on the chart paper (read aloud as you write).
- Allow the child to generate the remaining sentences and write their sentences on the chart paper (read each word as you write). NOTE: You might also consider giving the caregiver opportunities to generate and write sentences to increase the child’s motivation and help the caregiver become more comfortable with the process.
- Once all the sentences have been written, explain that you are going to read each sentence by looking at the words. Reread the sentences while pointing to each word.
- Explain what you will do with the child’s writing to reinforce the purpose of writing.
- Keep sentence starters short (3-5 words) and include core vocabulary and sight words.
- Use one color marker for the sentence starter and another color for the child’s response.
- When writing your sentence starters, make sure the repeated words are lined up on each line so the child can see the pattern.
- Do NOT add picture symbols into the sentences since the focus should be on writing.
How I Used Predictable Chart Writing in a Recent Therapy Session:
Prior to this therapy session, I had engaged my client in the following activities to target the core vocabulary word LOOK:
- Listened to the song, I’m A Little Snowman (Super Simple Songs)
- Looked for snowman manipulatives in a basket (i.e., snowballs, rocks, sticks, carrot, scarf, hat)
- Created a snowman craft
Below is how I used Step 1 of Predictable Chart Writing with this client. Notice how I continued to target the core vocabulary word LOOK.
- “Remember when we made a snowman? Look at the snowman you made! Let’s write about your snowman.”
- “The title of our book will be, ‘Look at My Snowman.’” Therapist writes the title at the top of the chart paper while reading it aloud.
- “We are going to write some sentences with the words ‘Look at my ___.’” Therapist shows the sentence starter.
- “Look, I’ll write the first sentence.” Therapist holds up two high contrast picture symbols – scarf / nose. “I want to write ‘Look at the scarf.’ I will touch scarf.” Therapist touches high contrast picture symbol of scarf.
- Therapist writes the first sentence on the chart paper while reading the sentence aloud: “Look at my scarf.”
- “Now it’s your turn to write a sentence.” Therapist holds up two high contrast picture symbols – hat / nose. “What do you want to write?” After the child makes a selection, Therapist writes the child’s sentence on the chart paper and reads it aloud.
- “I’m going to read our sentences. I will look at each word when I read.” Therapist points to each word while reading.
- “You did such a great job writing about your snowman. Next time, we will make a book!”
I love this activity and incorporate it throughout the year. How would you use it for the month of February?
For more information on Predictable Chart Writing, check out the following resources: