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Learning to read and write? Amber's story

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Parents often ask us how we teach children to read and write. This story shows a snapshot of the building blocks for learning to read and write that came together for a single child (an ex-pupil) in our Over Two room. Magic Garden teachers are highly skilled at observing children's interests, and providing a variety of materials and provocations to extend and grow children's early literacy skills. Play-based learning at its best offers highly intentional and fun opportunities for our children to gain the skills to succeed at learning to read and write. Children do this as they roll, rock, crawl, swing, jump, run, dance, balance, arrange and compose with materials, draw, paint, mold, and tell stories while they are working.


This collection of Amber’s early literacy drawings shows how her thinking and graphic representational skills have developed over 8 months in the over two room.

For Amber our attention was first drawn to her zigzag and arch mark making which in themselves demonstrated control and purpose. From there Amber moved on to sketching faces which most often had hair, arms and legs but no body attached. Amber told us the drawing was of her mum, and subsequently she added her dog in pictures as well.


After the Christmas break we have evidence of Amber’s evolving sense of proprioception (perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body). Her awareness of her own body and sense of movement in space are reflected in the connection of a body to her faces. We notice that Amber’s expanding social involvement is portrayed in her drawings which now, most often, includes more than one figure.



A prominent feature of Amber’s later work is the integration of patterns on her mum’s dresses. We remember Amber’s engagement with the loose materials in the centre where she frequently arranged patterns with stones, ephemeral art resources and family play picnics. Amber’s grandma took her to holiday art classes where she painted 3D heart shapes. Heart decoration schema is reflected strongly in her drawings, along with dots, radials, horizontal and diagonal stripes.



In the medium of paint Amber intrigued us with her use of negative space. This idea came from Amber’s own thinking with no prior discussion from teachers. Colour has been applied with a delicate hand so as to maintain the integrity of the blended blue and red, which adds another layer of character to her work.


Inspired by the Chinese New Year of the Horse, teachers invited Amber to represent her idea of a horse using charcoal sticks. Initially Amber struggled to change her thinking from people to animals. She persevered by looking closely at the models Marisa had prepared, and within the day had produced a very skillful image. We were amused about how she found a way to incorporate her patterning schema into the animals – she drew a zebra - which needed stripes of course!


Children who join the ‘after lunch’ group vivid drawing activities are invited to represent a static image from one of the stories teachers present at mat time. Here Amber is being quite literal, and very clever about what she is observing – a front on view of the three little pigs and their houses (artwork in progress)


Being able to change the orientation of figures in a drawing is quite a sophisticated

skill which we don’t observe very often in this age group. Amber’s mermaids are delightfully active. She also explored the mermaid idea at the cutting table; and with her friend Lexi, role-played mermaids with the large scarves.


We hope you enjoyed seeing the progression of Amber's thinking and graphic representational skills develop over 8 months. She has demonstrated the building blocks that will support her journey towards literacy.
















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