How to Teach Writing by Using Letters, Numbers, Words, Phrases & Sentences

How to Teach Writing by Using Letters, Numbers, Words, Phrases & Sentences

Just as in acquisition of other language skills, in writing (printing, cursive, typing, texting) it makes sense to start with the smallest pieces of language (symbols, including letters and numerals), put them together into words or other chunks or pieces, move on to phrases to join in sentences, and progress gradually to connected text.
Here’s what some of these little pieces of writing might look like:
Articles that advocate Starting at the Very Beginning will tell you all you need to know about (reading and writing) symbols, especially the letters of the alphabet in their various forms.
And of course, just as speaking skills may be based on listening models, writing can be built on reading. To review the skills needed to interpret examples of various stages of writing, click on and peruse articles on how to Develop Visual Literacy and Develop Text Literacy.
So how does one teach/learn and practice writing on paper or screens at levels of complexity that expand steadily? Below are possible measures to take to introduce writing by degrees. In each stage, there are links to excerpts from three Authors & Editors “Written-Language Skills” texts:
For variety, there are other kinds of segments, too. Symbols can include numbers, alphabetic letters, mathematical and other signs, icons, and the simplest of drawings or shapes. Amounts contain numerals with punctuation marks like commas (,), periods (.), parentheses ( ), and currency signs ($); mathematical symbols like + or -, > or <, =, %, #, and so on.
Figures like these can appear on slates (boards) or in doodles (scribbles or sketches); in addresses and telephone numbers; on envelopes, score cards, and calendars; on price lists, bills, and balance sheets; in ads or notices and on signboards, and just about anywhere else where there is writing.
Here are some steps that learners can follow to write these small pieces of language: 
  1. Look at them first—in all their various shapes, fonts, and forms (block letters, cursive, print). Notice how their straight and curved lines are formed and how they fit together.
  2. Copy the figures stroke by stroke, perhaps following guidelines or arrows. Compare your markings with easy-to-decipher models.
  3. Fill in letters, numbers, and characters in activity segments that call for them.
  4. Use letters, numbers, and other forms or shapes for everyday tasks, such as doing math problems, filling in score cards or other forms, or solving vocabulary puzzles. 
  5. Download and print out text exercises that call for writing symbols and letters, such as those linked below.
  6. Go beyond the texts by seeking out, understanding the meaning of, copying, and drawing/writing symbols, numbers, and letters wherever they are required. Learn more about them. Enjoy the opportunities for creativity, as in calligraphy or other art forms.  
      Reading - Writing Names and Letters Practice page,        Clock Times, Name & Address on Envelope, Contact info,        Personal Info Grid Game, Reading - Writing
Words contain mostly alphabetic letters but may also include symbols (punctuation marks like apostrophes [’] and hyphens [-]) and be combined with numbers and other characters. Capitalized Proper Nouns can name people, brands, organizations, places, etc. By themselves, names belong in address books, directories, lists, reports, and on forms—of which there are many kinds (application, employment, housing, medical, financial, claim, tax, registration, order, sign-up, and on and on and on). Of course, each type of form has many subtypes with varieties of spaces or lines to fill in.
And single words or word combinations can appear just about anywhere else, not only on paper or onscreen but on maps, labels, cards, menus, schedules, posters, signs, objects, doors, walls, buildings, and more.       
Here are some ideas of how to learn to print or hand-write words:
  1. Look at models or samples of words on display or in text. Note their spelling. Then print or write the letters in order with appropriate spacing.
  2. Copy the words you see letter by letter, comparing your printing, handwriting, or typing with the originals.
  3. To write other words, put letters that represent their sounds in the correct sequence. If needed, check your spelling in a dictionary or online.
  4. Download and print out lessons or activities that call for writing single words and word combos, such as those focused on spelling or vocabulary—or puzzles calling for letter selection and arrangement. You might want to start with the resources linked below.
  5. Go beyond the texts by finding other pursuits that elicit the printing, writing, or typing of words. Learn more about them. Enjoy discovering them and putting them into diverse contexts.
    Examples of several kinds of personal-information forms Reading - Writing    Words and dates to copy from a directory and a calendar Reading - Writing    Manipulate letters and learn to write words to get solutions, Reading - Writing
Phrases & Sentences contain mostly words—without or with punctuation. It’s the combination of lexical items in phrases (words that stand together as units) and sentences (grammatical units with subjects and predicates) that make them meaningful, useful, or memorable—beyond the denotations of separate components of the writing. With abbreviations, symbols, and/or other markings, phrases and sentences appear in spaces (of forms, on pages, in ads or other visuals, on boards or other surfaces); in notices and on signs; or in paragraphs. Especially in connected text consisting of sentences, there are also “rules for writing,” not only for capitalization and punctuation but also for phrasing, grammar, and structure.
Here are suggestions of how to practice printing, handwriting, or typing phrases and sentences.
  1. Learn which words belong together in expressions or customary wording, such as compounds, phrasal verbs, prepositional phrases, transitive verbs with objects, intransitive verbs after subjects, idioms, sayings, or the like. Learn to use these as linguistic components.
  2. Copy the wording you see, substituting comparable vocabulary when it fits. 
  3. To write other phrases and sentences, put words together as the grammar or convention dictates.
  4. Do vocabulary puzzles that require insertion of phrasing and words in sentence contexts. 
  5. Download and print out text exercises that call for writing complete phrases or sentences, including dictation. Here are examples to try out, use as is, supplement, or go beyond:
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About Work/Life English
For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of native and non-native English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons, strategies, and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit


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1 comment

Great teaching.material!

Cesar Ruacho

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