Young children come to school with a wide range of ability levels when it comes to recognizing and writing their names. The differences may be due to the length of their names and which letters are included in them, a difference in age, varying rates of development in fine motor skills, and even a varied interest in writing.
One way to address this challenge with preschoolers and make the most of your instructional time is to implement a sign-in system as part of your morning routine. Begin by teaching your students that each day as they arrive their job is to sign in. You will have to do a lot of modeling and reminding, but eventually your little ones will rely on the predictability of the routine and remember to sign in on their own.
There are a variety of ways to have your students sign in each morning.
This example came from Not Just Cute: Intentional Whole Child Development. Amanda uses photo holders and index cards to have her students sign in. She writes the child's name at the top of an index card. The children locate their name card when they arrive, then write their names on their cards. Amanda dates her cards each day and keeps them as a way to track her students' progress.
This example came from Teach Preschool: Promoting Excellence in Early Childhood Education. Deborah has her students sign in each morning using a clipboard. When students arrive, they find their name on the printed list and write their name in the space next to it.
Here is another example of this same idea. This example is from a classroom in my district. This teacher uses a picture of the student instead of their name and has the clipboard lists grouped by who sits together at a table.
I suggest using the student's name and their picture. Students need a well printed model to look at when learning to write their name and their picture gives them a visual as they learn to recognize their own name and the names of others. This example is from Rainbows Within Reach and it incorporates both names and pictures for student sign-in.
This example came from Learning and Teaching Preschoolers. Tami uses two notebooks so that two children can sign in at one time. I like this example because it allows you to keep the sign-in pages from week to week so that you can show growth throughout the school year.
Here is another example I found on Pinterest. Unfortunately, it did not lead back to a webpage or website.
This example uses a dry erase board and comes from a model classroom in my district. There are student names and pictures on both sides of the board. This same idea can be recreated on poster board or chart paper. Create the sign-in adhering the name/picture cards onto a couple of sheets of poster board or piece of chart paper. Then laminate the poster board or chart paper. Students can use dry erase markers to write their name each morning and you can wipe it off each afternoon after they leave. This method does not allow you to track their progress, but it saves time and paper for you.
Regardless of how you choose to implement an arrival sign-in routine, there are a few important points to keep in mind:
1) Provide students with a model of their name to look at when writing. In the beginning, I highly recommend including their picture with their name.
2) The model of the child's name should be written so that the first letter is a capital letter and all of the other letters are lowercase letters.
3) Do not include last names until after Christmas.
4) Give students plenty of space to write their name in.
And LAST, BUT NOT LEAST...
5) Do not have them trace their name.
Encourage and validate any marks students make for writing. Give instruction within the Zone of Proximal Development. When needed, choose one aspect to correct or offer instruction on. For example, letter formation. You might choose to do this during small group instruction while the students are in centers.
Point out all of the positive aspects you notice when looking at their names. Your students will grow as writers when their work is praised and when they have a good model to follow. Don't weigh them down too much with corrections. This can make the task of writing frustrating and unappealing.
I found this unit on TPT. It is a pack of editable student sign-in sheets. You can easily go in and add your student's names and their pictures. Find this unit, by Keeping it Captivating, here for $5.