Talk for Mark Making and Writing – Granny’s teeth!

admin Boys Learning, Child Initiated Learning, Mark Making, Talk 3 Comments

At the grand old age of 93 years, my Granny passed away last year. She will be sorely missed and has left behind the great legacy of a long life well lived. She also left a number of things for us to remember her by  – but one unexpected (and unintentional on her part) heirloom was her teeth!

Not her everyday set, you understand. Theses were her ‘spares’, her ‘just in case’ set. Kept in bubble wrap at the back of a drawer – just in case…

I was really chuffed when I found them, because I knew I would be able to put them to good use!


Imagine coming into your setting to find these in a jar in the middle of your snack table! Now if that doesn't get you talking, I don't know what will! There are a million questions, statements, stories and exclaimations that will come from one pair of flase teeth.

When a child has limited language acquisition and wants to talk about the temperature of something then they can only really refer to its state as either hot or cold. They do not have the words for anything in between. As adults we can provide them with a wide range of words supported by a relevant experience. It is no good just getting the child to learn a list of words, for that learning to stick those words need to be attached to an engaging and relevant learning experience so if we say something is, luke warm, tepid, ice cold, warm, boiling, scorching or freezing the child will be able to put that into the context of their experience.

Not forgetting that children have to hear a word used in context on a number of occasions before they can assimilate it, make sense of it and then regurgitate it in their talk.

If they cannot talk about it, then they cannot write about it, as writing is only talk that comes out of the end of your pencil instead of your mouth!


There are so many exciting words in the English language that nearly every activity that they do will be an opportunity to try one out! If you decide to take one of those opportunities and extend a child’s vocabulary, first of all be sure that they have a basic word to describe whatever it is that you are going to extend. Use that word first as that is their point of reference and then extend. The more engagement you can get from the child. The more chance you have got of that word sticking.

  • Stress the word that you are using within the sentence

‘Look at that big (insert word). It is not just big it is enormous!’

  • Tell them what the word you have used means

‘Can you see it? It is really big, huge, massive, really enormous’

  • Act it using gestures, actions or tone of voice.

It is really e-nor-mous, even bigger than this (fling arms apart) 

  • Relate the word to something that is personal to that child’s experience

 ‘It is as even bigger than that enormous piece of playdough that you were playing with this morning. Do you remember?'

  • Talk it again and again and again! There is no harm in overusing a word on first introduction as long as you don’t put the children off!

 ‘What else can we see that is enormous? That rock over there, is so much bigger an the others it’s enormous. I Once wrestled a shark that was as big as a double decker bus – it was enormous and had enormous teeth!’

 If the child is keen to join in and have a go at using the word then that is great and you should encourage then to have a go. If they are showing no signs of wanting to join in then this is also fine. I is not so much about the child saying the word, but about them hearing it in context and making sense of it. enough to use it.

For a quick mental reminder of what you need to do, just think


Stress it, Tell it, Act it, Relate it and Talk it.

Learning to write is not hard, painful or boring if you do it at the right time and in the right order. Many practitioners still put too much emphasis on the physical mark making element of writing pushing children to do things that they are not physically or mentally equipped to do.


(Not sure what is scarier – me or the teeth!)

Once we understand the process of how children develop their mark making and writing skills then we can make sure that we are accurately assessing their progress and then reflecting that assessment in the environment that we create and the planning that we put into place.

Alongside that we should be spending a HUGE amount of time talking with children and giving them something that they want to talk and write about.

Getting children with limited interest or vocabulary to talk can be hard work. So pick things that will provoke a reaction.

Something to make them laugh


make them think, make them go ‘Yuk!’


or give them a mild fright!


(This is one of my activities where you make 'dinosaur poo' out of playdough with soil and coffee grinds mixed in. In some of the poo, you put boiled chicken bones, in some vegetation. The children have to disect the poo using tweezers (and hygienic gloves) and work out if the dinosaur who did the poo was a herbivore, carnivore or omnivore and then record their results! Get's them talking and writing every time!)

Once you have got them talking – then you will get them mark making and writing. Hold on, that sounds like a good idea for a conference. It just so happens I know a bloke who is running a really good one on just that subject! You can find the details here. If you're lucky he will bring his false teeth!

Thanks for the inspiration Granny. I am sure you are smiling down on us all (albeit a gummy one due to the fact that I have got your teeth!)

Happy talking…and writing


adminTalk for Mark Making and Writing – Granny’s teeth!

Comments 3

  1. Hettie

    If only I had a granny! I often do a pretty good line in mouldy fruit though! I have a couple who would be very interested in the dinosaur poo …

  2. Alison

    What a lovely post. I have my granny’s button tin in my class. When I am using an object or talking tub or something to stimulate discussion I often give the class pencils first and continue the theme of ‘loading them up’ or filling them with all of our ideas, wonderful describing words etc. One day – and one class with 14 boys in (in my defence) – my HT walked in whilst we were holding them gun style and loading each idea up – needless to say his understanding of motivation and mine was different!

  3. Frog_fairy

    Brilliant ideas for developing language. So often people (including me if I’m short of prep time/ space in my work bag) try and teach vocab just through picture cards. Using real objects is much more meaningful and memorable – especially when the objects are as scary/ yucky as yours! I’m going to pin this for future use (and share with teachers and speech and language therapists I work with) -hope that’s OK.

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