Why We Don't Use a Sign-In Book in Preschool

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Have you heard of the process of 'signing in' in the pre-k classroom?

When a student comes in for the day, he or she takes time to sign their name in a sign-in book or clipboard.  It is a way for children to practice writing their names each day.

Years back I tried the idea of signing in, but had students trace their name each morning on a laminated name strip I prepared for them.  It quickly became evident to me that students were tracing their names, but it wasn't the way I had intended!  Many were starting their letters from the bottom, using two strokes to create an 'o' and a whole bunch of other strange ways of tracing.  It was then I realized that I had not taught them how to form their letters correctly.  By tracing, they weren't just automatically writing the letters correctly.  

So, as students were arriving I found myself scrambling around trying to help each child form their name correctly.  Since they all arrived about the same time, this task got daunting real fast!  Not to mention the fact that they were ready to go do some exploring in centers and the thing standing between them and playing was this whole name thing.  So, needless to say... they were rushing through it.

Not what I had intended.  It wasn't going well.  So, we stopped.  And I haven't had a sign in procedure since.

What we do instead...

Most of my students haven't been in a school setting before.  So, we back it way on back!  To start the year we follow this order....

  • work on recognizing our names
  • build our names with name puzzles
  • start by working on forming the first letter of our name by tracing and with teacher guidance
  • after mastery of forming the first letter, we move to the other letters in the name by tracing with teacher guidance
  • as students start to grasp the strokes of letters, I take away the tracing aspect and use name strips- where students look at their name as a reference and write on blank paper (no lines)
  • if and when a student is ready I may introduce the concepts of lined paper, but I generally like to stick with blank paper

TIPS:

-Every child moves along this continuum at their own rate

- I, as the teacher, am there guiding them on a one-on-one basis

-We don't just write on paper.  To change it up we may use chalkboards, shaving cream, dry-erase boards, large bulletin board paper.... and the list goes on!

When sign-in books work

I am not a complete hater of the sign-in book.  Honestly, I think that we just have to be mindful of how we are using them:

  •  Are students writing their names with correct formation by themselves?  If so, a sign in book would be appropriate. 
  • What is the best way to house the sign in? If it is in a binder, are left-handed students able to use it appropriately?  Would a clipboard work better?
  • Could we take the 'boring' out of it?  Does signing in the same way each day just force children to slap their name on their and call it good?  Could we change up how children sign in every now and again?

Do you have a creative way to have your students sign-in?  Please share!