On Your Marks! A practical guide to mark making, early writing and language


As someone who has cleaned more than her share of mark making off walls I have been heartened by recent adverts for Dulux Endurance Paint with its slogan, ‘Wash away the stain not the paint’.


However, Michael Jones’ book has made me look again at the value of mark making, especially the ways that it can benefit older children with additional needs. For example, mark making can improve stability in shoulders, especially if children are using an easel, as well as improving manual dexterity, strength in fingers and fine motor control.

On Your Marks! is attractive with landscape pages and a good selection of black-and-white photographs. It is designed to be photocopiable and the spiral-binding means the book will lie flat on a desk.

There are well-thought-out strategies for developing vocabulary. Idea 8 ‘Mixing Paint and Finger Painting’ shows how children can discuss choosing and mixing colours, talk about hands and making hand-prints, and picks out some of the word and phrases children might be encouraged to use such as strokes, dab, splodges, runny, squeeze, side to side, carefully.

Jones also warns adults about the timing of talk. It is hard to get children to respond when they are concentrating on holding a brush, exploring how to use it to make a satisfying mark, and thinking about what they want to paint. He suggests providing a running commentary for the child while the activity is in progress and advises reserving questions for the end of the activity so the child is not trying to do two things at once.

My only quibble about the book is that it doesn’t seem to have an intuitive structure. Some of the activities, such as pushing pipe cleaners through a colander to make a hat, will improve fine motor skills but do not seem to relate either to talking or to mark making. The sections seem arbitrary and to get the best out of this book readers need to skim through all the pages and identify the activities which will work best in their individual setting.

A final positive point: royalties are going to Kep Gardens, an education centre in Cambodia.

BUY NOW £15.00

Michael Jones – Lawrence Educational – ISBN: 978-1-903670-97-2

Reviewed by Sal McKeown

7.0 Good

I have always seen mark making as a prelude to writing or to art work but On Your Marks! shows how it can enhance speaking and listening and aid the physical development of young children aged two to five and older children with additional needs.

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About Contributors

Sal McKeown is a freelance journalist and author of several books, most recently Brilliant Ideas for using ICT in the Inclusive Classroom. Prior to this she was a lecturer and in the special needs team at Becta, the UK’s former government agency for technology in education.

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