It Starts With a Conversation

Preschoolers Can’t Write

I beg to differ. How many of you have thought or been told this very statement? Until you experience the mind of a little budding three or four year-old it is hard to say what they can and cannot do. However, I do know this; when given the opportunity to talk and engage in conversation preschoolers are showcasing their writing voice.

If you are a teacher who doesn’t think preschoolers can write, shift your thinking and wonder a moment. Can they talk? Your answer might be no. There are plenty of preschoolers who come to us without the basic skills to carry a conversation let alone write a story out loud. However, this is where we start. We start with conversation.

This is an opportunity to meet the student right at her level.

I met Brianna in December of last year. I was visiting the preschool classroom down the hall to get a look at where preschoolers were with writing. I laid out a picnic blanket, lots of materials and the kids swarmed. I looked over to see a curly haired cutie with wide blue eyes staring at me. She had just started that day and had just turned three. I was intrigued. I held up a piece of paper and she eagerly came to my *picnic style writing workshop. Brianna did not have a lot of words to share with me yet but she had stories. I could tell. No one looks at you with that kind of excitement and does not have a story inside of them. Brianna put some scribbles in a little booklet, took my hand and looked at me. “Do you want to take this home?” I asked. She nodded, curls bouncing and smile blazing. I lead her to the mailboxes and asked her if she could find her “B.” Quickly another student came over and showed it to me. A little mother hen who would take good care of Brianna, but I still asked Brianna to show me. She smiled and pointed right to her box. I praised her for her effort and told her I would come back again soon.

I continued to watch Brianna through the year. I watched her turn into a child who used two-three word sentences. I watched her verbally label objects and start to draw shapes. I saw her grow.

I recently visited Brianna and found her with a pot full of “meatballs.” She brought her play dough meatballs and pot to the picnic and we got a blank booklet.

I said, “Let’s write a story about your meatballs?”

She nodded and quickly began drawing circles on her cover.

“Is this your cover?” I asked. She looked at me.  “What is your title?”

Brianna thought for a moment, “MMmmeatballs.”

Oh perfect I thought, she stretched out that /m/ sound like a champ. I took the opportunity.

“What did you hear in the word meatballs?” I said.

“Mmmmmeatballs.” She responded.

“Mmmm, that is an M! Let’s write an M,” and she quickly responded with a smile.

I wrote the “M” with a yellow pencil and she traced over the lines with a marker. She then began to flip to the next page. She drew more circles.

She is learning. She is learning that print carries a message and that her creations can be a story. It all started with a conversation over play dough and quickly turned into an opportunity to write.

*What is “picnic style” writing workshop you ask? It is an environment that invites creativity. It is a safe spot to talk, draw and write together while sharing space and materials. It is good for young children to lay on their bellies when writing. It helps to develop the muscles in their little writing hands. This style of writing, on the floor, allows for more students to get close to each other, lay down and watch models of writing all around them.