growth mindset · reflections · writing workshop

Reflection and Growth: Writing in Preschool

When I first began teaching I had very little experience with writing workshop. Let me take that back, I had no experience. I had a wonderful student teaching experience, but workshop was not the writing model in the school I was placed. I had great experiences as a college student in a wonderful preschool with dedicated and experienced teachers who taught me to teach writing in the teachable moments of play. All good experiences. Did I know how to foster a love of writing in preschoolers? No. Was I prepared to take on kindergarten writing workshop? No. Did anyone expect me to? No. Writing workshop was not recognized in preschool and kindergarten when I first began teaching in the two districts that helped me build a foundation as a teacher. It was in my third year of teaching, when I took a class my district was encouraged to try, that I realized I hadn’t been teaching writing. Prior to this I had students take sentences from poems that I had put on sentence strips, cut them up, put them back together. I had them copy stories and songs on to paper. Students practiced letter formation. I was doing all kinds of phonics and phonemic awareness rich lessons that had kids writing letters and words, but they weren’t writing their own stories. I had paper. I had staplers. However, I didn’t put the two together! I wasn’t tapping into the writers inside of my students. I didn’t think that was even something “these kids” could do. Preschoolers? Kindergarteners? Writers? NO.

The class I took nine years ago transformed me as a teacher. It was the beginning of a new foundation, a writing foundation. I started reading. I immersed myself in the field of writing and wanted to learn more. I was frustrated by what I didn’t know and determined to change it.

Have you ever found yourself in this place? A place where you begin to see something missing and immediately want to change? Be better? I hope so!

Lately, I have had some thought provoking conversations with the preschool teacher in my building. For the past year and a half she has graciously allowed me to come observe and teach her students once a week. Upon leaving one of our conversations, I had a hard time turning off the wheels that continued the dialogue in my head. I began asking myself many questions. She is trying to balance what she knows is right for preschoolers and what she has been told must be done with preschoolers. I am trying to help her find it. I am thinking about it so much that all the forms of writing in preschool and how to model them have been swirling like a storm in my head. Can you help me? I’d like to do a series of posts in the month of February all focused on writing in the preschool classroom. I would really like to know what you need guidance with in this area of developing writers. Please let me know in the comments what areas of preschool writing workshop are missing for you and your colleagues.

10 thoughts on “Reflection and Growth: Writing in Preschool

  1. I am excited on so many levels for these posts. Building the foundation of writers is SUCH an important task in education and one that is not often put on the front burner in schools. An issue that often comes up in discussion is what is appropriate for these young writers and how do teachers reach all of them? I’ve used the work of Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover and love to have teachers in the trenches help me understand it from your perspective. So excited!


  2. I’ll be looking for your posts as well! As a teacher-mom, I’m getting to watch my own preschooler demand time to write with me. I believe I’m watching him forge his own path to literacy. He’s learning to read through his writing. He has a phenomenal teacher that makes him want to write! Tonight he started a book when he saw me writing. I’m anxious to see thoughts and work on this as well. Such a thought-provoking topic…clearly needing to think as well about the readiness of the child.


  3. Matt Glover is an educational consultant (former early childhood principal) for Heinemann with expertise in preschool and primary writing. I would highly recommend his work.


  4. I would also love to learn how preschool teachers structure writing for young ones. What and when is the place of dictating? Do people have favorite ways to incorporate writing in centers? Betsy – I will be first in line to purchase the book that comes out of this one! Along with TALKING, DRAWING, WRITING by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbi, Katie and Matt’s work is where I, too, find inspiration. xo, a.


  5. Please–all you preschool teachers–post all of your favorite resources for preschool writing. I am a college professor, and I am always seeking referrals from those of you who are ‘in the trenches!’ Thanks…..:)


  6. I am a literacy coach in a school where the teachers are trained in the Literacy Collaborative framework. We have a very strong pre-K program where Writing Workshop is just a part of their regular day. The children also have access to a Writing Center that can be chosen as an activity during center time. They “make books” following the teaching of Katie Wood Ray. There are some amazing four-year old writers!


  7. I’m BEYOND excited about the posts you’re going to do next month dedicated to Pre-K writers since I’m in the thick of looking at preschools for Isabelle. (In fact, I have an appointment with a Montessori school in an hour.)

    One thing I’d love to know is when certain things emerge, on average, for Pre-K writers. For instance, when it comes to speech sounds, I often look to charts like this, If you could share some typical milestones for preschool and K writers in a similar fashion, that would be very useful to me as a mom (and perhaps to others who teach writing to preschoolers).

    ALSO, I know the importance of talking and drawing in the early years, but I think a lot of people don’t think those things count as writing. If you could talk to that as well, that’d be great.

    Did I mention I’m eagerly anticipating your posts? I did. Well, I’ll say it again. I cannot wait for them!

    Thanks Betsy.


  8. I was a Project Director for an Early Reading First grant and worked with 7 preschool teachers and their young charges. We explored the same question. We did a book study using “Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten-Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten ” by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover. I believe the important word in that title is “nurturing”. It will guide you in the “write” direction. It is a wonderful book that follows in the footsteps of “About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers”.


  9. We are setting up writing and reading workshop in our Pre-K classrooms and there is a bit of resistance regarding the “appropriateness” for that age and logistics on how to implement it realistically. I am really looking forward to your February posts!!


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