early childhood · goals · sequence · writing workshop

Writing in Preschool: Scope and Sequence

What is a scope and sequence? In general terms, it is a progression of what should be taught, like a continuum of skills over time. I have generated, with the guidance of my colleagues, (thank you Lindsey-Preschool Teacher and Robin-Kindergarten teacher) a general overview of what I think is appropriate in any style preschool. Writing is a big animal. A subjective animal as well when it comes to teaching our youngest writers. You may agree or disagree with this scope and sequence, but my goal is not for agreement. It is about thinking. I want preschool teachers to think about the progression they are currently using and compare it to this document. I want educators to think more clearly about their goals and objectives. Most of all, I want teachers collaboratively working to develop their curriculum to work for their students.

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Let’s dissect the document a bit and get more detailed.

What does storytelling look like in a preschool classroom?

Circle time talking. Small group conversation. Conversations through play, “What are you working on there, can we make a sign?” Meal time, most preschools have this, is a great time to engage in conversation about a child’s day, much like you would do as a family at the dinner table. Many children don’t get this opportunity any more. This time of day lends itself well to conversation and storytelling.

What is a label making station?

Materials: Notecards, any size paper, sentence strips, writing tools etc. Students can make signs or label work. Sometimes a great way to save work is to make a “Work in progress,” sign to alert other students, “I’m not done!”

Why make booklets?

Students understand picture books. If they have been exposed to literature at all, it is likely a picture book. It makes sense to start with booklet style materials.

Why start with labels?

It often takes students a while to find their words on the page. A label helps students to identify the most important elements of their story and begin to show that print carries a message, even if that print is a squiggle. These are the beginning stages of a writer.

Model a person? Why does it matter what we begin with for a drawing model?

Well, it doesn’t. If you find that most students are writing about trucks, houses or animals, start with that instead. A person is a likely starting point since we often want children to write about themselves and they often are the main character in their stories, personal narratives. Drawing a person makes sense, but is not the end all be all of drawing models. Expand this to what works for you and definitely go beyond the person when you see students expanding as well.

Isn’t modeling verbs kind of above students’ abilities?

Think of it this way, people do “stuff.” It is a great opportunity to bring attention to this detail. I think anchor charts are great visuals and guides for children. Making an anchor chart that demonstrates some of these action words and verbs is a way to expand vocabulary, model different ways of drawing people and expands children’s details in their verbal story as well as their “written words.”

What is a good scaffold for students when beginning to write stories? How do I get them to divide their picture and their words?

Start with a paper that does it for them; give them a paper with a dividing line. Gradually encourage them to draw a line in the middle of their paper like the model. Eventually students will begin to do this on their own. Read books that model this separation. Often, when students begin drawing and writing stories they do not realize the words are separate from the picture. Be explicit in your model and let them notice. Ask questions and encourage. Often a scaffold is about students discovering things on their own with your intentional teaching guiding them.

What should my goal/objective be for preschool writers?

Well, this is debatable. It is up to your administrators and programs to determine what these should be. However, a starting point would be these goals and objectives if you don’t have the guidance of leaders in your district or private setting:

  • Students will engage in activities that support emergent writing skills.
  • Students will engage and experiment with materials that support emergent writing skills.
  • Students will demonstrate understanding that writing and drawing are two separate entities linked in meaning.
  • Students will engage in forming letter-like symbols or letters to convey a message and ideas.

These ideas are based on my experience with preschool students and my discussions with other teachers. I think they are general enough to work with and get you thinking about your own goals and objectives.

What is my goal? I hope this is helpful. I hope this leads to thinking and conversations. I hope it gets you wondering, “What are those preschoolers down the hall (or in my classroom) doing that supports writing instruction and natural interest in conveying a message?”

Next week I will address questions posed by readers. Please leave any other questions or ideas you may have related to preschool writers in the comments!

9 thoughts on “Writing in Preschool: Scope and Sequence

  1. We are a 4 day/week, 3.5 hour day preschool – 3 and 4 year olds. We have 4 benchmarks that we use for teaching and evaluating writing and oral language to our students; the goal is to have our students entering K at the 4th benchmark so while we evaluate our 3 year olds on the same continuum their first year, the goal is that they be at the first benchmark by spring of their first year of Prek. (We find they are usually at the 2nd BM.) The benchmarks are two pronged – oral language and fine motor skills and they include an emphasis on story knowledge concept development. Example – 1st benchmark oral language skill is to be able to talk about a drawing – or scribbling -while they are drawing, after they have finished – in other words: Is the student talking about their picture? The writing skill of this benchmark is to draw a recognizable figure: Is the student using shapes to draw people? The 2nd benchmark moves towards talking and showing more about narrative elements including emotion, action, settings, labels, speech or thoughts. The 3rd and 4th benchmarks are about the strengthening of these skills – being able to talk about it before drawing and over time and to show more of the story in print. “Print” is evaluated on a developmental continuum of organized lines and scribbles, letter like forms and kid-print.
    We evaluate our students on the trimester giving them both an oral language and “work” or writing score based on a rubric that has 5 levels.


  2. Betsy, I love this! Thanks very much for creating it in a “trimester” layout – which is what my school uses. 😉 I think it is an excellent guideline for the types of writing skills we can and should be encouraging in preschoolers, showing how you might build on the skills over time. I really like the “label making station” and may add this into my writing center area this very week! This writing scope and sequence supports any curriculum theme that a teacher may develop and is an excellent tool to have on hand when planning preschool learning experiences. Thank you!!


  3. I wonder if anyone has a Prep (kindergarten) and Grade 1 Scope and Sequence that they would be willing to share for comparison sake. We are in an PYP international school, where there has been nothing allowed (so far) but the PYP Languages Scope and Sequence. We are on the verge of moving along into more specific outcomes for Early Literacy Foundations. I’d be grateful for input! Thanks!


    1. At this point, my school does not have a scope and sequence for K. We use Talking, Drawing, Writing by Horn and Giaccobe as a resource. My first grade scope and sequence is up for review. It is something I will work on for future posts though!


  4. What age of preschool are you referring to? I have found that some refer to preschool as a range and others as a specific age such as four. I love this post and the ideas but am wondering what age you are working with here. Thank you!


    1. I am referring to three and four year-olds. I think you begin to scratch the surface with your three year-olds and get a bit further with your four year-olds when using a document such as this. Thanks for your comment and question.


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