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!