Kindergarten Writing Workshop: The First Weeks
I start back to school on the second of September. Last year I had looped with my kindergartners up to first grade. This year I go back to kindergarten. I am excited to go back to a grade level I have the most familiarity with but have to admit that first grade was pretty awesome. I have been looking at my schedule trying to get some plans into place and figure out what materials I need for the first few weeks of writing workshop. In my school district a writing block of 45 minutes is the requirement. By the end of the year this sometimes goes on a little longer, but at the beginning of the year when students are barely able to tell a story let alone write/draw their ideas this can be a challenge. Here’s what I plan to do to build up to those 45 minutes in the beginning weeks of kindergarten.
In my classroom I have a large meeting area in the center of the room. We call it the sharing circle. This is where we gather when talking and sharing during writing workshop. I plan to start by talking about how to be a good listener and talker by modeling. See the breakdown of my workshop time for the first two weeks of school.
- To begin, I will model a verbal story taking about five to ten minutes. Keeping it brief is important.
- Following my model, I will have students take five to ten minutes to talk to peers and tell stories. Some may just listen but there will be some who are brimming with talk. This will make for good modeling for the students, having them walk and talk gets them moving too. During this time I will be listening intently to find a few stories that would make good models for the entire group.
- Then I will invite three to four students to share those verbal stories with the whole class while I highlight some things I noticed they did well.
- We will briefly return to my verbal story and I will model a quick drawing. Again, I will ask students to think through their story giving them a blank piece of paper to talk about what their drawing will look like and where they are going to place it on the paper. Again, this talking will provide movement as students walk around and share with peers.
- Bringing the class back together, I will briefly return to my drawing and add a few more distinctive details (maybe some color or an important part of the story I missed).
- For five to ten minutes I will again invite students to share. Before sending students out I will ask them to visualize their story and draw it with their finger on the paper. At this point in the year visualization and learning to see the story in their mind is a skill that will improve.
- We will return to the meeting area and have students hold up their drawings. If someone has one that sticks out as a great example, then I might give those drawings some extra attention.
Depending on the readiness of the class I will slowly build to the next steps below, using my judgment while trying not to do much too soon.
- At this point, I would return to my story and model a sentence from my story that matches my picture. My focus will likely begin with this “match” first and build to letter/sound correspondence and then other important elements of modeling for kindergarten students.
- Following my model, I would ask students, “Do you know a letter or word from your story?” I will let them verbally tell their story again to peers while moving around the room. Then, they will be sent off to try writing a bit about their story.
This is essentially three steps; first modeling talking, drawing and writing, then sending students out for independent practice. I hope to have this up and running smoothly by week three. The students will do their drawing and writing in a drawing notebook that I made with 20 sheets of white construction paper, a blue cover and blue vinyl tape at the top with thick staples to hold it all together. I wrote each students’ name on a large label placed on the front with highlighter. This way. they can trace the letters to write their name clearly on the cover.
Those of you who have taught preschool or kindergarten writers might be thinking, “Yeah, and there will be a lot of scribbling.” This is okay. I know there will be scribbles, tornadoes and pretend letters. My goal here is to build relationships through stories and create enthusiasm about the writing process for young writers. I really believe little hands can do a lot of things and little minds are brimming with ideas. I hope this breakdown of my writing block is of help to you as you process through how you will start your year.
All of these ideas were born out of my experience and my guide, Talking, Drawing, Writing by Horn and Giacobbe. A must read for anyone teaching young writers.