early childhood

Where Do the Words Go?

When students first begin writing their stories they are oral and planned drawings. Eventually, however, letters and words begin to emerge on the page. How do we instruct this change?

It first begins with an oral rehearsal. Students tell their story and attempt to approximate the words, often, first through labeling, then into a sentence representing their story. Typically, the words end up within the drawing or all over the page.

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This student drew a picture of a time when he saw his friend at the “haircutter.”

As this begins to happen, I tend to reach for my mentor texts and show how authors separate their words from their picture. The nice thing about using a mentor text is that almost any book works and you can show some authors put their words above, below or even beside the picture.

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Here, I am showing a student how he put his words at the top of the page just like Lois Elhert in the book The Scraps Book.

For students who still don’t grasp the concept, I suggest drawing a line to separate and leave a spot for their story. This seems to be effective and most students like doing this.

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Once many students are separating their words from their pictures, I make sure to showcase their work. Letting students act as a teacher reinforces the skill for the individual as well as the rest of your learners. This is also, again, an opportunity to show that authors put their words in different places depending on the illustration and sometimes the story.

I find organizational minilessons are sometimes the hardest for me to do. Mostly because I have other lessons I would like to get to; however, these little bits of organization help in so many ways and are important if students are going to make gains in other areas.

In January, I will touch on some other organizational lessons that help students stay on top of their work and keep things running smoothly in a primary classroom.

4 thoughts on “Where Do the Words Go?

  1. Organizational minilessons are so important! They remind me of the time we take to teach routines. Sure, there are other things we’d rather be doing, but when we take the time to teach these important things to kids, everything becomes so much easier for the children going-forward (and workshop runs smoother).


  2. What I love about this post is the understanding behind it that kids will do one thing (draw pictures) until they are shown another way – or a way to add and make it even better – like adding words to their pictures. It’s not an exasperated response, like “why don’t these kids do this???” – but rather it’s a teaching response. A response that expects kids to do this until they see what else they can do. Love it!!!


  3. We are working hard to be sure that we leave time for the share at the end where we can “showcase” smart writing. I think it is another powerful opportunity for teaching within the community of writers. Katy Wood Ray calls it putting a badge on the writing. We also just were talking about those organizational/routine types of mini-lessons. We kind of reframed our thinking and thought about how we don’t think twice about revisiting other routines such as using inside voices or how to pass quietly or walk in the hallways. Why wouldn’t we value the time to review/reteach writing workshop routines. We are looking at the minilessons in this way: Craft, Conventions, Writing Process, and Management. BUT…I agree the Craft minilessons are much more fun! Thank you for a very timely post!


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