A Step Back, A Leap Forward

Kindergarten teachers at my school made what seemed at first like a small shift in the language they used, and message they shared, as they launched writing workshop this year. In fact, the change was big and significant. And the payoff has been rewarding.

Instead of starting with the words  “We are all writers,”  they began their workshops by telling our youngest learners that we all have stories to share. Instead of encouraging students to put words on the page, they told and drew their own stories. Instead of passing out pencils and booklets with blank pages, they offered art tablets, markers, colored pencils, and crayons. And every chance they got, they reinforced the idea that we are all storytellers.

Over the summer, the kindergarten team and I tweaked their writing curriculum, and planned new lessons, and our primary goal was to lay a foundation that would not only build skills, but also create enthusiasm for writing.

We decided to take a step that I would argue isn’t back, but forward, and during these first six week, our youngest writers have focused on the joys of shared stories, and how to draw those tales.  We’ve slowed things down, and taken a leap of faith, as these children have begun their writing journeys. In these first six week, their work during writing workshop has not included a lot of writing. Gasp.

Their teachers crafted and shared many minilessons:

  • How to use materials including the drawing tablet, pencils, colored pencils and crayons.
  • What happens during writing workshop (mini lesson, writing spot and writing time, sharing time)
  • Where stories come from
  • The important parts of a story, including characters, setting, and events
  • How to draw the important parts of your story
  • How to draw people, animals, and objects- looking at parts and shapes
  • How to add expressions to people and animals
  • How to show action
  • How to add backgrounds and details
  • How to tell the story you’ve drawn

Every time I’ve entered a kindergarten classrooms during writing workshop time, I’ve seen focused, engaged children. When I’ve  conferred with these storytellers, they’ve shared their drawings and tales with great pride.

mountain-climbing

Can you see the mountain this father and son are climbing?

wind

Notice the wind blowing the leaves in this Fall story.

 

And even though there hasn’t been a lot of writing- gasp– yet…these young writers have:

  • Become enthusiastic story tellers and workshop participants
  • Created drawings with more detail than I’ve seen in past years
  • Gained confidence in sharing stories
  • Developed their understanding of story elements
  • Learned  how to unfold a story  with details that draw the audience in
  • Created detailed drawings that tell stories

Our youngest writers will soon begin to add labels, and words, and then sentences, to their drawings. Before long there will be booklets, and lined paper. And what might have looked like a step back, these past six weeks, is just what these young writers needed to take their next leap forward.