minilesson · sketching · storytelling · writing workshop

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.

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

10 thoughts on “A Step Back, A Leap Forward

  1. Great post! Thank you. As a first grade teacher this is helpful for those first graders who may not be ready for writing sentences too! There is such a wide range of readiness and this helps us meet all needs. Thank you!


  2. Thank you for this post. It is just what we needed. Our new Kinders this year seem to have lower language skills and have a hard time communicating their thoughts. We were leaning toward a slow-down or a redo or something. This post…Yay!


  3. Thank you so much! We have been so stressed trying to implement WW in kindergarten. I have felt guilty for not following the lessons exactly like they are written in our WW curriculum but it is just not developmentally appropriate for our K babies! I feel better knowing I’m not the only one who feels this way!! I love your blog!


  4. I so enjoyed your post. My colleague, Marie and I have been talking about how kids generate topics for writing our conversations have me thinking more about the intention behind the writing and what is the story the child wants to tell? Because who hasn’t met a six-year-old that has at least one story to tell? I just might have a post that links back to this thanks for pushing me forward


  5. Ah, this takes me back to when I made this same shift. I remember being a bit terrified that maybe it wouldn’t work. Maybe “not writing” from day one would result in a step back I wouldn’t be able to bring them back from. Instead, those kindergarten students excelled higher than any group of K’s I had ever had. From that year on, my workshop changed. My bible that year was Talking, Drawing, Writing. It was literally at bedside, hipside, and deskside all year. Wherever I was, it went with me. I love that you have all taken the leap to try this method of creating a community of storytellers and writers. What a refreshing post that highlights the importance of the first skills we need as writers–talking and telling.


  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! As a former kindergarten teacher and current mom to a kindergarten student, I think this approach is joyful, inclusive, and inviting. Representational drawing is so important as is believing you have a story to share. I will share this post widely!!


Comments are closed.