And Just Like That, They Wrote

Last week, I wrote about the step back our kindergarten teachers took as they launched writing workshop this year. And I admitted to you that the children were not writing, they were drawing their stories. There were no words, not even letters, in their work. Their teachers were holding their breath, and we had begun to think about how to nudge these young learners forward. What, we wondered, would be the most authentic way to introduce writing into the detailed stories the children were creating with color and images?

And just like that, it happened. Not because of teacher made plans. Not as the result of a minilesson where the teacher added a word or two to her own drawing. It happened one day, when a child commented that he wanted to add a word to his drawing. And it didn’t happen in just one classroom. It happened in all of our kindergarten classrooms.  In each of our kindergarten classrooms, a child wondered aloud about adding words, or how to spell something, and suddenly our kindergartners began creating stories with pictures AND words.

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Jack began looking at an alphabet strip to figure out the letters he needed to write the sounds he wanted for his story.

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This writer organized her story into four parts, and drew people from the front and side, and added expressions. Do you see the girls jumping on the trampoline while the dad is spraying water from the hose toward their feet? They thought it was great fun. Sounds slippery to me!

Suddenly, pencils made sense. Suddenly,  teachers introduced booklets because their students wanted to make stories that stretched across pages. Suddenly, there was a need for a word wall because these young writers wanted to know how to spell certain high frequency words. Suddenly, our youngest writers began noticing important things about book making, like titles and endings.

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This writer labeled characters in her story about making pumpkin muffins last weekend.

 

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When one child asked about making a book, suddenly several writers in the class wanted to make books. ‘Tis the season for all things pumpkin.

What a difference a week can make!

Most importantly, the learning was, and is, joyful, student driven, and authentic.

So, what are our takeaways?

  • Building early enthusiasm for workshop is critical. It is also in our control.
  • It is perfectly okay to slow things down.
  • It is essential to observe carefully and watch for openings and opportunities to nudge writers forward.
  • Exuberant celebration is always appropriate.
  • Nuancing teacher led vs. student initiated learning is critical. Look for what writers want and need to learn next.
  • We must trust the process. Sometimes that requires patience, faith, and creativity on our part.