Yesterday, first graders celebrated Halfway day at my school. It it hard to believe we are halfway through the school year. And yet, when I am in writing workshop classrooms, I see much evidence of growth.
Our kindergarteners are studying and creating books with pattern and repetition. Halfway through the school year is the perfect time to consider a pattern book unit in kindergarten and first grade writing workshops. By this time, most kindergartners can form all their letters. Many are attempting to write words. Some are remembering to put spaces between words when they write. Nearly all are adding more detail to their illustrations. A few are experimenting with punctuation. They generate ideas on their own with greater ease. And every single one of them is working hard to put together a huge range of newly acquired skills each and every time he or she writes. Planning ideas and then forming phrases or sentences to communicate those ideas on paper is no easy task for new writers. I am constantly in awe of the focus and energy they demonstrate as they become more automatic with putting it all together to create pieces.
The beauty of a pattern book unit is that it gives writers a predictable structure in which to explore and practice many of those newly acquired skills. Our youngest writers who work hard to stretch out sounds and put thoughts on paper, can focus on other parts of the writing process when they spend less energy generating the phrases or sentences that tell their stories. When they are free to repeat some or many of the words from page to page, they can expend that precious energy on other things like spelling, adding space between words, or deciding what kind of punctuation to use. They can focus on rhyme, humor, surprise elements, sequence, or their ending. They have patience to revise the writing and add details to illustrations. A pattern book unit gives young writers a chance to put it all together in a playful format.
A pattern book unit of study has many possibilities for minilessons:
- What is a pattern- recognizing patterns, repetition and rhythm
- Ingredients in pattern stories- characters, problem, solution
- Strategies for generating original patterns
- Punctuation in pattern books
- Word choice in pattern books
- How to create rhythm with words
- How writers convey meaning pattern books
- How writers convey feelings and thoughts pattern books
- Illustrations to match text
- Using word wall words in pattern books
- Kinds of patterns in pattern books
- Pattern book titles
- Pattern book endings
- Creating a cover
There are many, many books to use with a pattern book unit of study. You probably have a few favorites in your collection of read alouds. Here are just a few of my favorite mentor texts and mentor authors:
Somewhere Today by Shelley Moore Thomas
This Train by Paul Collicutt
Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack
Books by Laura Numeroff
Books by Todd Parr
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See and Polar Bear Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin Jr, and Eric Carle
There is a lot of power in pattern book writing for young writers. Once they decide on the basic ingredients of their stories and figure out what to repeat, they have energy for putting together all the other skills and strategies they’ve acquired in the first half of the school year. It’s a perfect time of year to embark on a pattern book unit. Writers can compose fun stories while practicing new skills and creating books that delight their audiences. Everybody’s a winner.