Like many of you, I am learning how to teach my own two kids at home.
I’m a little hesitant to say “homeschool” because what I’m doing isn’t really the same as true homeschooling. If I were really homeschooling, there would many important differences from what I am doing right now.
First of all, true homeschooling would by choice, and I would most likely not be attempting to also work full time from home while doing it. Homeschooling my two kids is definitely not my first choice. More power to you if you choose homeschooling.
Second of all, and probably more importantly, I wouldn’t be receiving the steady stream of information, lessons, and resources from my kids’ two amazing teachers if I were truly homeschooling. (Shout out to Aimee Randall, 4th grade, and Jan Bouchard, kindergarten!) Even though I am my own kids’ teachers’ literacy coach, without their support I would be lost.
But here we are, in week four of distance learning. I’ve learned a few things about teaching writing at home with my kindergartener that I’ll share with you now, whether you are a kindergarten teacher, or family member of a kindergartener
I can barely get my own kid to write anything, especially on Mondays. Now that we’re a few weeks in, I’ve realized that on certain days, if I can just get my son to reread something he’s already written, then that’s okay. Sometimes we label a picture (just one!). Sometimes I find photos online of his favorite things and print them out for him to write about. Sometimes he spends his whole time writing about butts and farts and Lego minifigure battles and I’m just letting it happen–because at least he’s writing!
I have a renewed appreciation for alphabet charts and personal word walls. I’ve always known how important these two tools are for kindergarten. I’ve written extensively about phonics and spelling instruction for kindergartners, on this blog, and in other places. I’ve taught courses, workshops, conference presentations, you name it. However, sitting with my son every day and watching him use these tools has helped me fine-tune the way that I design the tools, and how they are used.
For example, at first I had the alphabet chart and word wall tucked inside his writing folder in sheet protectors.
I quickly realized that it wasn’t easy for him to see both charts at once when they in the folder that way – it was too big and bulky and unwieldy. So I redesigned it to create a portable “office” that he can stand up right in front of him like this:
Now he can just glance up and the tools he needs are right there.
I’ve realized that crossing words out can be really difficult for kids who are still learning to read. As a teacher, I have always been a firm believer in teaching kids that it’s okay to simply cross out a word and move on. Erasing takes so much time away from writing, and it’s so important to reinforce that mistakes are a good thing. However, during the first two weeks I watched my son become incredibly frustrated when he couldn’t read his own writing with all the cross-outs. He’s still an emergent reader – it’s challenging enough to figure out the words when they are spelled conventionally and neatly. Reading his own kid-handwriting mixed with cross-outs is really difficult–even for me. So, I cut the sticky part off of some post-its for him to use for “oops tape” so that he can cover up his mistakes. Since it’s made from post-its we can still peel them back to see his original work. I found some removable mailing labels that work just like post-its so now we use those and he’s happy as a clam!
Using our home-made “oops tape” (removable mailing labels or the sticky part of post-its) to make changes has made it much easier for Jackson to read his own writing.
Side note — Jackson loves writing to go with photos of favorite toys and pictures of people. I used Google Slides to make a template with lines for little books.
Ultimately, we’re going one day at a time. Sometimes we have a great day of writing and other days are a struggle. When things get frustrating we stop, put it away, and move on to something else. We’re trying to make the best of a difficult situation.