Back in August, facing twenty-four remote kindergarteners, new families, teaching all subjects online–it felt like an unlikely win. I wasn’t really in it to win, but I am pretty competitive, so maybe I was in a race to outdo myself. In the process, I started to feel like I was undoing myself. Teaching all subjects online was hard, but I quickly realized teaching writing online to new learners would be harder than anything I had ever done. Being the lone remote kindergarten teacher in my building meant I had to do it on my own.
Constant planning, in the beginning, took hold, and eventually, I landed–I needed to cross content areas at every possible marker and create connections to writing as often as possible. Balancing this with independent choice writing has been an essential step to growing a love of crafting writing among the youngest learners.
I knew kindergarten students would need time to play with stories, time to talk and tell, and even more time drawing and elaborating through illustrations to bring details to life. Below, I have shared several student work examples and video mentors. These examples were born out of both intended high-level writing skills at the focus with a heaping spoonful of cross-curricular integration.
Cross-Content Connections to Geometry
When students were learning about shapes and their attributes we made many connections to the world around us. There are shapes everywhere! Students made shape poster stories.
Quintin tells a creative story of a castle where a giraffe lives. In his words, he spent “a solid two hours working on this.” The high-leverage writing skill was bringing details to life through drawings and storytelling. The cross-curricular content allowed students to create a shape poster incorporating a story and shape illustration. Since all illustrations have forms and shapes, this wasn’t difficult, but it encouraged connective thinking and crossed geometric understandings and storytelling lines.
Cross Content Connections to Plants and Living Things
After we returned from winter break I wanted to revisit small moment stories with a focus on “saying more.” I was also coming up on a short three-week Five Senses unit in science. I thought the two units would pair perfectly together. In this example, Lars is sharing a small moment story about a trip to Lowes. I love how his illustration is showing the sounds he has written about as added details.
Independent Cross-Content Connections
Here, Elyse was able to make an All About book. The previous units built her confidence to say more and lean into writing nonfiction before we even began our nonfiction writing units. Integrating across content areas more frequently this year with writing as my focus allowed students to venture into their own choice writing experimentation without waiting. This was a turning point. I realized teaching reading, math, science, social studies while incorporating writing as often as possible was starting to cross into students’ independent writing. Genres they had seen modeled, listened to, were now experimented with on their own–even when it was not during a writing lesson or a small group workshop time.
Cross-Content Connections in Creative Expression and Crafting
Currently, I’m nearing the end of a How To writing unit with my remote kindergarteners. As I made this shift to nonfiction procedural writing, I knew it would be important to travel back to storytelling and create some oral story mentors. It was also an opportunity to integrate some creativity and fine motor skill work.
In this example, I brought a group of students together to make playdough creations. We were going to make some oral mentor texts together for our How To writing unit.
In this video, I was getting ready to work on a math assessment with Skyler, but he had other plans. So, I hit record and we made another oral mentor text for the class. I also learned something new!
Through all the balancing of the highs and the lows this school year, the continuous place I find comfort is with my students. Through the screen, I have been able to see growth, awareness, learning, and love. Those are the gifts I’ll hold tight from this time, and the learning I’ve gained from all of it will be carried with me for a long time.
Going back to kindergarten this year was a great reminder of where it all begins. It brought me back to the value of integrating learning experiences and how making these connections early, often, and with intention can dramatically impact how students take on learning and make it their own. I’m eager to carry forward this experience and continue integrating writing with more frequent cross-content connections. I saw the impact it had on these young learners’ independent writing within and outside of our workshop, blending connected opportunities that helped engage and sustain the learning.
- This giveaway is for a copy of The Responsive Writing Teacher by Melanie Meehan and Kelsey Sorum. Many thanks to Corwin Literacy for donating a copy for one reader.
- For a chance to win this copy of The Responsive Writing Teacher, please leave a comment about this post by Saturday, May 8th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Kathleen Sokolowski will use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose names she will announce at the bottom of the ICYMI post on Monday, May 10th. NOTE: You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter the giveaway.
- Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Kathleen can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Corwin will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
- If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – MAY BLOG SERIES. Please respond to Kathleen’s e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.