We start our How-to writing in January and we use Deanna Jump & DeeDee Wills’ Informational Writing unit (if you haven’t checked them out yet, you need too!). As part of the unit, the children create topical lists, so they can refer back to it when they need to. They also have a Topic List in many of their other units. I love that they can draw 9 separate ideas on their “list” sheet and come back to it as they need a new topic to write about.
We work on sequencing our writing by also using the Informational Writing unit. Deanna & DeeDee include a sheet where the children draw an illustration and write a few words or sentence next to it. We teach the children how to carefully check their steps by acting them out, but if they find that they missed a step or have one in the wrong order, we cut their paper up and tape it back together in the correct sequence (or add in the missing step).
This is week 5 of our Engaging Young Writers book study and I think this is my favorite chapter yet! Here are the questions for this week:
I am very fortunate in that I am allowed to have dramatic play (we call them Discovery Centers) for 15-20 minutes at the end of EACH school day. I have 14 different centers that my students can choose from ranging from the more traditional home-living center to our Dash & Dot and iPad centers. I find that it is SO important for my students to experience this learning time.
In my home-living area, at the beginning of the school year, the props are related to “playing house” (plates, cups, stove, sink, etc.). As we learn about community helpers, we change out the props to reflect that. We are also to bring in more literacy. We’ve already had a pizzeria, where my students were able to take orders and “send” them to the chef for baking. We also take phone orders and have a walk up window, so there are a variety of ways my students can practice taking an order (auditory learning) and then relaying that order (oral language) to the chef.
Currently, we have a bakery. Again, we have a walk up window and my students are having a great time reading the menu and placing their orders. We also have recipes that the children can follow to “bake” their own cupcakes.
Each of these activities had lead to at least 5-7 of my students writing about their experiences in our pizzeria or bakery. They have written about the steps to take and complete and order and they have also renamed both and have written about their own pizzeria and bakery.
I love to use great mentor texts to get my students writing “like authors”. Anything by Lois Elhert is a fan favorite. My students love how she labels EVERYTHING in her books and they notice that is something they are able to do on their own. What a great entry point! We also enjoy reading a fiction and non-fiction pairing so that we can explore the differences between the two. My students are quickly able to discover that they can write a “story” or they can write text that shares information with their readers, giving an entry point for writers in different comfort zones.
Welcome back for the chapter 4 study of Engaging Young Writers!
In this chapter, we start to dig into the differences between Preschool and Kindergarten writing. Preschool writing is much more open ended. The children are invited to engage with writing when and if they feel like doing so. In chapter 4, I liked how Matt Glover engaged with the student in a conversational level to begin with. He did not pressure the student to write when the student seemed very hesitant to put his knowledge of cheetahs on to paper. Over a series of very carefully structured and guided questions, Matt was able to encourage the student to share his knowledge of cheetahs with others. He was happy to share that the student continued to write even after Matt was not in the classroom.
As a seasoned Kindergarten teacher, there are many times when I have writers who do not want to engage in writing. Several this year are reluctant because English is not their native language and they feel as they cannot produce what their English speaking peers are able to do. A few more of my students had not had experience with letters or sounds or even pencils and paper before coming to Kindergarten this year. I have a few writers who were ready to take off on their writing when they came to school this year. Having a wide range of writers makes it a BIG task to figure out how to encourage and engage all my writers to share what they know!
I try very hard to invite my students to share what they know, however big or little knowledge they have about a topic, I want them to share that, because that’s a great starting point! I also try to tie in our studies in Science or Social Studies. Those are great times for my students to share what they know or what they have learned during that time. They can incorporate that into their writing. Usually during our Writer’s Workshop time, I do not have my students write about one specific prompt. During our study of community helpers last month, my students were free to choose to write about what they wanted to, opening us up to a wide variety of topics! The children were able to explore their chosen career through a variety of materials and combine that information with what they learned in class (and their prior knowledge) to write text. They were successful because they were the ones who were able to choose and they were driving their text forward. I provided grammatical and sequential help when conferencing with them, but they took their text in the direction in which they wanted.
Students who finished before others were invited to choose and explore another career or they took their finished text and created a “How-to” text to share with us one part of their community helpers job and the steps necessary to complete it.
As different community helpers came to visit our classroom in the last month, children were also able to take notes during their presentations and learn about another career they may now want to explore.
There were many entry points even for my most reluctant of writers and in the end, each one of my students ended up producing text on their current level. We had several booklets full of illustrations, but it was very clear in those texts that those children had a sequence and you could see their “story” being told. I also had students who produced booklets with sub-headings so they could discuss the different parts of their helpers jobs (tools, transportation, uniform, schooling, etc.).
Join us next week for Chapter 5!
Welcome back for Chapter 3 of our Engaging Young Writer’s book study! I am learning lots of new ideas and “entry points” to help even my most reluctant writers catch and keep the writing bug.
Here are the questions for this week:
My school is an IB World School, so we are often looking at our studies from a global perspective (that can include our school; outside our 4 walls, our community, city, state, country, and world). One of my favorite studies this time of year is learning about where our food comes from. Each one of my students pick their favorite food providing animal, “research it” (through different resources; in print, online, talking with experts, etc.) and then write a booklet about it to share their learning with others. This activity is always a great entry point for my reluctant writers; they love to pick their favorite farm animal to learn more about it.
To add a twist to this writing activity this year, we are also going to participate in a barnyard related performance for our families. Each classroom is going to pick a farm animal, learn all about it through research, and share that learning with their families during this performance. They will also create small paintings of our chosen animal and we will “auction” them off for $5-$10 each to their families. The money we collect will go towards purchasing the animal we studied about for a family through Heifer International. My students will have several entry points during this activity to share their knowledge! In addition, we will also visit a dairy farm and our state fair grounds to learn more about these farm animals and see them in real life!
Although we will choose an animal to write about as a class, my students will have the opportunity each and every day to become an expert on one (or more) of these animals. They can choose to create and start a new booklet whenever they choose to move on to the next animal, or they can create more complex, in-depth texts about one animal.
This will look very different for each of my writers because we have a wide range of skill levels! Some children will write a book using only illustrations, some will include illustrations and beginning or ending sounds. Some will make lists and my higher students will have 1-3 sentences per page in their booklets.
We will include our books in our Informational Text/Research Writing unit and work on them for 4-6 weeks as we continue to gather more information through our whole group, small group, and field trip studies.
Welcome to the Engaging Young Writers book study! We are happy to have you here. Leave us a comment with your reflections. 🙂 We welcome reflections at anytime, even if we are on to the next chapters. 🙂
I went in search of a book to help make my conferring conferences better with my Kindergarten students. During one of our past #teacherfriends chat, DeeDee Wills suggested the book Engaging Young Writers to me as a way to make my conferences more meaningful.
I read it and liked it so much I shared it during a #teacherfriends chat. So many people were interested in the book topic that some friends and I decided to do a book study about it!
Starting Monday, February 15th, we will be posting questions for discussion from the book here. Each Monday, we will post new questions and you can respond here (or on any of our blogs) with your reflections.
Its an easy read (and easy on the wallet too–just under $12!), so if you would like to read with us, order your copy now. 🙂
We are super excited! Be sure to order your copy and read with us! 😉