Learning to Write

In the Kindergarten classroom, our approach to reading and writing development emphasizes oral language through storytelling, drawing and illustration skills, writing, and a love and appreciation of literature from a variety of genres and cultures. This is combined with more skill-based activities designed to help children make sense of the world of letters, sounds, and words. Children learn to read through their writing and to write through their reading; we know from research and experience that the two are connected. Through their individual work, children show teachers their mastery and what instructional steps need to follow.

Learning to Write: Our Writing curriculum is based on Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe’s book Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers and consists of multiple activities designed to help children build the skills they need to become expressive, confident, eager writers.

man_talking.jpgHandwriting: We use a program called Handwriting Without Tears that teaches young children how to form letters and numbers with proper grip and with improved efficiency and consistency. In combination with learning letter formation, children practice letter sounds and writing new words. Handwriting is frequently taught within Morning Meeting, Reading Workshop, or Choice Time/Literacy Centers and utilizes wooden letter pieces, play-doh, chalkboards, and magic boards, as well as markers and pencils.

The early and ongoing basis for Writing Workshop is storytelling and the genre of personal narrative (a precursor to memoir in the upper grades). In the JK classroom, storytelling and storyacting is a yearlong focus. We select books to read that will help us connect with mentor authors who tell stories based on their own life experiences; this includes both adult authors, like Donald Crews, and child authors—kindergartners from former classes. Teachers and children tell stories orally and may even act them out. We focus on aspects of what makes a good story—such as beginning, middle, and end; identifying characters; adding details, developing plot, etc. We also differentiate between “true stories” (personal narratives) and “fictional stories” (fantasy). Our first kindergarten homework assignments are based on storytelling, a timeless art celebrated by cultures all over the world.

Another early basis for Writing Workshop is learning to draw. During Sketching and Drawing Lessons, we explore line, shape, color, perspective, backgrounds, etc. and give specific lessons on how to draw people and objects step-by-step. We build children’s confidence and enjoyment of observation and illustration techniques and learn from mentor illustrators whose styles are interesting and recognizable. Illustration is a valued and celebrated part of our writing curriculum. Pictures are children’s first method of recording a story, and children’s’ Sketchbooks and Drawing and Writing Books are our first classroom experiences with “writing.”

Samiyah-Writing.pngOver time, children develop their storytelling, handwriting, and drawing skills. Children also learn much about how letters make words from shared reading, interactive writing activities (e.g. making signs for the classroom), and skills they practice in Reading Workshop and Choice Time. Teachers meet with individual or small groups of children to assist in the process. By January, we add a new format—booklets—for recording our stories “that have lots of parts.” (Drawing and Writing Books remain a choice for the whole year.) This is a very exciting time for our writing community! As children amass a body of writing, reflecting on their work and selecting a piece to publish in a beautiful format becomes a highlight of their school year.