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.
Handwriting: 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.”
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.