Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Small Moments

At the half way point for the first nine weeks, Writers' Workshop is in full bloom in Chets Creek Kindergartens. By this time of year each child has published his first piece and most classes have enjoyed their first Publishing Party! Each family has helped the little author decorate a folder of favorite things. These folders (as seen below) act as a list of topics that children care about and can write about. You never hear, "I don't have anything to write about," because teachers just remind students to look at their writing folder covers for ideas! Children self select writing topics each day.On the back of each folder (see below), teachers include an alphabet list. It is not unusual to see children turn their folders to the back and quietly say the ABCs to figure out what a letter looks like or to match a sound. This strategy for figuring out a letter has been taught in a mini-lesson
You might also see students look at the alphabet chart on the wall that is part of an every day ritual of shared reading to find a letter, word or sound. The children are free to go up to the chart and find what they need. They also use the word wall for letters and for the first sight words that have been posted and the color chart that has all the color words. Once words are up in the classroom, children are expected to use those resources when they need a specific word, letter or sound. Mini-lessons have been taught to help students internalize these strategies.

Children are free to choose the type of paper they want to use to write. Some children prefer story paper where they have a place for a picture and a place for writing. Some children prefer a single blank page and others prefer a booklet. All of the different types of paper have been introduced during mini-lessons and children know the routine for getting paper when they need it. At this time of year some children are still telling their stories through drawing pictures and are being encouraged to add details to their pictures that match their story. Others are using pictures and a letter string to represent the words. When you ask them to "read" what they have written, they "tell" the story and will sometimes point to the letters although there is no relationship between the words they are saying and the letters they have written. They don't always tell the story with exactly the same words. Still others are beginning to s-t-r-e-t-c-h the words they want to write and are writing the sounds that they hear. A few children are even beginning to use spaces between words. The longest "story" at this time of year is only a couple of sentences. Some children use three or four sheets of paper to tell their small moment in pictures and words (as seen in the 4-page story above)!

Teachers have had mini-lessons on taking a small moment to write about instead of telling everything that you did from the time you got up until you went to bed. The lessons are taken from Lucy Calkins' Units of Study for Primary Writing. These units will guide much of the Kindergarten design for these young writers this year.

During the independent writing time, the teacher goes around and confers with students. In the picture at the right bottom, the entire table is listening to the point that the teacher is making for a single student. The idea is not to just make a single piece better for a single child but to teach the writer something that they can use today and forever more. These youngsters take writing seriously because their teachers take it seriously. The teachers realize the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing and can tell as much from analyzing writing as they can from listening to a child read. These amazing authors have so many great stories to tell!

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