Kindergarten Writers Workshop – The Beginning of the Year
Today we just completed our 9th day of our writer’s workshop. I get a lot of questions about our writing workshop model, so I thought I would answer some questions and show you where we are!
How can you teach students to write when they don’t know their letters and sounds?
As a kindergarten teacher, I believe that young writers can compose even without words. I want my students to know they have a story to tell. When they come busting into your classroom to tell you about when they wrecked their bike at home, they have a story to tell. After all… writing is just telling on paper!
If you look at stories like:
- Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie DePaola
- Good Dog Carl, by Alexandria Day
- No, David by David Shannon
You will notice rich stories that are told with little or no words. The illustrations carry the story. Selecting one of these mentor texts would make a perfect mini lesson to show individual students that they are already writers.
So my students begin to tell stories with pictures. Over time, with my explicit instruction, their transcription skills will develop and we will see letters and sounds.
Do you give students a writing prompt during writers workshop?
NEVER! The ability to generate their own topic is part of the writing process. We do not want to skip it.
During writer’s workshop, students self-select a topic to write about. This is not journal prompt writing time. This is not reading response writing time. Writer’s workshop is a time for students to write on the subject of THEIR choice. I may suggest (as the year progresses) that they write in a certain genre, but I rarely insist that they do.
For example: If we are knee-deep in an informational text writing unit, I may request a student write in that genre. Generally, whenever I start a new genre study, the majority of my students just naturally start to write in that genre.
How do you get them to sit and write?
I expect it. I tell my students that the work we do in writers workshop is so important that nothing should distract us from it. We start small and grow from there. We sent aside a block of time for building our writing stamina. The next step is to extend that time each day until my kindergarten class and write for 20-25 minutes independently. This independent writing time is essential in any writing program. When students select their own ideas for writing, they have more energy for that writing piece and the amount of time they will actively write increases.
How often do you do writers workshop?
Everyday. We rarely miss our writing workshop time. So, yes… I give about 170 mini-lessons a year! Each on those lessons has a specific teaching point. It is a meaningful part of the classroom curriculum Iand extends beyond our writing time. t helps to write in full view of your students on a daily basis.
Starting from our first unit in this writer’s workshop model, I make sure to devote time teaching these emerging writers where writers get writing ideas. With each of our units of study, we repeat the brainstorming process and generate possible writing ideas that we jot down on chart paper. Students can refer back to these charts the next time they are stumped on what to write about in their own writing. Here are a few modeled lessons where we were talking about where writers get ideas.
True story! I broke my arm when I was in grade school… or as one of my kiddos pointed out “in the olden days.” I am not really sure how old he thinks I am!
This was modeling how you can write from a memory. This was my memory of flying kites with the Perfect Son at the beach when he was little… sigh… (don’t get me started… I miss that boy.)
Kindergarten Writing Samples
Here are a few student samples to show you the progress we have made in just a short time.
Then a week later (same student wrote this during writers workshop.)
Her writing on 8/28 is much more focused and clear. She is even starting to write some sounds by using the alphabet chart. I am not in a hurry to have letters on the page. I am more interested in having them work on telling their story and making the meaning clear to the reader.
Here is another student writing sample
His writing has also improved in clarity. He has written some letters at the top (on the 8/29 piece). But they appear to be just random strings of letters. That is AWESOME! He knows letters mean something! That is progress too!
This leads up to a segment I like to call… “I Spy Spidy!”
It appears that Spiderman is a creeper in each of his drawings! NOTE: I did not include them all!
Showing growth in writing takes time. I have heard it compared to watching a tree grow. You can’t force it to grow.
However, I am confident if I provide the opportunity and nurture the process, growth will happen. You can learn more about our writing with emergent writers. It includes over 160 writing mini-lessons that will take your students where they are and turn them into phenomenal writers by the end of the year.
LOOKING FOR PRINT AND TEACH WRITING LESSONS?
Deanna Jump and I have created simple, yet powerful daily lesson plans to teach writers workshop. We have taken the guesswork out of your instruction.
Each unit is carefully planned out.