And I say, "Ugh" only because the guidelines for assessing writers who don't yet use letters and words is so nebulous and unintuitive. These hard-working writers are composing narratives, make no mistake. And their classroom teacher and I have watched them as they have developed their stories. For their first quarter writing assessment, she sat with every writer and listened to each one dictate with consistency and detail the story captured on the paper.
Where I teach, the state standard for kindergarten writing reads:
The student will "draw pictures and/or use letters and phonetically spelled words to write about experiences."
The Department of Education goes on to specify in the Teacher Notes, "beginning writings may include drawings, letter strings, scribbles, letter approximations, and other graphic representations, as well as phonetically spelled words."
Importantly, the essential understanding of the standard is that kindergartners "understand that their writing serves a variety of purposes."
These kindergartners do understand! The get it!
So, that brings us back to assessment. While our district does adjust the score expectation for first quarter kindergarten writing, the students are still marked down for not including any letters, scribble-writing, or phonetically spelled words. Just because they don't know or use them yet. This bothers me when our writers are writing such rich, detailed compositions using drawings. Stories that they can read to us with consistency across days and even weeks. I believe that ability meets the criteria for having written a story. The story resides within the storyteller. If she or he can represent the narrative on paper with drawings and/or letters and words, that is writing!
And even as we adhere to district requirements for scoring, we know in our hearts, and we say to these kindergartners every single day - You Are Writers!!!
We watch each writer read his or her story, and we see and hear:
*beginning, middle, end
*the writing is about something
*there is an idea and it is organized
*Voice. Voice. Voice.
Please do not forget - this is Kindergarten. In October. Wow!!
But...no word choice, no sentence fluency, no usage and mechanics. There are no words. Just a lovely story told through drawing and dictation.
I know that at the end of the day, a first quarter writing assessment score will be followed by so many future scores and grades that it will never, not now or ever, define this writer.
Nor any of them.
Maybe that's what I've been trying to say all along. While we do have to administer state and district assessments, with required rubrics and standard expectations, we know in our teachers' hearts that our student writers are more. So. Much. More.
If we look into our writers' drawings and listen to their spoken words, we know the truth.