With these words, Mr. Henry Ford captured the importance of attitude and it's impact on our successes, and, unfortunately, our failures. You know me well enough by now to know that I teach from the absolute certain belief that "they", our student writers, can do anything and everything we ask of them. So, every time I plan a lesson or a unit, I believe "they can do this"! I believe that if you can adopt this mindset in your own practice, you will see immediate changes in the attitudes of your students. Believing in is contagious and self-fulfilling. :)
So, this week we started a new unit in kindergarten. The classroom teacher and I met and talked about what her kindergarten writers needed to be working on as we approach the end of the first semester. So far, we have completed three units of study - Launching the Writing Workshop, Author Study (Eric Carle), and Kindergarten ABC Book. After the intense attention we paid to letter and word writing in the ABC Book unit, she decided that the students needed to move on to writing sentences.
I researched our required standards and began looking for a mentor text. My search focused on finding a text that was accessible, a story line that the students could emulate because the context of the story exists in their world. I found I Went Walking, by Sue Williams, illustrated by Julie Vivas (1989, New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin). It is a very simple pattern book in the same easy was as Bill Martin, Jr.'s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1996, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR); Brdbk edition). In fact, we will be using that book as a companion exemplar text in this unit.
I am so thankful for my collaborating kindergarten teacher and her expertise as we move through this year. She intuitively knows what skills her students need and at what point in our curriculum we should target them. If I haven't said it lately, teaching kindergarten writers is an instructional experience like no other!! Writing instruction is spiral in nature. Just as the writing process is recursive, so is the instructional scope of lesson planning. But in kindergarten, there is another layer. It is like the part of building a home where you just stare at the land and imagine what you can create there. It requires vision because, initially, it is a blank landscape. Full of potential, but as yet unmarked. Thank goodness I have the benefit of a seasoned colleague. She understands what these young writers need to master, she can already see the "house on the land". Together, we are laying down the foundation.
So, back to our unit. After we introduced our mentor text and talked about telling a story using words and sentences, we spent some time looking at both grammatical pieces. The teacher led the students in identifying sentences by capital letters and end punctuation. She had them count words; they noticed the spaces between words; they talked about the difference between letters and words. It was very thorough and methodical. And exactly what the students needed before even beginning to compose their ideas.
Kindergarten Pattern Book
Lesson 1 - Introducing the Mentor Text
Objective The objective of this unit is to begin encouraging students to write sentences to go along with their illustrations, using capital letters, phonetic spelling for words not on the word wall, and end punctuation.
Materials I Went Walking, Sue Williams, illus. Julie Vivas
Connect Tell students that writers who want to tell a story put their ideas into sentences so that readers can understand what the writer is trying to say. And, unlike their last book, the Kindergarten ABC book, this new writing work will be about putting words together to make those sentences.
Teach Introduce the mentor text for this unit. I am using I Went Walking, written by Sue Williams and illustrated by Julie Vivas as our touchstone text. Choose a book that is simple enough for the kindergarten writers to be able to use as a model. Read the book and highlight the sentences the author uses.
- Write the first sentence on the board. Tell the students that there are three words in the sentence. (or however many are in the text you choose to use)
- Point out that the first word has an uppercase letter.
- Point out that there is a period at the end of the sentence.
- Point out the spaces between the words.
To review, ask the students how many words are in the sentence. (3) Ask them how many letters are in the sentence. Choose a student to count along with you. (12)
- Write the second sentence on the board. Ask the students how many words are in the sentence. (4) Count them together as you point to each word.
- Ask the students what kind of letter begins the first word. (uppercase W)
- Ask the students what is at the very end of the sentence. (question mark - end mark)
- Point out the spaces between the words.
Repeat with the last sentence.
That is the pattern of this book. It is repeated until the end of the story, when the pattern changes.
Active Engagement Go over the sentences on the board a few more times, each time asking students to tell you the number of words, letters, sentences, end marks, etc. Talk about how each sentence is a complete idea - there is a subject (who) and something happens or a question is asked or an answer is told (what).
Link Tell students that the author, Sue Williams, was so careful to tell her story in complete sentences so that they, the readers, would understand what she was trying to tell them. Remind them that all writers do that work - telling things in complete sentences that include three or more words, have uppercase letters at the beginning, and have punctuation marks at the end.
Share There was no share portion of this lesson as it was mainly instructional to make sure that the students understood the mechanics of sentence-writing.
Assessment There was no formal or informal assessment of this lesson.
Williams, S. (1989). I Went Walking. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin
Each day we reviewed letters, words, spaces, and sentences with the students. And by the second day, we asked them to begin to think about their own stories in their journals. We ended the week with a lesson on describing words using the text, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I hope next time to share more of those lessons with you and to have some pictures of our student writers' work!
Until then, remember that writing instruction and writing itself are like anything else in life. Attitude counts for so much. And believing - in yourself, in your students, in your teaching - will transform your classroom.
Have a great writing week!