It's what it takes.
What we are trying to build in our classroom is excitement, a culture of enthusiasm wherein these kindergarten writers see writing as an opportunity for exploration and expression. How do we do that? And, more importantly, how do we extend it beyond this writing, beyond this unit, beyond even this year?
That's what we are trying to figure out! :) In our classroom, the teacher and I ask each other, "What next?" all the time. I rely on her multi-year kindergarten teacher's expertise when it comes to curricular and developmental expectations. She relies on my multi-year writing teacher's expertise when it comes to growing the habits of mind and building the classroom community that will produce students who think like writers.
We both agree that whatever is next - next minute, next day, next week, next unit - must be engaging and transferrable. The engaging parts are those parts that include lots of energy, creativity, and exploration. The fun that keeps the kindergarten writers so excited they can hardly sit still. The transferrable parts are the thinking and the process parts - that knowledge and those skills that will follow them from this writing to the next. From this year to the next.
So, when we went on our writing field trip, our goals were twofold. First, we wanted the student writers to go out, look at the world around them, notice some things, and then capture those things in their sketchbooks. We are going to ask the students to go back to their sketches to remember what they saw on their field trip when we write our pattern book starting this coming week.
But, second, we wanted to begin to build in our young writers' minds the habit of keeping a notebook (or sketchbook) in which to enthusiastically record what they notice in their lives - passing blue cars, fluffy-tailed squirrels, shifting shadows. And later, hopefully, they will use their notebooks to begin to capture the stories of their lives with words, just as descriptive and oh, so, important to hold onto. Noticing is a verb. It requires purpose, attention, and, yes, energy! We want to encourage our student writers to look at the world around them with eyes that actively see. With energy!
I brought the students' sketchbooks home with me this weekend, and I have been looking through them this morning. Some sketches are so brief and without detail, I will be interested to see if the writer remembers what he or she saw based on the drawings. Others included extensive picture details, some letter labels, and even some word labels. Our next lesson will be to go into our notebooks and choose two or three ideas to include in our picture book.
Our mission is to maintain the energy level for this project. We can't go on field trips every day...but we want our writers to clutch their sketchbooks and pencils with both hands, keep those smiles on their faces, wriggle and shift in their seats and WANT to write every day!
We want all elementary school writers to be enthusiastic and eager to explore their lives and the world through writing. Let's get it started in kindergarten!
Have a great writing week!