Um, not so much this weekend!!
I'm pretty sure all of you who are reading this probably lived through the same storm. Wasn't it spectacular? Much of the day yesterday, I felt like the storm was out of control. Heavy-handed with bursts of snow. Random gusts of wind that made no sense and were inconsistent. Strong on one day, then kind of voiceless for a while overnight, before charging forward again with even more energy the next day.
It was easy to feel powerless under the weight of those millions of flakes. They were falling so fast, it was difficult to manage. But, if you went out every hour or so and kept a small path clear so your dog could go out or you could get to your car, you felt a little better. The storm could be managed, in small pieces. And that was enough.
(You know where I'm going with this, right?)
Last week in kindergarten, we spent some time completing our quarterly writing assessment prior to the end of this semester. After that, we went back to our pattern book unit of study. Remember that the week before, we introduced our mentor text, I Went Walking, by Sue Williams. We had asked the students to do some pre-writing work in their journals before beginning the picture book. On Thursday, we gave the students a piece of paper with large handwriting lines on the bottom and drawing space at the top. We asked them to draft a page using the pattern, "I went walking.", and then write what they saw and draw the accompanying illustration.
With the snow storm predicted and school already closed for Friday before we even left school on Thursday, I dashed to the kindergarten room and grabbed journals and the drafts the writers had worked on that day. I knew I would have plenty of opportunity to spend time with this work over the weekend.
I decided to start with the journals. I'll be honest, as I opened journal after journal and saw the students' attempts...I was a little broken. Even our stronger writers seemed to struggle. There were many journals that had no legible words or sentences. No hints of our pattern sentence, either in pictures or words. My heart dropped and I felt a little panicky. Was I expecting too much from kindergarten writers? Had I done them a disservice by setting them loose in their journals to complete an assignment with limited teacher oversight? Was I losing precious instructional time with young writers who needed more structure to make progress with standards and curriculum??
And then I pulled out their draft pages.
And I couldn't believe my eyes.
They were beautiful! Most of the pieces were neat, legible, with spaces between words, and capital letters, and illustrations that matched text!!! Many had correct punctuation. These were the skills we taught! These were the mechanics of writing that we wanted our writers to concentrate on so that their readers could understand their stories!
I could even see where many of the students had used an idea from their journals in the page they drafted for their books. See a few examples below. I am including examples from students who have struggled mightily to get any message on the page so far this year as well as work from stronger students who you can see were not as clear in their journals.
And, just like that snowstorm, much of the journal writing will be out of our control! That is as it should be. If the writers are writing, just a little bit of management will be enough. We had to be patient in the storm; we were content to keep a little path clear. We knew that the energy from the storm was not directed by us.
I think working with kindergarten writers feels a lot like that!
Be patient. Sit side by side and notice what they're doing. But understand that the writer is in control. Not the teacher. When their invented spelling seems heavy handed, and their bursts of ideas seem random and inconsistent, and even when they are voiceless, be small in your attempts to fix or direct. It will be enough.
Have a great writing week!