You may find, as I have, that our student writers often fall into two categories - those who love to write stories, and those who love to write the facts, and just the facts, ma'am!
As we move through our ABC Book unit of study in kindergarten, we are beginning to see some of the writers, who were as yet unable to produce a cohesive narrative in our previous units, find their writing groove on the pages of their ABC books. Perhaps it is a right brain-left brain sort of thing, but I do believe that writers tend to gravitate toward the kinds of writing that align with the way they think along a fiction/nonfiction continuum. Or maybe it's just that writing a word and illustrating that word with just one picture is more in line with where our young writers are developmentally!
I don't think the reason really matters. What does matter in a great big way is how we use the newly discovered evidence of ability and feelings of confidence that these previously reluctant writers exhibit- and compliment the heck out them!! I remember Lucy Calkins once telling us that in the writer's conference, the teacher should give the student a compliment as big as a paragraph!! There is no overstating the importance of finding what each writer does well and making that a very big deal. This is what builds in a writer the knowledge that he or she can do this! When I taught 3rd and 4th graders, I was often frustrated by some of those students' total lack of self-confidence, their feelings of inability and ineffectiveness as writers.
For every one of those students who struggle to compose, teachers need to watch like hawks for the smallest craft moves and give them the longest, sincerest compliments possible! That is the kind of instructional support that builds a student's belief in himself or herself as a writer.
Below is one of our most reluctant writer's ABC book in progress. He often cried when we were working on our earlier narrative units, and his work was very rudimentary - even with lots of support and side-by-side teaching.
Next, is the work of another writer who struggled with our earlier narrative units. His writing often involved entire pages covered in random drawings that seemed to have no connection to each other.
What I absolutely love about this writer's ABC book is the attention to detail that he is showing toward his writing and illustrations, and the single idea that he is able to maintain throughout each day's workshop. His work is neat and organized and informative!!
And, so, as I have seen before in my experiences in working with elementary age writers, just when you think you've done everything you can to help a writer move forward, with little success - change up the mode! Try giving that reluctant writer a different kind of work. You will probably be happily surprised and your young writer will discover his or her voice!
Never give up!
Next time I will share with you some of the results we got when we invited students to try using more than one word on each letter page of their ABC book. We showed a video that had alliterative phrases using the letters of the alphabet - "An army of ants". We encouraged our writers to try their hand at choosing two words to illustrate their letter. We further suggested that they choose word pairs that might be nonsensical and make their readers laugh!
Tune in next week and see how some of our writers really stepped up to that challenge!