- Where Do Writers Sit? Why Do Writers Write?
- Students as Authors
- The Structure of the Writer's Workshop
- Seed Ideas and Experiences
- Supplies and Using Resources Around the Room
- Making a Movie in Your Mind
- Moving Around in the Writer's Workshop
- Adding Details and Telling Stories with Illustrations
- Writing Your Name and Being an Author
- Storytelling Before Writing
- Using Letters and Words to Label Our Pictures
- Adding Details to Our Pictures
We began our Launching the Writer's Workshop unit of study by using a simple routine: Read Aloud, Minilesson, Writing/Conferencing time. The simplicity of this routine worked well with the kindergartners, and in one short month they learned what the expectations were and more than met them!
We also gave the writers complete autonomy to start and finish their books as they saw fit. The result? Red writing folders filled with papers!! Many writers thought they should begin a new piece each day; and they LOVED the idea of making books. We were delighted with their energy and encouraged their writing enthusiasm. Lots of our conferences centered around nudging the students to tell their stories, if only verbally, as being "about" something and having a beginning, middle, and end.
Finally, at the end of last week, when we had taught our last minilesson of the unit, we cleaned out the students' folders (saving them in a separate file folder) and gave them a fresh, blank picture book. We read The Best Story Ever, by Eileen Spinelli and asked them to think of a new story from their lives. We told them that they were going to work on this one story for a whole week! And we sent them off to write...
And write they did!!! Asking these young writers to stay focused on one story and one picture book across three to four days was wildly optimistic :) Each day we asked them to try to add details to their illustrations; to the kindergartner author that direction translated to just adding more "everything" to the pages they had already drawn or written.
So, we got a lot of books full of color, characters, letters, some words, and scribbles. But...and this is big...we also found that a handful of our writers got it! They were ready for this! They attended to one story, across several days, and added details to existing illustrations without filling the pages with just "more"!
How do we do this? And where do we go from here? Good questions :) Remember, we are not following any program or prewritten curriculum as we plan our instruction. We are simply learning about how our students tell their stories, about where they are developmentally as writers, about our objectives and goals for their learning this year, and about best practices in elementary writing instruction. That's all!
So, I think we are going to move into an author study next. And I think we are going to invite Mr. Eric Carle into our classroom as our mentor author. All children love Eric Carle's books - his stories are accessible and his illustrations are bold and colorful. We are going to start with The Very Hungry Caterpillar - reading it, studying the pictures and words, and using it as a model for our own picture books. I believe in the practice of using mentor texts because it gives students who are less ready to independently tell a story the opportunity to compose their own version of a story without having to come up with all of the context. I have used this teaching practice with first graders (also using Eric Carle as the mentor author) all the way up to fourth graders (using Judith Schachner's Skippyjon Jones books as mentor texts).
So, now, I am off to write some lessons. I may try to post a few mid-week, so you might check for a new blog post Wednesday.
A final thought...we want to constantly be nudging our writers to think of their own lives as full of stories to tell. With older students, I would encourage them to keep a writer's notebook in which to record their seed stories for future writing opportunities. However, with these little ones, I did not think that would work. I thought and thought about it and wondered how I could downsize the idea and still maintain its value. And then I had an epiphany :)
At the Joan Oates Institute this past summer, I learned how to make "zines", small paper blank books within which writers can write pretty much anything! So, I made 18 little zines for our writers. We took the students on a "field trip" to look at leaves and then we came back to the writer's workshop carpet and talked about how we didn't have time to write the story of our wonderful field trip right them, but couldn't we draw a little sketch to remind ourselves to write the story sometime later? I modeled drawing a leaf and some birds and a few small stick students in my little zine - all components of the story I would write later on. The students were so excited! So, we gave them their writer's notebooks and sent them off to their weekends, asking them to sketch just one little picture of something they could write a story about one day. I can't wait to see what sketches come back on Monday!