Saturday, July 27, 2013

Writing in Kindergarten

Inquiry question: What does writing look like in a play-based kindergarten classroom?

This is a question that many Kindergarten teachers struggle with! In a play-based classroom, finding evidence of writing, needs to be planned and organized. What does writing look like? This post will look at; the instructional approaches to writing, stages of the writing development and assessment, planning and classroom organization for writing.

Key Instructional Approaches to Writing

It is important that teachers and students write daily in kindergarten.  As stated in the Ontario A Guide to Effective Instruction in Writing, there are 5 approaches to writing that need to be considered when planning for writing - modelled, shared, interactive, guided and independent writing. (pg 1.4)

1.     Modelled writing lessons:  Teacher writes daily (5 minute lessons), providing varied writing. Daily writing helps encourage students to understand that stories matter and helps them make a connection between oral language and written word.  In my experience, sharing my personal stories about my life, my kids, my pets, help children tell their own stories. Who doesn’t want to talk about their cat playing with a live mouse! Note- the lesson can be whole group, small group or one-to-one.
2.     & 3.  Shared/Interactive writing lessons: Allows for children to actively engage in the writing process. They enjoy taking the marker “pen” to write on the chart paper and share what they know. Note- the lesson can be whole group, small group.
4.     Guided writing lessons:  are temporary and in kindergarten will most likely be one-to-one.  You might notice that a student needs immediate guidance about strategies and you can target that learning.
5.     Independent writing: is done throughout the day in play/learning centres.

Writing by the teacher and the students occurs daily in a Kindergarten classroom with different approaches. Early writers need to observe teachers and friends writing in authentic and well-supported ways.

Stages of Development & Assessment

Students move through various stages of writing at various rates. It’s important that teachers understand the stages of the writing in order to plan and assess where their students are, on the development scale. Teachers need to observe and record student’s movement through these stages. Recording the date (students can use a date stamp) and keeping samples of their work to see the growth of a child’s written work is valuable information. Building a writing portfolio is a great way to share students’ progress with families.

Scribbling is writing! 
When working in the kindergarten classroom, I had to explain that scribbling is writing, to students and to adults alike. I also, encouraged the adults, not write on students’ work. I would ask the student to tell me about their story and if I wanted to remember it, I would record it on a post-it note. We also had a list of prompts and questions to ask our writers. For example, “tell me about your picture’ or  “I notice…” We celebrate all stories, including the scribbles!

You can check out the following link for examples of the different stages of writing. We have the stages posted in every primary classroom, which is very similar to the one listed from the website (see below) because it helps to remind everyone involved about the stages of writing.

Once our students are writing independently then we need to observe, record, and conference with each student to help move them along.  "Although conferences appear to be warm, informal conversations, they are in fact highly principled teaching interactions, carefully designed to move writers along learning pathways." -Lucy Calkins

After a block of play/learning time, it’s important to share the writing. Regie Routman talks about whole-class sharing, but you can also have partner sharing.   “I never skip whole-class share in kindergarten…Students just learning to write need and benefit from having their efforts celebrated.” (P. 207 Regie Routman) I usually had a schedule for children to share their writing on a given day, with the whole group. Then the rest of the class participated in partner sharing, taking turns to listen to each other’s stories.

Planning and Organizing a Classroom for Writing

Observing the classroom and where children are in the stages of development will guide the mini-lessons for whole-group, small-group or individuals. These mini-lessons lessons allow for opportunities to introduce, assess, and teach writing concepts.  Planning for writing needs to be intentional and authentic. Multiple opportunities for students to work independently needs to occur daily, so what does that look like? Where is the independent writing? Each of the centres/play/learning areas needs to be carefully organized for writing. Providing multiple opportunities for the Kindergarten team to interact and work with students one-to-one or small group throughout play/learning centres day is vital to a child’s success in writing/learning.

Play/Learning Centre
Materials to Include
Possible Prompts
Writing Centre
- wide variety of paper
-wide variety of writing utensils
- examples of student’s work
-word cards (such as children’s names or words related to theme)
-book binding material – stapler, hole punch
-magnetic letters
-writing folders
-we talked about writing letters in whole group today, would you like to write a letter to someone?
Reading /Library Centre
-paper and pencils
-class-made or individually made student books
-books with variety of formats and content
-I notice in that book you’re reading, that the character writes a letter. Would you like to write a letter to someone?
Science Centre
-paper and pencils
-post-it notes
-student made work
-writing pertaining to ‘watching our tadpoles grow’
- Our tadpoles are growing! How can we document that to be sure?
-I took a photo of you looking at the tadpoles. Let’s make them into a book with writing about what you notice
Block Centre
-paper and pencils
-post-it notes
-I noticed you made a road! There are some writing materials if you’d like to make signs with it.
Math Centre
-paper and pencils
-examples of students work
-How can we make that into a story problem? Let’s write it down.

From: Writing Instruction in Pre-Kindergarten Classrooms: Methods, Considerations, and Practices. Capstone Experience, Sarah Shufelt, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University

In Conclusion

If you plan, organize, provide mini-lessons and tools for writing at the play/learning centres in a play-based kindergarten classroom, you will observe writing everywhere! 

“Young children learn the most important things not by being told but by constructing knowledge

for themselves in interaction with the physical world and other children – and the way they do this

is by playing.” (The Play’s the Thing) 

Bibliography & References

A Guide to Effective Instruction in Writing – Kindergarten to Grade 3- Ontario Education – Excellence for All – 2005

Calkins, Lucy. Units of Study for Primary Writing (K-2). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Jones, Elizabeth & Reynolds, Gretchen. 2011. The Play’s the Thing: Teacher’s Roles in Children’s Play. Teachers College Press

Routman, Regie. 2005. Writing Essentials. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Shufelt, Sarah. Capstone Experience. Writing Instruction in Pre-Kindergarten Classrooms: Methods, Considerations, and Practices. Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.

Stages of Writing -

The above post was written for an AQ Kindergarten course!