KinderGals: Writer's Workshop: All Kids Can Write

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Writer's Workshop: All Kids Can Write

When I am at a conference and I ask teachers, "Can ALL kids write?", I get some who say 'yes' and some who say 'no'. Which is the right answer? The way we answer the question depends on our own schema--what do we think writing IS? If we think writing is putting letters, words or even sentences down on paper, then no, most young children can not write. But, if we say writing is  the way we convey meaning on a piece of paper, then yes, all kids can write!
Here is my thinking:
Children convey meaning in one of three ways:
  • They can draw a picture and all of the meaning comes from the picture. This includes the scribbles that the child says, this is my house!
  • They can draw a picture and use meaningful letters to label things in their picture. This is when the child puts an H by their house.
  • They can draw a picture and convey a complete thought their text.  (Non-kindergarten teachers probably couldn't read this! haha) This is when the child writes, ILMIHOS. (I love my house.)
We teach writing through writer's workshop. Writer's workshop is when we teach kids the craft of writing. You could say it like this, "In writer's workshop kids learn to write. At other times of the day (math, centers, science, social studies), kids write to learn! Writer's Workshop is the time we teach kids what writer's do, what it looks like to be a writer.
The structure of the workshop is: mini lesson, application, and share.  During the 10 minute mini lesson, the teacher uses this format:
  • Connect: "Remember yesterday when we..." This is where you remind the children what you did yesterday.
  • Teach: "Today I am going to show you...  Let me show you what I mean." This is where you tell the children the new thing you are going to teach them. Then, you model by sharing your thinking and showing the children what it looks like when a writer does this new thing.
  • Active Engagement: "Now, let me see you try." This is where, right there on the rug, the children practice this new thing writer's do.
  • Link: "Remember boys and girls, today and everyday, good writers..." This is where we remind them of what we just learned.
This is the anchor chart that we use to teach kids that ALL kids can write.  To use this as an anchor chart, cover it with black paper. As you teach each lesson, lower the black paper to reveal that part of the chart.
This is my friend Amanda. She taught 5th grade for LOTS of years before finally making that move to kindergarten! This is her first year in K, and she is fabulous! I taught her daughter in kindergarten, so, when Amanda made the move to K, she called me and invite me to come to her room. Yesterday, she tackled the lesson on "Writer's can tell their story by drawing a picture." She modeled drawing a picture from her daughter's birthday party that had taken place over the weekend. She then had children share ideas (active engagement) of stories they could write by drawing a picture.
Now it was time to send the kids out to write.  During application time, each child is working. As the year progresses and you do  mini lessons, some children will be able to apply the mini lesson while others may not have reached that point and others are beyond that point. It is the easiest way to differentiate your instruction!
Here are some examples of writing from her kids yesterday.  As I was walking around, I asked them, "What is your story?"  That seemed to get a better response than if I said, "Tell me about your picture." I should have written down what they said, but I didn't. I can't remember their exact words, but they each told me great stories.

As I approached this boy, he had not started working. I asked him what story was he going to tell with his picture, to which he replied, "I don't have a story."  When I asked him about his weekend, he told me all about going to his grandma's. I said, "I think you have a great story." He got right to work! We want kids to see that their stories are the everyday things that happen in their lives. Sometimes they are big things like parties, but sometimes they are simple things like riding a bike or playing a game with siblings.
Instead of moving on to "Writers can write letters.", we begin teaching kids just how to brainstorm all of those everyday simple things.  While we are doing this series of lessons, the kids will continue to draw pictures to tell their stories.  You may have some who are ready to label pictures before you get to that mini lessons. Feel free to conference with those children about labeling during this application time.
On the yellow anchor chart above, you brainstorm your ideas and write them on post it notes and add them to your chart. Or, you can do like Megan is doing and write them right onto a piece of chart paper.  It takes us 6 days to cover this chart!!!!  Here's the sequence:
Day one talk about favorite people.
Day two make a list of favorite people.
Day three talk about favorite things.
Day four...
During the active engagement part of the mini lesson what are the children doing? They do what ever you modeled. On the days that you talk about your favorite people, they can turn and talk to their partner about their favorite people. On the days that you make a list of your favorite people, they make a list of their favorite people.
These three samples were all from the same day in my kindergarten class.  I love how different they are. Each child is at a different stage in their ability to deal with actual text, but they ALL mastered the concept of making a list of favorites. (Can you read it?) 
In Megan's room, she places sheet protectors in the prongs of the writing folder. Then, the children can place their brainstorming charts right inside of those protectors. I love this. When she moves to another genre of writing, she can invite the children to remove those brainstorming charts and add new charts to match the new genre! Genius!
After finishing that sequence of lessons, we learn that good writers are always adding to their list of ideas.  I made these simple charts that we can use to help us generate new ideas we might add to our lists. You may wan to copy the charts in color and place just a few in each area.
 Or, like Megan, you can photocopy them in black and white and have the children add them to their page protectors.
So what is the answer to the question, "Can all kids write?"  ABSOLUTELY! Happy Writing!
The anchor charts, list papers, and charts of favorites are in this unit.
Or in this bundle:

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