KinderGals: Teaching Writing—Do you give a topic or not?

Search This Blog

Monday, October 29, 2012

Teaching Writing—Do you give a topic or not?

Here's the question...should we assign kids topics to write about or let select their own topics? In this post I will share my thinking about this question. Here's what I think, In writer's workshop, kids learn to write. This means they learn the process, the craft of writing. They learn what writers do. In other content areas, science, social studies, math, etc., kids write to learn. This means that during these times, kids are using writing as a way to demonstrate understanding of a concept taught. Read on to see what this looks like in a classroom.
I  hung out in Kath’s room for 3 days, so I have lots to share. First of all, how many kids do you have in your room? Kath has over 30 first grades, maybe 32 or 34, who could tell with that many bodies in one room! But, she is doing great things with those little firsties and they are super sweet!
So one of the things we worked on was writing. Here’s the question? Do you assign a topic for kids to write about or do you allow them to write about whatever they want? My take is this…you can only assign a topic that you have provided the schema development for and there needs to be plenty of time for self selected topics as well.
Here are some of the samples from where Kath assigned a topic. They have been learning about animal habitats and watched a video about backyard habitats.
Did ya’ll read any of the posts from the book study this summer using the Katie Wood Ray book, “In Pictures and In Words”? Now that I’ve read that book, whenever I look at writing samples I pay more attention to the pictures to see which of the techniques they are using. While it was often difficult to find the time to read the book and do the posts, it was totally worth it! I do recommend that book.
Each morning as they come in, Kath has a question about their science or social studies unit. She puts it on her smart board and adds a mini word wall below that has some of the vocabulary words they are learning. These are the words that they might use to answer the question. The important thing here is that, she has provided the schema for the topic! After being in her room I am ready to beg, borrow, buy, or steal…well maybe not steal…a smart board for Megan’s room! I loved it!
See the picture on the left? That piece was done by a little boy that didn’t speak any English at the beginning of the year! When I asked him to tell me about his illustration (I was curious about the red on the back of the hippo) he told me that the hippo has “seasoning” on his back. I asked him to help me out, that I wasn’t quite sure why a hippo would have seasoning on their back, and could he explain it to me. He said, “Well, you know hippos like the water. When he gets in the water, part of his back doesn’t go under the water. When the sun shines on him, he get seasoning!” Oh my word, I wanted to laugh! That is why I love little kiddos! I did tell him that I think the word he was looking for is sunburn, but his story made my day!
On Mondays, her kiddos use this Weekend Update journal. Kath found this on tpt.  It is by Christine Statzel called A Year of Weekend Updates. Here is her store:
This serves the same purpose as my Monday Journals. On Mondays, instead of writing in their regular journal, I have them write in their Monday Journals. This makes a great way to see the growth that your children make throughout the year. I don’t give them any help in this journal, so it is a true picture of what they can do independently. Here is another post that I wrote about Journals.
Pin It!


School Sparks Renee said...

Wow! It looks like Kath is doing an amazing job. Her writing prompts are great, and I love that she adds the mini word wall underneath. I agree that it is a good idea to give kids chances to follow writing prompts and also write on their own. Renee

Busy Bees said...

Love your entry on writing. For the most part, I give my kids a writing prompt. We always do a guided writing lesson each day over this prompt. I think it allows kids to get so many ideas of what to write about with this given topic. It is usually based around themes we are working on in class. Every now and then I allow them choice time...

Andrea G said...

Figured I'd chime in with my class size- 28 4 year olds full day with no assistant. The first day of school I had 54! Then the next day another teacher arrived but talk about pure insanity!

Kim and Megan said...

Oh my word! Andrea, you win the first day survival award!

Pin It button on image hover

Receive All Free Updates Via Facebook.