Each day spent in my classroom is a day filled with adventure, fun, blessings, and most of all learning. Watching little minds grow and blossom as they engage in new experiences is perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching in my classroom. Writing specifically has been, and continues to be, an exciting journey.
I am fortunate to work in the small mountain community of Alleghany county. This is the place where everyone knows each other, and where families work hard to provide for their children. Teaching in a rural area has its advantages as well as disadvantages. Unfortunately this means that some of our students come to us from low economic households, and have never had the advantage of a bookshelf filled with books appropriate for them. They haven’t been read to, or had the opportunity to explore print. They haven’t been immersed in rich literacy experiences thus putting them at a disadvantage to early reading and literacy.
Our class is made up of children with many different abilities and learning styles. We have 11 students, 5 of them have an identified area of need and a current IEP. The other 6 are typically developing 4 year olds. We have 2 children that are biracial, and 9 Caucasian students, with a mix of 4 boys and 7 girls. Each child in my classroom has the potential to become a great writer, and they practice this skill daily in their own way.
Teaching 4 year olds to write in my classroom is a lot like teaching them to ride a bike. I can’t just hand them a pencil and say write, just like I can’t hand them a helmet and say ride. There is a process and detailed steps that must accompany those directions. They have to learn what it means to write. In understanding this they have to learn how to hold a pencil, and use refined hand and wrist movements to make a mark on their paper. They have to be confident that their scribbles on the paper convey meaning. They have to be told that their thoughts and words are important. Teaching them to write involves a multi step process. After they have learned how to turn their thoughts into scribbled words on paper we find that their knowledge of the alphabet begins to come to play. As they are learning the alphabet they are learning to produce these letter forms that they see used in print to convey meaning. Then they begin to connect the sounds letters make to what they are hearing in words and if I am fortunate enough before they head off to kindergarten I am able to watch this entire process unfold. But before we ever get there as a preschool teacher I am ecstatic in the moment that they bring me a paper with all kinds of scribbles on it and it says “my mommy”. Those are the moments I get caught up in, when their thoughts, ideas, and words are put into writing. Those are the moments that give me chills and fill my heart with joy!
I am teaching writing in a variety of ways throughout the day with my students. We practicing the mechanics of writing during whole group. They are able to watch as letters are formed using letter land and building letters using manipulatives. They are also given the opportunity to practice writing individually on a piece of paper after watching these demonstrations. We have a time where they write on the smart board to encourage proper placement of the writing utensil in their hand. We also work individually on writing throughout the day in centers. This is found in the sand and water center drawing letters, in the writing center using a variety of materials, and individually as they have their own materials and are encouraged to write things they see in the room that are interesting to them. My role is to encourage, model and praise!
Our writing center is always bustling with 4 year olds ready to practice writing notes for their friends, family and teachers. They are viewed as writers among their peers and teachers. As I have introduced many different writing lessons in my classroom I am always amazed at what they are able to do. Just a few months ago I wrote about the students in my classroom as Writers, this piece was titled “But they are only 4!”. Along with this title I quickly learned that yes they are only 4, but I am always in awe at what my 4 year olds produce with the power of believing in them as writers. I constantly find myself saying things to them like: “every good author always signs their name” or “every good writer started out in preschool just like you”. These seemingly small statements are powerful for them as they are learning to write! I firmly believe the most important thing we can do is empower and believe in our students as writers if we want them to be successful.
Their success has prompted me to explore writing instruction as it will apply to them. I am eager to embark with them on a writing adventure that will be beneficial to them, but I am even more excited that my findings will last well into the future of my classroom. We will work together as a team to discover what influences them to become writers at a very young age. My interest is in taking away the fear of “not knowing how to write”. I want them to forget the idea that there is a right way to write, and that they have to write the way I want them to. I want to dig down deeper and find ways to encourage them to write for the idea of conveying what is important to them. I want to find out those things that will influence their writing. What will make them interested in actually putting pencil to paper, and what will invite them to turn their oral language or thoughts into writing.
I want to tailor writing instruction in such a way that they are not only influenced to become great writers, but that they are also excited to write and turn their thoughts into written pieces that they are excited to share with others. This sharing is another goal that I have for my students. I want to create more independent writers in my classroom. I feel that in order to create independent writers I will need to create confident writers. I think creating pieces that they are able to share with others for encouragement will help foster this within them. This shared writing time will be a time that they able to take pride in their work and share what is important to them. I want this to be a scaffold in their writing process. We will see random marks, scribbles, random letters, and beginning and ending consonant spellings but that isn’t what is important. What will be important is that they simply explore and that they again the confidence to do so. I want them to feel powerful in their abilities and that they are viewed as a writer in my classroom.