My students came back from Christmas break not really interested in the writing center, or writing in general. It is as if their writing is in the form of oral storytelling and going no further. Their words are melting in their mouth but not in their hand. This is important as we all know, but now I want their words to begin to melt from their hand and not just their mouth. So I have decided that in our study to become more like writers we will need to….you guessed it, explore what it is that writers do. We will be looking particularly at ways to build stamina and with that comes figuring out that writer’s writer over time, and all the time.
Friday we celebrated the 100th day of school in all of its glory. We had celebrations, counted to 100, and looked at what 100 items would look like in a line. I am not sure if it was insanity or pure genius to plan writing activities on this day, but we discovered our first success story wrapped up in the chaos from our “100 day olds” today. Please excuse me in my grey hair and granny clothes, but do take time to soak in their cuteness.
We have been learning about Munching Mike from letterland and the glorious letter M. Munching Mike is known to munch mouthfuls contentedly which is exactly what brought out our writing prompt. What a better food to tie in the letter M and counting to 100 than M&M’s!! We discovered today that writers begin to write by finding something that they enjoy or want to learn more about. We decided that we would be writing about something we enjoy because we already knew that M&M’s were colorful, delicious, and round and that is all we needed to know about them. We popped them in our mouths and began munching away. We took notes of what we were discovering with our senses. We created a chart of attributes together on the board. All the words you see written here are theirs. I added nothing and took away nothing. They really enjoyed talking about the M&M’s and were very descriptive, I must say I was impressed with their word choices. If you can recall my student from the end of the semester last year you can rejoice with me in knowing that she added the thought that M&M’s were “round like a moon in the sky at night-time”!!!!!
We took our descriptions and began to write and draw with assistance. I know they have written enough that I could just let them go somewhere in the room and write, but I wanted to begin this exploration of writing with a purpose. I feel like the best way to make sure they are successful is to scaffold their learning through this process. I hope that as we continue to build stamina over the course of this semester they will be independently writing something, even if it is just one word. They sat with me as they wrote their favorite thing about M&M’s. I assisted with pointing to lines and giving guidance such as what letter do you think the word “like starts with”. They enjoyed the writing almost as much as they enjoyed the tasting potion of this activity. It became more concrete in my mind that stamina is a place to focus our goals for this semester as they required a lot of encouragement and motivation to write their thoughts down on paper. They also would become distracted and forget what they were writing while trying to write one word. They needed the support to guide them through this writing activity.They were still yet blowing me away as they were connecting prior knowledge to their writing. As I worked with one particular student she knew what letter she needed to write next, but she said “I don’t know what that letter looks like can I get my alphabet strip?”. We have been playing a game learned from last semester with Dr. Gill where I write a letter and they try to guess it while I am writing. When they think they know the letter they have to track the alphabet and prove it is that letter. She proceeded to get her strip and track the letters beginning with “A” until she found the letter she needed. They impress me constantly!! While it’s obvious that the scaffolding is necessary, their interactions with the writing in general affirm what I am reading they are truly “Already Ready”.
As I recap my thoughts on this week and the success my students had with writing, I found myself back at the drawing board nailing down my ideas on what a focused goal for my classroom would look like. I began this semester with great ambitions and ideas for my students, however, it wasn’t until this week that I understood exactly the path to travel down. In selecting a focus for writing with my 4-year-old students I wanted to make sure that it was developmentally appropriate, focused, and intentional in such a way that it would direct them toward success. After exploring writing this week with them I found that they do love to write and share ideas as long as I am the one writing. During large groups they have a lot to contribute orally. They are even effective in helping to sound out words and telling me what letters I need to write. They have the knowledge but then when they take it to their seat and we begin to write they immediately say “I don’t know how to write” or “I don’t know what to write”. I learned that our focus for the semester will come from those comments. We will gear our instruction toward looking at what good authors do in relation to writing texts. They will see that writing takes place over time, and that it is ok to begin a piece and finish it later. We will be increasing our stamina and adding a writing activity each day. This goal is to encourage them to write more as we go along in this process no matter if it is a single word, or a string of words. I want their writing to not melt in their mouths but flow from their hands without fear of judgement or doing it “right”. With this in mind we begin our writing with a little fun, join us next time to see where this journey is leading.