I hadn’t been taught how to craft writing in my schooling until this Master’s class, so it’s hard for me to know what elements of craft to look for in children’s work. But I am learning! I am learning from my readings, instruction from my Professors, our classroom peer conferencing and my teacher I work with at school. Don’t let me forget those Kindergarteners who have things to say and they will say them in pictures and in words. Words are an important part of early writing. Horn & Giacobbe says that “by inviting children to talk about themselves and about what they know honors them for who they are. Telling stories allows children to learn about the elements of craft before they ever put them on paper. This will make our instruction understood more easily.” Horn & Giacobbe, (2007) p.15
The methods of encouraging storytelling first with our students is not used in our classroom at this time. My teacher reads stories daily to the students and models writing through our morning work. We use the “5 Star Model” as a teaching tool for the writing we are looking for. When I get my own class, I plan to invite children to talk about themselves and about what they know so they will know that they are valued for themselves, for using the words they have to say. I am confident that I will better know what elements of craft to look for in the work they produce.
In my reading this week in Talking, Drawing, Writing, by Martha Horn & Mary Ellen Giacobbe, it talked about the craft of drawing and that once we notice our children beginning to pay attention to shape, looking closely and observing as they sketched, we would hope that we’d see them carryover between the sketching lessons and their illustrations in their drawing and writing. It doesn’t take long for us to figure out that our expectations aren’t realistic. p.69
I have learned that they need many more opportunities for practice and that we can’t expect them to make those connections on their own; we need to do that for them. We can use our mini-lessons to show them how to bring what they learned during our modeling of sketching lessons into the work of their drawing and writing. These mini-lessons can be about storytelling, drawing people, drawing in general, reading and re-reading, thinking before you write(brainstorming) just to name a few.
What really excites me is that my role in our classroom in supporting our young writers is the craft of valuing their work. I have learned that I must support each student’s attempt to write independently and represent their stories with text that might be different, spelled incorrectly, heard and sounded out differently. In other words, “I have to watch my words”! It is a craft to know how to correct the writing or drawing of a young writer. For example: (e.g., when a child doesn’t know the letter for the sound. A common one is/b/ for /d/ or vice versa, The bog (dog) is running after the dall (ball). I say something like,” let’s look – right here, here’s a /b/all and here’s the letter.” I say, pointing, “Do you know what letter that is?” Most of the time they know it but they write the letters /b/ and /d/ backwards. Sometimes it takes a lot of associations for children to begin to hear the connections among all the sounds, but when they do I celebrate. My teacher says that she appreciates all the ways I celebrate,(high five, fist bump with the word “s-w-e-e-t” or a simple sticker.)
I want all you teachers to know that I appreciate each one of you. I want you all to know that each of you could probably write a book on craft lessons teaching students to write. I’m taking notes! I will use them too!