So Long…Happy Writing….:)

As I worked with my kindergarteners this semester, I learned three main things. First how important self image and confidence is to young children in regards to writing. Second, that the book I choose to introduce and teach what authors and illustrators is do is essential to their understanding of being an author. Lastly, how practice and and sharing with peers, is necessary for children to grow as thoughtful and willing writers.

When teaching writing with my students we discussed and examined many different authors and illustrators and really looked at their work. I encouraged my students to try to view themselves as authors like some of our  favorites, Eric Carle, Jan Brett, Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems. We focused on style and what they wrote about as well as how they chose what to write about. We also talked about why we liked those authors and illustrators. I gradually saw my students act like they wanted to be authors and illustrators. I learned that the process does take time and a lot of practice. I have to teach whole group concepts through effective modeling, but be with students individually for support through their own writing process. As time went on, I was able to step back some, especially through the use of blank books. My students learned how to start stories on their own and how to write on their own based on where they were developmentally. They began to gain confidence as the writer they already were and did not focus on what they thought they were not good at. Along with writing, they became eager to share with the class and that became a time of day everyone looked forward to. There was great respect and awe as students shared. I believe all of the students felt valued when they shared. Below are pictures of my students sharing work, they are showing how to use more than one page if necessary, incorporating text supported pictures, adding labels, and using spacing to support meaning.

As I move forward, I do plan on using story writing and incorporating blank books into my classroom as often as I can. I can’t wait to try these out starting from the beginning of the school year. Just thinking about a whole year of story writing and sharing makes me so happy with all the possible success and growth I may see. I hope that I continue to help my students feel pleased with being the writers that they are and are willing to share with their peers and school community.

As for me, being a teacher of writing, I will miss this blog. I have greatly enjoyed sharing my students and what they can do. I am very proud of them and writing about it has been a great tool for reflection that I greatly value. I have learned how change can lead to greatness. My students did so much that I did not think I would see in kindergarten. I know that if I continue to teach with meaningful modeling and enthusiasm while still encouraging my students to do what they can, when they can, they will grow. They will grow and be happy about themselves and be confident, encourage others and have the stamina that they need to succeed in the future as a child that likes to write.

Click below for more information and details about what my students have done this semester.

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Words and Pages

This week I have been modeling how authors can write about the same topic for more than one page and/or sentence. This is a skill I have been reinforcing for a long time, but they all are writing stories for pleasure each week and I want to help them make their writing stronger. I used some short books this week to show how an author keeps a topic going for more than one page. I felt this was a good lesson to focus on this week since many of my students enjoy writing blank books, but some are not using sentences and jump to various topics as they are writing and turn their page. It has been a struggle for my students to write with details when they are alone. I honestly enjoy looking at their work when they are finished, but at times I am disappointed that they do not always use the ideas from the lessons I have shared with them. Sometimes they write words that do not match sounds that I know they would have if I were sitting with them, or maybe they worked sloppy or surprisingly they may not have any pictures to help the reader understand what their story is.

On Wednesday-Friday, I read:

 

These books have simple plots that are supported by a main picture on each page. They are all written from a first person point of view and two of them have a strong use of dialogue. All of them start with a thought then the next page is an effect of that first thought. Ex: I had a hippopotamus, (next page) but I gave it to my mother. Ex: My monster and I play outside. (next page) We jump, climb and swing.

When modeling I made sure I talked about how the thoughts of the other connected from one page to the next. I also introduced the comma, and how it is important when adding more information to a thought. The comma was also used in our poem of the week to reinforce this new symbol. I modeled how to pause for a comma as opposed to stopping for a period.

Poem:

Can you see six ducks?

Can you see five?

Can you see four ducks,

swimming in a line?

Can you see three ducks?

Can you see two?

Can you see one duck,

swimming near you?

In the writing center one of my students wrote a story in which he talked to his friend on three different pages about rainbows. This was the best writing I saw all week, and it was completely without help. I took notice of the commas that he used, along with dialogue. When he read it to the class (on the document camera) his peers noticed that he used them as well.

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I also have to share some independent writing of notes and drawings to me that some of my students made. I was out on Monday, recovering from all of the wedding excitement and I came back to these sweet thoughts:

Already Ready to Board the Writing Train

Teacher-Writers as Bloggers: Teacher Leadership? – Responsibility on a Moral Level

Throughout the span of my participation in this graduate program, I have made many personal and professional changes regarding my views on teaching reading and writing. I have not been out of school very long, 5 1/2 years, but many things I have learned are different and make so much sense. I am not sure if it is because I attended a teaching college that had a specific way of getting college students ready to be in the classroom, or being a different state (MD), or having been just before the influence of Common Core, but I feel as if I have learned so much more than I had already known. I was ready to teach, but I have opened myself up to grow and learn more to develop into a more ready teacher.  Because of this, I believe that is the point that has hit so close to home for me in this program. My students already know so much. When they come to me in kindergarten, I need to be ready to teach them so they are nurtured at their level, but understand that all levels (based on testing and screening) are levels ready for growth and exploration in reading and writing.

I have encountered some difficulty with time and logistics for teaching every student at each level they are ready at, the gaps can be very wide from one student to another. Nevertheless, I have pushed forward. It is my responsibly to meet the needs of all students. As I was reading The Lorax, a couple of weeks ago to my class, I felt a spark inside of me as their teacher. I am there voice, like the Lorax was for the trees. I need to help them, because there may be a time when they will not get the help the need. In the end, I am a teacher to teach students and encourage them to do well with what they can do. It is not my purpose to put them down, focus on what the can not do. or stress about where (based on a test) they are not performing and continue to teach the least appropriate methods, only because that is what may be enforced by the state.

Ways I have taking responsibility in my class to focus on what is the right way to reach children has been to allow students to develop skills naturally. I want to refer to my blog post from February 17, I Think We Can, I Think We Can. In this post, I share the sets that I have been climbing with my students with their storytelling. They have been orally sharing stories and taking part in a process to take ownership of their story and then write it as best as they could. With all of their preparatory work ,as well as the many opportunities they have to share and hear their peers’ stories they are becoming very prepared to write their story on paper. The process has steps, but is different for all students. Some need to stay on one step longer and ending results so a variety of ability. In a part of this post, I spotlight Zachary, a student who if someone sat down with and did not know would not think much of. However, I know this child. I know the hard work he has put in to his kindergarten year and I know how much he has grown. I honestly did not think he was ready at the beginning of the year to be with the rest of my class, but he is. He was already ready to read and to write, the way he knew how. He needed and still needs encouragement for sure, but I have learned that allowing him to work at his pace has been positive and fruitful. He is the happiest student in my class and he is always eager to work. I believe the responsibility I have taken to nurture all of my students and not just push them through the tasks given to me on a pacing guide is responsible for this outcome.

And…

This week, our word of the week was, and. It is such and important word and since we have been making a lot of comparisons in kindergarten recently, with flat/solid shapes, coins, characters and settings as well as the change of seasons, I thought a writing assignment with, and would be meaningful. Verbally my students have been practicing making comparisons, but I am still doing a good amount of prompting. For example someone will be comparing a cone and a sphere and they will say, “It has a vertex.” But they forget to name what it is that are referring to. I have to say, “How do we know what shape you are referring to if you don’t tell us?” Then I will compare kids or something familiar as a model of the language, “Jayda has short boots  and Destiny has tall boots on.” I tell them that I name the two things being compared and I use the word, and, so the listener knows I am still making a comparison.

So, for writing on Thursday we composed sentences like the ones I had been modeling using the word, and. I first wrote a model of two different ones, then we made two others together.  They used my set of examples as a reference as they were writing their own in a small group with me. I began each mini lesson with asking my students to to close their eyes and think of two things they would like to compare. Then, they told me what they were thinking and they spoke their sentence aloud a couple of times.

Noticed that all of my students on this particular day really used the knowledge they had and sounded out words. Even difficult words, I had a girl spell hippopotamus, and she never once asked for help. Afterward, I had students read their sentences aloud to make sure they did not leave any words out and reminded them about periods. They all were using goos spacing on their own, I think I only reminded one child about that skill. Then they drew a picture to match the words and read their sentence to someone who was not working in their group at the table.

Below are some examples of what they wrote:

Destiny wrote: Destiny has short hair and Isabella has long hair. Braxton wrote: Bears run on four feet and Trexes run on two feet.

Zachary (above) wrote: Frogs eat bugs and dogs eat dog food.

The Rainbow Connection

This week was very busy. I missed a couple of days and we had 2-hour delays. But I had written in my plans that it would be a good week to try to work on making some books as a class. I believe I made a good choice with choosing to plan to do this-this particular week since I did not have much time for one-on-one time with my students.

First we wrapped up last week by reading Green Eggs and Ham and tasting the two bright green foods. This lead us to give our opinions, pre and post tasting. On Tuesday we wrote what food we like the most on our morning message, ex; Jayda likes ____________ the most. Then they wrote about what they would have liked to eat instead of green eggs and ham. Many students chose to write their choice that was on the message, so they have some difficult words spelled correctly that normally would not be, but I do encourage them to use the environment for help and support. I had students share with each other what they were going to write and I connected all of the pages into a book.

Going along with Green Eggs and Ham and green for St. Patrick’s Day, I taught about rainbows this week. After reading some rainbow books and singing and dancing to rainbow songs for a couple of days we wrote a class poem book about the colors of the rainbow.

My students had a fun time coming up with objects to match the colors. Quite a few used oranges to describe the color orange and I had to convince a couple of them that orange and orange are the same word. I am still not sure they actually believe me. Below are some pages of the book.

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The video below is of one of my students reading his rainbow poem aloud. He has really struggled with week (home problems, emotional worry, coming to school late), he has been attached my my hip and has only been working with me by his side. I thought this video of him reading as he looked at me, not his peers and really needed my reassurance was awfully interesting. The joy in his face when he finished was so nice to see, after knowing how much he has been struggling. The password is abc.

Up-Up-Up with a fish!

Some teachers have a Dr. Seuss day, I have weeks of Seuss. I always love when I can begin to use the many amazing books with my classes. This week has been no exception. These stories just seem to make all students laugh. We did several days of rhyming in writing with our morning message. This type of writing is always a crowd pleaser. Ex. Who has silly socks? The fox has blue socks. Andrea has funny sunny socks. Zachary wore red socks to bed.

Throughout all of this excitement and of writing in rhymes and reading, I did continue to use blank books and helped several of my students finish stories in their story journals.

This week I wanted to work a little more one-on-one with one of my girls, Annie. On Monday, she created a blank book which had a great story. It had illustrations that matched what the words that she wrote to help the reader better understand the story and she showed a lot of sound identification knowledge with her spelling. She also wrote the entire story backwards.

I normally don’t really address this (writing backward or flipping letters the opposite way) with kindergarteners directly, but I may refer to an image of the correct direction or write  on a piece of paper and say, Yes, look at this b, the belly is in the front.”  Writing this way is something I have seen from Annie, with her name every once in a while, but a total first as a teacher to have an entire story written backwards. She even tracked it to me right to left, every single word. She is one of my best students and I thought this was so odd, and I asked her, “Do we read this way?” and I placed my finger on the left and dragged it right on her own page. She giggled and said, “Yeah, sometimes I forget.”

Below is some of her work from that story:

On Thursday Annie finished her first story in her story journal. She has really grown with her writing. She almost always adds a vowel in her words, even though she is still spelling phonetically. She has grown to write with more slender letters and her spacing is on right where it needs to be. I joke with her sometimes that her handwriting is neater than mine.

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Below is her reading her final story. The password is abc.

Last week, I uploaded Javier reading his blank book. He was very eager to do that activity.  He is a student that makes me smile so much thought the day. He has grown tremendously this year with reading and writing ability. His story is about finding his cats playing in the lawn mower bin.

I have to continue to say how pleased I am with my students and their writing. I have seen them become more independent the past 4-5 weeks with writing and that pleases me so much. They are more inclined to try to spell words on their own and are moving around in the room more looking for words they are trying to spell (that they know I have used in a morning message or some type of modeled writing) and even looking in books for specific words.

This Weeks Blog is Brought To You By The Letter S

Many words begin with the letter S. Sammy Snake likes to wear sunglasses as he sunbathes on the sand. Sometimes Sammy gets sick, and so do kindergarten teachers like Miss. Shelly. With that being said, I went home early two times this week and did not go in at all today. I have completely lost my voice, I have an inhaler, juice, tissues and feel so tired.

Needless to say, I did not get to do everything that I planned to do this week. My voice and chest were really struggling yesterday and I told my class I would not conference like we had been on Thursdays (and Fridays) to work in our story journals. I instead shared  a strategy with a couple of my students who have not begun writing their story journal yet. They have shared orally, but I wanted to see how they would write without any real direction in a blank book.

A blank book is a set of pages, mine have no more than 6, stapled together for children to create a story in. There are no lines and really no boundaries. I told them they could  work in the writing center and if they chose to they could write in a blank book (there were other options). The two children that I gave this direction to do not have a strong sight work bank. Zachary knows 3 words, a, I and see. Andrea is pretty good with cvc words but they are not quite automatic for her yet, she relies on tapping them all out. I gave them 20 minutes in the writing center and this is what I was given.

I knew they were going to work together. Andrea is very maternal and she tries to help Zachary a lot. I was surprised with what they did get on paper with no help or guidance.

Zachary was not completely sure with what he wrote, I am pretty sure he made it up as he read it to me. But that is still sharing his story and he was focused on writing. He is definitely struggling with the concept that words do have a meaning. My room is filled with words and he really used what was around in the writing center to help him create thoughts.

Zachary’s story (What he told me): Summer, I play with my bother, I play with him outside, I play with my doggie.

Andrea’s story is interesting because she wrote about a concept that my observations have her as not understanding, opposites.

Andrea’s Story (What she told me): Have Fun, Come and play with me, Have fun in the dark or in the sun, I see a bat it is dark, In the sun or in the dark. Then she drew a picture of the dark, nighttime and the sun daytime.

When my next group came to work with me during reading centers, one of my boys, Javier asked if he could write in “one of those little books.” I of course said “Yes, when you go to the writing center you are welcome to.” He zoomed over to writing so quickly when it was his time. He was very focused and was so quiet, which is not like him. Afterward he told me he did not feel like adding pictures, but was finished.

Below is Javier reading his story. He misses couple of pages because he flipped book the wrong direction while he was reading. I love how when he saw me turn my phone on he got serious and pulled up a chair.

The password is abc

Javier’s book:

The Sunny Day, What will we do on a sunny day, we play in the park, what will we do on a sunny day, we like to play on a sunny day, and it is so much fun

 

 

I think we can, I think we can!

 

Well, this week I continued writing stories with my students. I only started writing with five last week so my goal this was was to continue with them in hopes to have them finish their first story with words and illustrations. I also wanted to begin the writing process with at least 3 others. One of my most challenging students was really interested and eager to get his story told too, so I got him started as well.

This is the breakdown of what I am trying to get them to work through as authors and illustrators:

  1. Orally tell me a story they would like to share
  2. Conference/discuss how we can make the story more understandable for readers (setting, characters (names), beginning, ending, dialogue)
  3. Repeat the story (with my help) to ensure clear continuity
  4. Repeat
  5. Share oral story with the class
  6. Write their story in their story journal (I have them verbally repeat what they are writing (a lot) so they are making sure it makes sense and to ensure they are not leave out important parts.
  7. As they are writing I help them with when it is a good time for drawing a picture. It does not have to come at the end of a page.
  8. Check to make sure the words and the pictures go together and are clear for the reader to understand.
  9. Share the story with an other adult
  10. Share the story with the class.
  11. These four students below are on step 6, writing. It seems like I need 3 days to finish a story with my students. The stories have been between 4-6 sentences.

I had two girls finish their story today and they shared them with the class. All of the video passwords are abc.

This story is about Jayda’s discovery of her dog, Finn, in a basket of towels in the laundry room. I love how one of the listeners says, “Oh Jayda!” I had told the class earlier that Jayda was working hard on her laundry room illustration and that appliances are difficult to get right. I love how proper she is with reading her words. She was a little bit nervous, she normally is when she is reading someone else words as well. She is a good student, I was surprised to see her own words not put her completely at ease.

 

“(gasp) It’s pretty Destiny!”

The story that Destiny is telling is about when she and her mom go to her Paw Paws house. She tells about her dog named, Isabella and how she always wants to go too. This student is not mad, this is her demeanor at all times. She could be talking about the most exciting adventure about how The Easter Bunny invited her for tea and gave her a million dollars and she still not show any emotion. That is just her personality. She asked me all morning to read her story to the class and she was very pleased with her drawings. She worked very hard. She read her story to four adults, in two different classrooms, before reading it to the class, she was proud of what she had accomplished with this first story.

I also want to share Zachary telling his story to the class. He has been working very hard with retelling his story. He is still developing his concept of word and each day he and I practice retellings of nursery rhymes, poems and/or short stories. To have him tell his story this well to the class is a great achievement for him. He is not completely clear and their are some gaps, but it is a good beginning point. The password is abc.

 

Oh What Fun It is To Write (in a kindergarten room)

Yes, I know it is not Christmas. I am just so excited and a little bit shocked about how well my week went. I have been reading, Talking, Drawing, Writing for our Youngest Writers by Mary Ellen Giacobbe and Martha Horn for the past three weeks. I have also been trying to reach my semester goal of having my kindergarten students write stories independently and as a class. I have been deeply immersed in the first part. Last week we took a journey through different Three Bears stories as well as beginning to share stories orally.

This week I was able to start working with students to write down some stories. This process has been very eyeopening.

To begin with, the rest of my students received new drawing and writing story journals, they made them personal with the use of stickers and markers. They thought this was so fun. They all have had a writing journal, but they were always semi-directed in their writing and each day they began something new. Stickers tend to make the even most simple activities exciting.

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We did continue to share stories orally this week. We focused on naming our characters and giving a clear setting so the listener better understood the story. Many stories, even one of my own had a snow theme. These students who spoke on this theme, were encouraged to let us know as listeners were the story was taken place by using key words, (for example, snow, cold, wet and ice.)

On Thursday morning, I a created a story that they could relate to, based the chilly weather.  I talked about adding more than one sentence to create a story that flowed together. I stressed about staying focused on finishing my thought and not writing about something that did not relate or make sense. Example, I can not talk about putting a puzzle together after the sentence, I zipped up my coat, because I am talking about my clothes, not games.

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During centers, I pulled students who has already shared their story orally to the class and discussed with me whether or not it was a good story, to begin writing their story in their drawing and writing journal. They would tell me the first part of their story and  then say to me what their first sentence would be. They would write it, then read it to me to see if it made sense. Each one of my students has a sight word strip and a name tag which has their color words and numbers. These were available to them when they wrote, along with the many words on our walls and in past morning messages that posted all over as well. The only helping with spelling I offered was with names. By the end of Thursday, five of my students had stories started. One about a pony, one about two crazy cats, one about a silly dog in an unlikely place, a visit to Paw Paws and a comedy about a baby and a friend named Dukie.

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Miranda wrote three sentences her first day of writing. I thought it was a good stopping point to get her to illustrate a picture that matched. She wrote about a pony she used to have, the size it was and the color of it. Below is the video of her sharing with her friends. The password is abc.

Yes, my students say, “Bravo,” after we read poems or stories or anything in a group. They are so kind.

Overall, I am very pleased with how hard my students worked with this activity. I saw the very best handwriting, spelling and just pure positive motivation. It has been so rewarding to see smiling faces and students who are excited and taking ownership in their work.

EVERYONE Has a Story to Share

 

Within my individualized reading plan, I am reading, Talking, Drawing, Writing Lessons for our Youngest Writers by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe. I have been reading about how to get children ready to write by using stories. Using stories encourages children to feel that their own thoughts are important and they can actually own their stories. As well as the fact that everyone has their own words to share. Some children may be reluctant to share; but with modeling and positive and safe communication, with each other, detailed stories can emerge. We all have stories and so we should learn to share them.

Being quite far in the year, I know that most of of students are already writing a sentence on their own. They may still need support with spelling, reminders of spacing and are writing simple structured 3-6 word sentences. Ex: I see the blue cat. or Six hens hop. They complete most of their writing in a journal, at the writing center and on sentence strips during guided reading. I want to encourage them that they can write more and do not have to be perfect to write. I want them to just share their thoughts on paper with a picture and words. I plan on giving my students an additional drawing and writing journal for creating and crafting written stories based on their oral stories. Writing individual stories and class stories is a goal of mine for teaching writing.

With all of this in mind I wanted to read some stories that my students are familiar with that could lead to them practicing the skill of retelling. So I decided to use different versions of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, ending with Jan Brett’s version, since we love her. I began last Friday and finished up reading the different versions of Goldilocks on Wednesday. The versions we read are listed below:

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I also used a version from a LaidLaw basal reader titled, The Three Bears.

After each story we practiced retelling and as we read another we practiced comparing them to each other. It created some great conversations and the actions on the bears and Goldilocks and what they would have done in similar situations. I also had many stories shared of students not listening to their parents, walking in the woods, dressing for winter weather and eating soup. These stories were what I was hoping for. I shared a story each day to add another layer of storytelling, that was not related to the Goldilocks books.

On the last day I shared a story about being read to by my mother. I shared that I can still picture her reading a book to me. It was Pinocchio and it was an old copy that she was reading.  I shared that I can still see the pictures from the  big Golden book she read. I talked about how the pages wore torn and bend and I didn’t care, just because my mom was reading it.

 

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This of course led into them wanting to tell me about the books that they like to be read to with at home. I let them know that we would be sharing stories and working on writing them down, like we are a author like Jan Brett or Joy Cowley (we love her too).

I began to talk to a couple of students yesterday about a story that they would like to write about as their first story in their new drawing and writing journal. I made some notes, so that I can remember what they (informally) conferenced with me about. I tried to retell back to students as they orally told me about stories from home. I tried to help them keep the story in order. I only made it through three students. I was not able to get to any story telling today. On Monday, with these three students I will begin modeling how to create detailed information for one part of their personal story, based on their retelling. I will model this with a story of my own in my own drawing and writing journal.