I’m linking up for Writing Wednesday to walk about something that I think remains a mystery for lot of people… How do you teach writing to students who have never written before???
If you teach any grade other than kindergarten, your students may not come to you exactly where you want in writing, but they have some working knowledge of the writing process.
But if you teach kindergarten, you know that you may have students who don’t know what a pencil is, who don’t know their own name, and who don’t understand the difference between a letter and a word. Its enough to keep you up at night worrying that there just isn’t enough time to get them where they need to be!
Believe it or not, though, my students do get past that and even get to the point where they can independently write a research book (yes, really!). So how do I start out?
Well, I spend the first two weeks of school JUST focusing on drawing. Yes, I teach letters and sight words too, but when its “writing time”, we draw. Drawing is such an important part of kindergarten writing, but it often gets pushed aside with the demands of today’s curriculum.
Don’t let it! Think about how we teach children to read books. Before they can read the words, we teach them to read the pictures. We teach them that the pictures can tell a story too, and that eventually they will be able to read the words to go along with the pictures.
If a student cannot yet write sentences, their pictures can tell the story. The more details, the more interesting the story.
Do your kiddos drawings look like this at the beginning of the year?
Cute, yes, but we don’t want their people to look like this forever!
Here are some ideas to get students to focus on the details:
Give them a mirror and have them draw themselves. You will have to model first how to use shapes to draw different body parts. This will help them see that, no, we don’t have legs coming out of our heads and, no, our hair is probably not rainbow colored!
Go outside and give students an object or person to draw. After they draw it, have them focus on what they see around it. What color is the grass? What is in the sky?
Developmentally, your students are not ready to draw from memory. They need to physically see an object. If its not possible to have that object in real life, bring up a photo on an ipad or computer.
As you teach some sight words those first few weeks, your students will be ready to begin seeing how those words fit together to form sentences.
Interactive writing is the best way I know how to do this. We do interactive writing together daily for most of the first quarter.
It looks like this:
I may decide on the sentence or we may come up with it together. Then I draw a line for each word, just like you might do in guided writing.
I call up students one at a time who can write the sight words in the sentence. When we get to the unknown word, we stretch it out together.
At the beginning of the year, we may just focus on the beginning sound. I’ll have a student identify and write the first letter, then i’ll write the rest of the word. Once we get going, though, I have students identify and write the beginning and ending sound or the beginning, medial, and ending sounds and that’s all we put up there.
I don’t worry about showing them the correct spelling because that is not something they are ready for yet. It will only frustrate them. I want them to know that they can stretch words out and any attempt will make me happy.
Then its time to put it on paper. I have taught students how to use the word wall and modeled, modeled, modeled how to stretch words out.
Still, you’ll get students who put a random string of words on their paper. Or they’ll copy your interactive writings word for word. That is OK at first. One they get the concept of what is a sentence, I will start encouraging them to think of their own sentence. I may even brainstorm with a student a sentence they can write.
What if you have a student who still struggles with letter formation?
If a students still struggles with letter formation and it is seriously impacting their writing, I may have them come up with the sentence and then trace over words I have written with highlighter.
I do try to ease them away from this as soon as possible, but you may have students who need it for a good portion of the year.
What if you have students who still struggle with sentence conventions?
Sentence conventions can be one of the trickiest parts of writing. Even after a students understands that words in the right order make a sentence, they may still struggle with spacing, punctuation, and putting capital letters in the right spot.
We practice this every day in Writer’s Workshop, but for extra practice, I like to have my students work on these sentence scrambles:
These are a fun way for students to practice conventions. The cut apart words help them see the physical spaces between words and to put them in the right order they need to look for the word that is capitalized and the word with a period after it.
I ALWAYS have these as part of my writing center and they are included in my monthly writing centers, but I also keep multiple seasonal and holiday themed sentence scrambles on hand.
Last year my studend LOVED to do these as early finisher work or for morning work. I even used them in my guided writing groups sometimes when I wanted to do a lesson on a specific convection.
You can find all of my themed sentence scrambles here:
Do you have any tips for writing at the beginning of the year that I haven’t covered here? I would love to hear about them! You can even link up below: