After school on Wednesday, my teaching partner, Paula, and I were organizing some blocks and chatting about our plans for the next day. We really wanted to extend our “tree project” now that it was up on the board.
As we were talking about ways to do so, Paula mentioned options to get students writing on the background paper. I said, “For the first time ever, I’m not worried about getting our students writing. I think they write more — and with interest — than any other group of Kindergarten students I’ve ever taught.” Paula agreed. She then asked me a question that really got us talking: “Why is that?”
Here are many of the thoughts we shared.
- We see all of our students as writers, and we communicate this belief to them.
- Students see themselves as writers. Whether they write using pictures, scribbles, random letters, letter-sounds, familiar words, or a combination of all of the above, they all speak about being able to write and show us how they can.
- We happily accept all forms of writing. We never tell children that they’re wrong. We encourage all writing and eagerly listen to students share what they wrote. Yes, we both do some mini-lessons when the time is right, but instead of telling children that they’re wrong, we provide the structure for them to correct their errors on their own … and maybe figure out some different ways to write.
- We provide meaningful reasons for students to write. Writing is not done in isolation. All writing that happens in the classroom, happens through play, and happens authentically. We have writing materials — from pens, pencils, and markers, to various types of paper, clipboards, and even tape — available in all areas of the classroom, as well as a big table and shelf that holds numerous supplies. When the year started, we looked at ways to inspire writing — from maybe adding some labels to structures to creating signs to save work — and now students are starting to pick up the materials to write in these ways (and more) on their own. Even when we do encourage now, we don’t have to do so quite as much, and we get even better results. Just handing someone a marker or placing some sticky notes on the floor, usually leads to writing. We also respect the writing that comes our way. The other day, two children came into the classroom and said that they thought we should make “a reindeer using brown paint, paper, and handprints.” While we both are not big believers in these types of crafts, we listened to this student voice, but didn’t bring out the paint right away. We said, “Why don’t you make us a list of what we need, so that we can get the materials ready for tomorrow?” The students did. We then put out the materials they suggested and let students do what they wished. A few children made reindeers, but others just experimented with combining paint colours and engaging in a fun, sensory experience. A win for everyone, and a little bit of writing as well.
- We show students that writing can happen anywhere. Writing is not just confined to inside the classroom: we find opportunities to also encourage writing outside. Sometimes it’s just a matter of bringing out some clipboards that allows this to happen, and sometimes, students surprise us with figuring out their own reasons (and ways) to write.
- We share why writing matters. Our students know that we write to communicate a message. This is not the only way to communicate, but it can be a powerful way. Students have figured this out first-hand this year, and it’s why many of them choose to write. We model lots of different ways to “write” — through pictures and words — with the hope that this will facilitate more writing in class. We also encourage students to read back what they wrote, helping them see the connection between reading and writing.
After her garbage experience outside this morning, Rachel was inspired to ask our principal for some garbage cans outside. She wrote the letter on the bottom, reflected it was hard to read because of the lack of spaces, and rewrote the version on top. Amazing to see her so passionate about making a difference at our school. #ctinquiry #fdk #earlyyears #iteachk
As Annabel and Sierra were eating today, I sat down and started writing a story about what they were saying. Sierra said she wanted to write her sentence on her own. Then Annabel wanted to do that for the last sentence. We read the text together. I introduced the comma and quotation marks today, and we talked about what they mean. #teachersofinstagram #iteachk #ctinquiry #fdk #earlyyears #meaningfulwriting
This conversation really got us thinking about why students are writing more and how students begin to see why writing matters. We teach three-, four-, and five-year-olds. All of these students have many more years of writing ahead of them. If they feel this way about writing now, what could this mean in future years? How do we help all students feel confident as writers and “write” in the many ways that work for them? Even as an adult, I love how writing (and really blogging) allows me to share so many ideas and reflect on my teaching and learning. I want our students to continue to have this positive attitude towards writing as they grow up, and maybe even use writing in much the same way as I use it now. I wonder about how to continue to make this possible. What do you think?