Our Ideal Writing Program — What’s Yours?

A couple of weeks ago, Doug Peterson drew my attention to this blog post by Alanna King about the ideal writing program. I commented on Alanna’s post at the time, and said that it would likely inspire a post of my own. This is that post. 

Alanna is a high school teacher, and as a Kindergarten educator, we’re about as far removed from each other as possible. That said, there are components of Alanna’s ideal writing program, which I think are equally as important for our young learners. I was particularly drawn to her sentence in the second last paragraph of her post: “Above all various community experts and authentic audiences should be employed to heighten the authenticity of the writing program.” This is something that my teaching partner, Paula, and I spend a lot of time thinking about. 

  • It’s the reason that we don’t have journals
  • It’s the reason that we emphasize writing to communicate, and we engage with children in this writing all the time. 

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There is always interest in writing milk notes. Initially N. wrote a note to go with Mya to get the milk. I encouraged Mya to do the reading of the note, and work with sounds to determine unfamiliar words. N. then read my response and wrote me a sentence to answer my question. She figured out what words to add to write a complete sentence. Then Olivia wrote me a milk note to go with Carly to get the milk. I wrote them back. Carly initially said, “I can’t read all of that,” but both her and Olivia, worked through the sounds and the familiar words to read my response. They decided to write a note to ELP 2. Carly wrote this second note. They did need their milk, and they wrote Carly back. So the two of them went to get the milk. Meanwhile, Jacqueline wrote me a milk note. While her note may be more of a combination of random letters, she separated the letters into words. She read the words — left to right across the page (pointing to each word) — asking to go and get the milk. I said that she could help tomorrow. So many literacy behaviours exhibited here too. ❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #iteachk #teachersofinstagram #ctinquiry

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  • It’s the reason that our caretakers have learned how to read Kindergarten writing, and are happy to respond to it.

  • Thanks to this approach, kids have learned that they can solve problems through writing.

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While it was drizzling outside this morning, it was also cold. Joshua realized that rain boots do not keep your feet warm in the winter. After we got undressed (kids are really working on doing so independently and quietly), we talked about what we could do to solve this problem. Joshua thought about writing a note to parents letting them know that we just need “winter boots” in the winter. During play today, he told me that he wanted to write this note. He started doing so on paper, but we wondered if the print might be harder to read. Then he moved onto an iPad. He looked at good emojis to add, and we conferenced to discuss what other sentences might be worth adding. He now has the perfect note for us to share with parents tonight. ❤️ Problem solving and some authentic writing (and reading) in kindergarten. Now to focus with Joshua on expanding on the ideas in his writing (trying to build more independence in this area). SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram

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Writing in kindergarten is different than in other grades though. Some of our students are just learning about the value of mark making, and how these marks carry meaning. While it’s so important to introduce letter-names and sounds, and show the connection to words, we have to do so at the pace that’s right for each child. I look back at some of the reading and writing examples from last year, and the growth that these students showed from the start of Junior Kindergarten to the end of Senior Kindergarten. Incredible! 

From shapes and random letters to letter-sounds and conventional spelling, this growth is amazing. I think this growth happened because …

  • all writing is embraced.
  • next steps are targeted to individual students.
  • we expand vocabulary as we also teaching reading and writing.
  • we don’t teach sight words until kids are using invented spelling skills with ease.
  • we help students see that they are writers, so they take risks as writers.
  • writing happens everywhere, in various situations, all day long.

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I like looking at the different ways that kids write. It started here with Emma making some pictures and writing words that she knows. Now to vary sentence types by sounding out words to add. N. remembered a poster she saw, but wanted to spell “colour.” Breaking the word apart into syllables with @paulacrockett helped. She also showed her a dictionary to help with some spelling. She’s moving to more conventional writing. Callum and I did some writing today based on the LEGO vehicles he made with Zakaria. He segments the words with ease, but relies on the clues on the vehicles versus the sounds to read back the words. Now to focus on more of the sounds. I love how this writing is continuing even when we leave. ❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram

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  • kids support each other. They are actually talking writing. 

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There were some interesting conversations, reading, and writing around this table today. Mya started by telling me the story of her treehouse. Emma read me her list of words, and we looked at sounds if she wasn’t sure of one. Owen figured out that we needed more paper towels, so he made a note for the caretaker. Then I had him look at circling words to make the note easier to read. I then overheard this conversation around vowel rules. I love how kids were helping edit each other’s work. We could then dig a little deeper into some vowel rules (for this group of students that are ready for this). All kinds of reasons to write! ❤️ SWIPE ⬅️ FOR MORE. #ctinquiry #iteachk #teachersofinstagram

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Our writing program is really about choice, but with regular inspiration to write. 

There is no limit to where writing can happen, and in our own, creative ways, Paula and I ensure that writing does happen each day. We also have many kids though that are excited to write, and often come up with their own ways to do so. Our writing table is a flurry of activity, which has now expanded to the carpet space. In fact, it’s been so busy, that we’ve created a new writing table … and these are only the more designated writing spots. Pencils, pens, markers, Sharpies, sticky notes, pads of paper, and clipboards are everywhere, and kids are always using them.

For me, an ideal writing program is one where,

  • kids are inspired to write.
  • they see the value in writing.
  • they see, and are encouraged, to use writing as a creative outlet.
  • they are immersed in the written word.
  • they see the connection between reading and writing, and become better — more confident — readers and writers as a result. 

Imagine if this is how all kids left kindergarten. What impact might this have for writing in future grades? What does the ideal writing program look like for you? In many ways, I think that it’s not about a formal program — but the lack of one — which makes it so very ideal.



6 thoughts on “Our Ideal Writing Program — What’s Yours?

  1. Aviva,
    Your post has me thinking about lots of things! I would like to see work from a grade 1 teacher at your school! You are building a strong foundation in writing and I’d love to see how that is extended into the next year.

    The other day on VoicEd Radio, Stephen Hurley was talking to Anne Stockke about math, and she said, “Early Learning Kindergarten isn’t a birthday party!” I feel like so many people would understand that if they saw this post.

    I’ve worked really hard on becoming a good teacher of writers. I think I’m there. But it takes constant work. Like you, I make sure my students are writing every day for a variety of purposes. I love your note writing. I’m thinking about how to incorporate that into my program. (grade 2/3)

    I know some teachers think kids will be ready to write in about January of grade 1. Clearly you challenge that thinking!

    • Thanks Lisa! I’ll see if any of the Grade 1 teachers are willing to share some writing examples from their class. I think that the skills definitely continue from Kindergarten to Grade 1. That said, I also think that there’s value in “choice” for writing. We want kids to write. We want them to make marks. We want them to understand that this mark making communicates a messages, and that they can communicate messages in this way. Our writing instruction is targeted, but does happen through play, and does vary depending on kids and their needs. I think that there are many components of this kindergarten writing program that I would continue for other grades.

      Note writing is a key component. Kids love this authentic audience, and want to write notes to each other. I keep thinking back to this experience from last year.


      It’s awesome that kids are choosing to communicate in this way. This note writing has also been wonderful for the reading happening in our classroom. This is actually how we introduce sight words to kids. I’d love to hear if you try something like this in your classroom, and what it looks like.

      I think that many kids come to school as writers. They’re making lines, squiggles, etc., and giving them meaning. The key is that we see value in this meaning, and try to slowly expand on other skills — including letter-sounds — to help kids progress to the next level when they’re ready. I’ve heard this comment about writing and Grade 1 before. I think it can happen much earlier than this, and we see this to be true each day in our classroom.

      It sounds like you do a lot to encourage some wonderful writing in your classroom. I’d love for you to also blog about your experiences. I wonder what an “ideal writing program” looks like in different grades.


      P.S. I just remembered that a couple of our students from last year came back to share some writing with us. Milla wrote us a book when she was away on vacation in Florida, and Trinity wrote us about the bug she found (and added to our terrarium). These are just a couple of samples of writing a few months after kindergarten.



  2. Dear Aviva,
    Thank you for inviting me into your world once again and for making me see the whole continuum from kindergarten to grade 12 through writing. The first thing I wanted to read was your link to your past blog on journalling. For me, that metacognitive piece is really important, and I can see that you get at it in different ways. I move in my grade 12 classroom from reflecting in our notebooks, to reflecting with our peers, to reflecting in public blogs. You’ve reminded me to return to my assignments and make sure that there is an authentic purpose if not audience for each one. In November we wrote six word stories that turned into beautiful watercolours when used by the grade 10 art class for the subject of their projects. This is real and it amplified their voices like little else has done before!
    I love how your students are motivated to communicate through writing notes. I can remember how my son wrote me a note once after we had had a fight and I’ve kept it to this day. I’m helping my 79 year old Dad downsize and we uncovered a note that that my cousins and I wrote this week inviting our parents to a performance that we were giving in the afternoon. I cannot wait to see the letters that your students someday write to newspapers and politicians as their confidence in writing for change grows. Good on you and all the work you do. Thanks for building a foundation that I’ll rely on someday when they reach my classroom!

    • Thanks for your comment, Alanna! Your note about the “metacognitive piece” of journaling, is one that I can certainly understand. I guess that I see journals, as they are often used in primary, where all of the writing happens (e.g., sharing what you did on the weekend or expanding on one of the sentence starters). As someone that blogs as a way to reflect, I can certainly appreciate those that journal for this same purpose. Maybe journaling changes in high school, when journals are used for this kind of reflection. If they were used this way in elementary schools, would I feel so strongly against them? Maybe not. I’m not sure that our youngest writers are ready to reflect in this way in writing, although they do reflect like this through their oral discussions. Our portfolio work, even through Instagram or our class blog posts, allow for this combination of oral reflections with writing. Maybe this is like a digital journal.

      I love your comment on note writing. I think that writing letters can be very powerful, and while kids might be writing letters now for more toilet paper or the need for a mop, these letters will continue to expand to different topics. We’re already seeing this with some of the letters that kids are writing to their parents. Again, I love that our kids see the value in communicating in this way. They are definitely becoming stronger writers as a result, and I can’t wait to see the impact this has on them as they continue to grow up.




      Thanks for inspiring this post, Alanna, and for continuing the discussion!

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