Sunday, September 22, 2013

Writer's Workshop in the Beginning- Learning How to Tell Stories by Getting To Know Our Friends

Our writing requirements are very rigorous. By the end of Kindergarten, kinders are expected to write 3-5 page stories with two sentences on each page, using phonetic spelling, sight words spelled correctly, punctuation, first letters of sentences and "I" capitalized, and the rest of the sentence mostly lowercase. They have to write opinion pieces, informational/research, biographies, and stories with a beginning, middle, and end, a problem and a solution!  We start encouraging writing right away! We are using our opportunity to get to know our friends to get us started.  Right now our Writer's workshop is separate. I am hoping to integrate it more with our inquiries and projects soon!  I am noticing some kids are starting to do this during our exploration time on their own!

Each day a special friend brought items from home that would help us get to know them better!  Some friends brought favorite toys. Some brought pictures of family, pets, and vacations. Some made posters and some made books using photos about themselves to read to the class.  The kids enjoyed listening as their new friends got up in front of them and told them about themselves. We created a web map for each friend to illustrate and have been discussing the purpose of web maps to organize information.  They will use web maps many times this year as one way to organize what they learn from inquiries! Here are a couple web maps of our friends. 

After we get to know our friend, we prepare to each write a story about them.  They have been learning that pictures tell stories and are a very important part of stories. We have been studying authors such as David Shannon and noticing how his pictures tell us more than the words say. They have learned that the details in their picture are important for the reader to know where the story is taking place and what is happening in their story!  We are spending a lot of time learning to add detail to our pictures and using them to tell our stories!

We have also learned that there are certain things they have to do to be successful as a writer. They have to always do their personal best.  We read Leo the Late Bloomer and talked about how everyone's personal best looks different. One child might still be using only one color in their pictures, but if that is their personal best, that is okay and they are successful. But if someone uses one color and we know they can use multiple colors, that is not their personal best and they were not successful.  Hurrying to get work done is also not doing their personal best. 

We have learned that they have to focus on their work to be successful. They also have come to the conclusion (with guidance) that it is not kind to steal someone's focus away from their work! Their friends can't be a successful if their focus is taken away. Of course, they are allowed to discuss their writing with each other. 

We have learned that we need a plan to be successful. The kids have learned to first close their eyes and visualize what their story will look like, including all of the details. They have all been assigned a writing partner.  After they visualize their story, they tell their writing partner their plan as they show them with their finger where all the details of their story will go. After they "point and plan" they may get their tools and start writing their story.

These kids love to write!  They have such a positive mindset and attitude about writing! They also see how useful and needed writing is in what we do every day!  They watch me take notes, make lists and create plans. They are starting to create their own notes, lists and plans. During exploration time, they are also choosing to create books. Their favorite subject to write about is their family.   One child wrote a book about how dragonflies are different colors, connecting it to our dragonfly inquiry!  I'm excited for more to start integrating writing with our inquiries!

We have been learning how to try to spell words.  They are trying this by adding labels to the stories about their friends. We won't tell them how to spell anything! They stretch the word slowly and write down the letters they hear. If they don't know the sound, they guess. They will get more sounds correct as they know more letter sounds. They know that they are not adults and we do not expect them to spell like adults when they are 5!  I want them to have the freedom to pick up a writing tool and write something at anytime. I don't want them to worry about if they are spelling the words right or not. This will also help them feel free to write down what they see, think or wonder during our inquiries. 

Some of the kids have started writing sentences in their stories. After I showed the class what they did, more have tried! We will model sentence writing this next week since they are now showing interest!


  1. I'm teaching kindergarten this upcoming school year. Thank you for sharing your ideas on writing!

  2. Darla, I am LOVING reading your blog girl!!! Your passion and enthusiasm is so inviting and infectious. The learning environment that you and the students co-create is so rich and wonderful- you are really establishing a love of learning that the kids will certainly carry with them for years to come! I'm headed back to work after a 14 month maternity leave (from Ontario). Reading your blog is very exciting and has my juices flowing!!! Our students enter kindergarten at ages 3 and 4 so some of the activities need to be modified, but I'm really looking forward to reading what you're up to this year! Bravo!
    -Lindsay Woodburn

    1. Thank you so much for all of your kind words Lindsay! Have an amazing school year!
      Darla Myers