Writing - Putting the Pieces Together



Pat Opyr



My greatest success with my kindergarten students this year is their journals. They love to write and ask if they can write about their own ideas. At a session I attended at a conference one of the presenters said that she starts journals day one because the kids just do whatever you ask them to do and just think that thatís their job. She was right. I donít get to journals everyday, but we try and do some form of writing everyday. When we don't get to journals there are days the children will ask when are we going to do them again. 

Sept. 9

Sept. 5

Sept. 5

Sept. 24

Sept. 5

Sept. 24

The students journals contain personal stories (ie. What happened on the weekend), personal interests (ie. Dinosaurs), reflections from fieldtrips we have taken, and responses to stories we have read. This group loves to draw and write about personal interests.

Amahl and the Night Visitors opera - My favorite part was when the kings brought the gifts for the baby. Teddy bear. (Personal interest) This is the part of the story when the ghosts scared the witch. (Book response)

The journals reflect a range of abilities as far as the writing continuum is concerned. This is the perfect solution to an activity that meets the needs of all children. Modeling of writing is how I introduced the children to including print with their journal entries. First, I demonstrated on a chart the ways that people write their ideas. In the beginning I had students scribbling on the page to formal drawing of pictures. It wasnít long before I expected to see some writing along with the pictures. In the beginning some could put some of the letters for sounds, others had myself or the assistant script the stories. Now, in March, I have children who are writing with standard spelling, to others who are writing all the sounds they hear and some who put random letters. Everyone is expected to have some form of print on the page.



Random letters

Representative sounds

Standard spelling

I also informed our tour guides at community helper fieldtrips to let the students know how writing, reading and numbers are used in their jobs. Some places we visited were Yellowhead Honda, the fire station, police station, Misercordia Hospital and Jasper Place Public Library. An added fieldtrip to support places in our community was the program Numbers in Our Neighborhood at the Alberta Provincial Museum. Sometimes students are expected to do their fieldtrip reflections more formally and are given a special page to do their drawing and writing on and this gets included in their memory book.

The students receive encouragement and instruction in many ways so that they feel confident as writers. Following, I have listed other ways that writing happens in our kindergarten classroom.

 Through play at centers their are tools required to do the jobs that include writing.

Some examples:

Signs are painted or drawn to let others know what business' are around.

Signs are painted or drawn to let others know what business' are around. In the house center we have a pad for writing a shopping list, or taking a message on the phone and pens. In our pizza restaurant the students make menus, take orders and follow a recipe to please their customers.

At the post office items change as the holidays warrant. At Christmas the students wrote letters to Santa and made Christmas cards for others. We had a day where writing happened as a whole group activity when  we wrote Santa letters with our grade four/five reading buddies. Our buddies helped to script the wish lists for the students. For Valentineís Day they had special punches, stamps and foam hearts and pens to create special notes for friends. A list of words they might use was brainstormed with the class and provided at the center.

One student in our class takes it upon herself to leave messages about her day around the classroom which she posts up where appropriate. 

Other activities that have helped the children grow as writers in our class are:

At the beginning of the year we did a number of activities using their names. We created a class book of interviews that helped us to get to know one another.

Students created patterned stories in response to literature that they were exposed to:

As part of our pancake day activities on Shrove Tuesday we incorporated our math with some labelling. Book demonstrates the cow going over, under, beside, through, in front of the moon. Inspired by story, Over the Moon by Rachel Vail In response to gifts received at Christmas the students created a pattern book: I found a _______ under the tree.

Caitlyn, Caitlyn Who Do You See, Witch, Witch What Do You See and Astronaut Bodner Who Do You See after reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin.

The children not only looked at writing as a whole but we also looked at the parts. In the beginning we talked about what a letter is and the sound it makes. What happens when we put the letters together. The students would write their names, cut the letters apart and then reorganize them. We did first names first, in January we started using last names.

After practicing taking words apart and putting them together we  used the same idea for sentence writing. Sometimes instead of doing a personal story or reflection in their journal the students were given a large sheet of paper to draw on. Once the picture was drawn words were scripted for the students on their sheet.

The following day these same words were reprinted on a strip of manilla tag for the students to cut apart and reorganize as they matched word to word. Sometimes this activity was done with their grade five/six reading buddy. This gave the students an opportunity to share their stories with someone. As they read each word, they moved the corresponding word card.

The next part to this activity would be to match the words again and glue the manilla pieces down. When they were finished they would read their stories to an adult. In their agendas they practised printing by writing a note to their parents asking them to read their story with them.

In our class, agendas are used to practice our printing and learn how to form the letters correctly. I model the writing of the letters as the kids print in their books.

Then over time I have encouraged the to sound out the words and put the sounds that they hear. I did this after we practiced this in whole group messages, list and story writing or other forms of modeled or interactive writing.

All of these processes have been repeated over the course of the year.

From the poems and rhymes that we use for reading I choose words we can explore with magnetic letters on the white board. This is where we look at word patterns and if we know how to spell cat, then we also know how to spell hat, fat and so on. At the beginning of the year, each day I had the letters of the name for the helper of the day scrambled on the board. I started the morning by having the students figure out whose name it was. Once it was decided who it was then that student would come up and rearrange the letters so that his/her name was spelled correctly.

Playdoh, wikki sticks, magnetic letters, personal letter/word cards are all ways we have used to explore writing and practice spelling words we know or are learning.