Writing for a Reason

We’ve been making books in my kindergarten class since the first week of school and I am amazed at the wonderful books my students have written already this year. Most of my writers write wordless picture books, although a few are adding letters and names of their friends, as well as dedication pages. When students share their texts, they do a great job “reading” the pictures as they tell their story. When I talk with the kids about their books, I notice that the majority of them are on one topic, even though the blank books I give them have five pages of paper. Some books are personal narratives, some are made-up stories; others are list books and nonfiction books. Our bookmaking time is supported with LOTS of read aloud books, conversations about what authors do when they write books, and invitations (not prompts) to make books like our favorite authors.

  • “Mo Willems uses speech bubbles to help Elephant and Piggie tell the story. You could try that in your book.”
  • “David Shannon makes us laugh when we read his books. You might want to make a book that makes your reader laugh.”
  • Pumpkin Circle teaches us about something real that happens in nature. You’ve learned a lot about pumpkins and monarch butterflies. You could write a book that teaches someone about those things or something else you know a lot about.”
  • “Bill Martin, Jr. writes about the alphabet having an adventure in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. You could write a book about the alphabet too.”

My kindergarten writers have an hour-long writer’s workshop every day. They are never at a loss of what to write about and they complain when it’s time to stop. They truly love writing and already see themselves as authors. Standing on the shoulders of favorite authors and envisioning themselves making books just like Mo Willems, Eric Carle and Jan Thomas keeps our workshop thriving daily.

This past week we decided that our kinder classroom needed some labels to help us put supplies away and to direct visitors to specific areas in our room. We made a bunch of labels together using interactive writing, with me sharing the pen with my young writers. Our bathroom was carefully labeled (to help the preschool kids who visit our room during art), the window, the block area, the clock, the books, and so on.  Since enthusiasm was high, I decided to take this meaningful activity and link it to the writing my students do every day.

After labeling the room, I invited the children to try labeling in their books. “You might want to try labeling some of the pictures in your books today. That will help someone else read your book – just in case you aren’t sitting there to tell them about it”.  It was a huge “a-ha” moment for many of the children. There was an explosion of letters and words filling the pages of their books. They saw a reason and a purpose for adding words to their stories and moved to a new level of bookmaking. I can’t wait to see where our writing goes from here!

How is writer’s workshop going in your kindergarten or first grade classroom?  What real world writing are your students engaged in?

8 Comments

  1. We love our writing time too. Writing workshop is one of our most favorite times. Loved your book suggestions. I don’t I’ve ever talked about books that make readers laugh. Please post a picture of some things that your students labeled. I like that idea!

  2. I’m enjoying your blog and the ideas you share to support reading and writing growth. When we highlight strategies favorite authors use through rich mentor texts, kids are more inclined to try these ideas in their own writing. I have a question about the length of your writer’s workshop. Can you tell me more about what this looks like in terms of how the kids are spending an entire hour. The young children I work with would not be able to write for a solid hour.

    • Hi Cindy,
      Thanks for reading and commenting. We begin our writer’s workshop with a short drawing lesson (5-10 min. max), then we have a read aloud connected to our writing focus (approx. 10 min.). The children then make books / write independently while I confer or meet with small groups of writers (30 min.) We end with 2-3 students sharing their books. (10 min.) I was amazed that they could sustain for that long, but they really do! The short drawing lesson has helped our bookmaking tremendously, too. The kids enjoy learning a new thing to try in their drawing and they put a lot more time and effort into their pictures. I think this is also because we started our bookmaking with a wordless picture book study and really focused on the illustrations telling the reader what is happening in the book. In addition to our hour-long writer’s workshop, children often choose to work on books during morning and afternoon Explore (free choice/play/stations) time. They really love to write!

  3. Also to Cindy –
    Just to add to Katie’s answer to you…There are many wonderful drawing lessons in “Talking, Drawing, Writing” by Giacobbe and Horn.
    I also think it helps kinders so much when you model telling your story by touching each of the pages, an idea we both learned from Lucy Calkins’ K-2 Units of Study. It’s such a great planning idea; they see their story mapped out across the pages; supports them so much in staying on topic for all five pages.
    One more professional book idea – in “About the Authors” I love how Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland help teachers open the year with the message that “this is a room where we make books!” Hope your kinders are having as much fun writing as Katie’s kids are!
    Pat Johnson

  4. Pingback: From Waffles to Writing Books « elsie tries writing

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