Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Writing Zone

Luke writes about fighting a hot dog. The hot dog retaliated with a mustard bomb.

I have thought at length throughout the years about the nuances involved in generating and supporting a culture of writing in a Kindergarten class. I have tried to put myself in the shoes of a five and six year old as they begin to learn the language of words. So often these children are at the height of their imaginative play and  are perplexed  as to why they need to write  "talk" down. 

Once we begin to cultivate the peer sharing and introduce other audiences the perks of writing become more obvious. The children slowly experience the reactions of others to their illustrations and stories and are drawn into the humor and adventure developed by their peers. 

Peer sharing helps to generate contagion and fosters a community of writers.

We are forging a partnership with the second graders. N. visited our classroom to share some of the stories that she has written. They were descriptive, funny and very appealing. 

The Kindergarten expressed an interest in sharing their writing with second grade. We paired the children and they took turns listening and offering their thoughts to each other.

Evan and Gabriel wrote books and generated  an enthusiasm for the idea. They gathered materials and created a space for the children to duplicate their process and assemble books. Many of the children jumped into the process while others were gently nudged or pulled in by a friend. 

We also considered the many possibilities for writing including non-fiction books and letters. After writing a letter to Christine Webb, a beloved lunch and recess celebrity, they received a letter in return. The reciprocity of writing was becoming evident.
"She wrote back??" "Why did she write back?"

Gabriel is a naturalist. He observes his environment and outdoor spaces and then captures his thinking in elaborate detailed sketches. He visited Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and then returned home to represent the birds he noted on his trip. Gabriel brought his book to school to share and inspired other books.

Evan merges his imagination with his love for Star War stories. He does not hesitate when writing. 
The words pour out of him as do the characters and plot lines.
We created small books
for the children thinking
that the space might
be less daunting.

The children wrote a how-to book after spending time in the snow.
Cole's book addresses making a snow clump.
Sadie writes about Spring and the
many colors that are present in
the blooming flowers.
Harper writes about a guy picking apples.

The visits from the second grade reminded us that authors often launch a story with a description of where the story takes place. Authors open the door to their story in different ways. Some quickly open the door and immediately reveal their characters while other stories invite you in and then slowly introduce you to the characters. 

We have taken direction from published authors as well. 
We have read books by Angela Johnson, Mem Fox, Peter Spier, Eric Carle and Rosemary Wells. What small moments have they focused on? What details were important to the these small moments and which ones were left out? 

When we read The Leaving by Angela Johnson we  noticed that she described a foggy morning  with the word "soupy". She also did not reveal where the family was moving. This seemed perfect to some and frustrating to others. 

Sadie said, "It is about the leaving not the coming."


Will, a second grader suggested that the Kindergartners might enjoy  writing comic strips. He explained how reading and later writing comics appealed to his sense of humor. The children thought this was a good idea and so we researched a few frames and provided opportunities to use this format for story writing. We have had adventure and comedy stories but a rendition of the biblical story of Passover was also published.

One thing that we have come to realize as Kindergarten teachers is that as ideas and stories ignite in young children's imagination and pour out on paper it is hard to focus on both getting the details on the paper and forming lower case letters. We acknowledge that as children take risks and unleash their stories they may backslide on handwriting. As they ask their peers or a second grader to read their written words the reader will provide feedback  regarding legibility. Handwriting will once again become a priority. 

"So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
Dr. Suess

You can make anything by writing.
C. S. Lewis

1 comment:

  1. There is an Anais Nin quote about writing that I love: "Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own." I see each of these children beginning to create worlds of their own, worlds in which they can live.