Welcome to my second on-line unit for a Kindergarten Writers Workshop. If you haven’t read unit one yet, you may want to start there.
At the start of Unit 2... I give the children their writing folders (see 9 Components of a Kindergarten Writers Workshop). In addition, I created several graphic organizers (see below) to assist the children in keeping their ideas straight. Moving from blank paper to an organizer is a big step for the children, and for me. I want to give them the bare minimum of a format, so that at all times the intuition of the writer can show through.
Lesson 1: If you haven’t formally introduced the children to writing partners (see 9 Components of a Kindergarten Writers Workshop), now would be the time to do it. I modeled again and again how to use the partner. Partners assisted each other in three basic ways. 1) Your partner could help you sound out words or help you just spell common words. 2) Your partner would listen to you read whenever you asked them to. 3) Your partner could make suggestions to you for changes you might need to make.
Lesson 2: Using the “Small Moments Planner” (adapted from Calkins “Many Moments” planner, the transition to writing a story with beginning, middle and end went fairly smoothly. Students used their partners as listeners to tell the story, pointing to each box on the planner. The planner was only for illustrations and the working title. Upon completion of the planner, the students got ONE “Small Moments Writing Page” (SMWP) and numbered it. As they finished pages, they helped themselves to the next page. I found nothing worked better for helping the children to manage where they were in the story and where they were going. It wasn’t long before books grew to many more than three pages and finally the planners were dispensed with altogether.
Each day as the children got out their writing materials and previous work, it was easy enough to line up SMWPs, reread them and continue where they had left off.
Lesson 3: When I saw children helping each other in specific ways, I would use their own ideas in my next lesson. For example when Tenaya helped Chloe change “Mis Fit” doll to “Miss Fit” doll each time it appeared in her story, I highlighted their work in a lesson. By the way, the children didn’t always help each other accurately. Sometimes the act of helping outweighed the precision of the help.
Lesson 4: If you haven’t introduced the “Snap to Spell” list yet (see Spelling section of the 9 Components of a Kindergarten Writers Workshop), now would be a good time to do that. In an additional note, as I conferenced with individuals, I might add a word to their list only. If Caulin was going to write a whole book about Legos, he needed to know how to spell that word right. By the end of the year, the StoS list had 28 words on it, some the same as on our Word Wall, but some not.
Lesson 5: While we continued to do whole class sharing on occasion, once we were writing “Small Moment” stories we started Author’s Chair (see Sharing section of the 9 Components of a Kindergarten Writers Workshop).
The “Small Story Planner” became necessary near the end of the year when Mia said, “Can I write a story that I’m not in?” Uhh….yeah…. I had a moment of clarity when I realized how personal personal narratives are. (see Unit 9 for kindergarten work in fiction)
“A Bigger Story Planner” and the “Small Moments Writing Page” without space for an illustration came in handy in two ways. First, more able writers needed a bigger story challenge and some of those same kids, and others as well, got to not wanting to draw any illustrations. I had to respect that, either they weren’t great illustrators and knew it, or they were such able writers they didn’t want to get bogged down.
Lessons in between: Throughout this unit, you must be ready to insert lessons, as you see the children need them, about sounding out words, writing complete sentences, making sure the story makes sense. Above all, the children need time to write. Lots of time, while you stand by ready to assist them in the ways you determine they need the most.