Jodie Black is a full-time kindergartner teacher in Northern Nevada. She became a Teacher Consultant for the Northern Nevada Writing Project in 1990, served as its Co-director between 2001-2006, and has been involved with dozens of the NNWP's professional development projects focused on writing instruction. One of Jodie's favorite NNWP projects was when she served as coordinator of the Six by Six Guide: Trait Writing with Primary Writers.
Borrowing from Books Mentor Texts and Kindergarten Writers
This unit was created by Jodie Black, who uses it during March with her kindergartners.
The series “Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum” by Lucy Calkins was an inspiration for much of my work. By reading this series and making some important, heavy modifications for kindergarten, my students were able to do some fabulous writing. I very much recommend Calkins’ Units of Study; using my ideas in conjunction with hers has brought writers workshop in reach of my kindergartners.
Welcome to the seventh on-line unit for my Kindergarten Writers Workshop.
Throughout our writing year, during every read aloud session we engaged in, the children and I were always on the lookout for cool ideas that authors used. Over and over, we would stop to say, “Hey, we could try that in our writing.”
I believe teachers should use the texts already available in your classroom and in your library during writing instruction. For many of the lessons in this unit, we used the same text over and over. That might sound controversial, but to maintain attention on the concept or convention I wanted to teach, I was hesitant to distract the children with a brand new storyline. Knowing a text well allowed us to pull out a new concept and focus only on it. I wanted the children to use a couple of style techniques very well and I wanted to have the expectation that they would be able to incorporate the new ideas into their work independently.
Diary of a Worm
by Doreen Cronin displays a wonderful sense of voice and leads the kindergartners gently into putting dialogue into their work.
Unit Seven. These seven lessons are intended to be taught in March, after you have completed the first six units Jodie has posted; however, we know (and welcome) other teachers' adaptations of Jodie's ideas in any order that works for them.
While this looks like only seven lessons, and it was, there were probably 15 days of writing during this unit. Pause for a moment to consider the amount of content in these seven lessons and you’ll realize that sometimes we just needed to write, working on things we had already learned.
Lesson 1: Problems... We used The Big Hungry Bear... by Don and Audrey Wood as our mentor text for many lessons. We know the story well. It uses several child friendly style devices in a minimum of text. It has a simple, easy to follow story line, two dynamic characters (one left to the imagination) coupled with fantastic illustrations. In lesson one, we worked on identifying the problem. The problem is easy to identify in Big Hungry Bear... and while I said we mostly used one text during this whole unit, we were certainly able to identify the problems in our other favorite texts during this lesson and throughout the unit.
Lesson 2: Characters... My dog was my favorite story character. The children also used and reused the same characters and topics. I like the fact that the same topic can be explored and re-explored using a new genre or a new device. While they were on the steep slope of the learning curve, not everything was new just the new part was new. Looking at mentor texts allowed us to get to know characters and the details used to describe them.
Lesson 3: Repeating Episodes... In Big Hungry Bear..., the mouse tries several ways to hide the strawberry. For the lesson I wrote a story of my own in which I tried many ways to deter my dog from chewing his way out of his dog run. My dog was my favorite story character.
Lesson 4: Questions Advance the Story... The questioning within Big Hungry Bear... draws the reader into the story as a confidant of the main character. By now my students were well versed on questioning from creating “Question and Answer Books.” The transition to putting questions into stories was relatively painless. The questions tended to retain that quality of drawing the audience into the piece.
Lesson 5: Ellipses Create Surprise... Ellipses were a boon! Kindergartners loved them. We talked about an ellipse as a way for the author to create a surprise in their piece. My students used them in all sorts of ways. In her “All About Club Penguin” poster, Natchaya wrote, “When you buy something on Club Penguin you have to pay…with a credit card.” You have to love that!
Lesson 6: Kinder Dialogue...Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin is an excellent text for introducing speech bubbles. Kindergartners especially like the idea of speech bubbles stating something funny or just indicating sounds a character is making. I have to admit not all of my students were able to incorporate dialogue into text successfully by the end of the year.
Lesson 7: Sounds in Text... The “Boom, boom, boom” and “Sniff, sniff, sniff” in our mentor text led to a lesson on sounds in text. As I mentioned before, this concept showed itself in speech bubbles on many occasions.