Teaching Beginning Writers
- Grades: PreK–K
Teaching writing to young children is a daunting task, one that takes a lot of preparation and patience. It’s important to help your students strike a balance between risk taking, confidence and pride when writing. In fact, there are a number of things you can do to foster successful writers in your classroom.
I like to start my school year by assessing the print that’s visible on the walls. I try to be “print rich” without posting too much as it can be visually distracting for students. One of the standards that I always have hanging is a large illustrated alphabet poster depicting upper and lower case letters. This poster hangs in the meeting area so it can be referred to throughout the day.
On the opposite wall is the alphabet arranged in a line. For this I used alphabet cards from our handwriting program, Handwriting Without Tears. To each letter I attached the same illustrations that are featured in the poster. While the poster is still visible from the writing area, I want to optimize the chance that my students will make use of these aides.
I provide further assistance by placing alphabet cards on the tables. I place them back-to-back in plastic stands so students need only look up to find the letters they need. These work more efficiently then alphabet strips that students need to pick up or uncover during their writing.
Another chart that often makes its way to various walls, depending on where students are working, is a name chart. It features small color photographs of students along with their names. The students are listed in alphabetical order. This chart allows easy reference for students to identify beginning sounds, as well as small words and word chunks.
In general my students use invented spelling, but as the year progresses I hang sight words under the corresponding letters of the alphabet on the alphabet line. This provides one more convenient reference for students. I stick to the top 25 and add any that seem to be popular in class. I also add “__ing” after teaching a lesson on it being a piece of a word and not a word in itself. This is often difficult for children to understand so I draw a line in front of it to remind them of the root word.
Keeping in mind I teach kindergarten, my students use blank paper for their writing. There is usually a line or fold to distinguish where the writing and drawing will take place. For the drawing they use colored pencils. I find students have a fair amount of control over them and there is no ink to bleed through the paper.
For the actual writing, I supply golf pencils. Smaller pencils like these help to promote the proper pencil grip. Cups are provided for dull pencils to be placed in. That allows me to sharpen them later and not disturb students with a noisy sharpener.
One last helpful aide is a “spaceman,” a tongue depressor that has a spaceman drawn upon it. Students place the spaceman after the word they’ve written, creating a space before they continue with the next word. These come in quite handy for children who have trouble judging the space needed or simply remembering to include a space.
With all of these tools in place, my students are able to find success as they set out on new writing adventures. And because the classroom is organized to promote writing, I’m better able to teach and meet with students on an individual basis.