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Posted by Casey
In Learn, Literacy, Teacher Tips on March 5, 2013

Writing is such an important skill for our students to master and it is really important to give your students time to work on this skill every day. It is for this reason that I implement a Writing Workshop lesson every morning in my classroom.

As a new teacher, I’ve been a bit stressed and confused in regards to teaching students how to read. Over the school holidays, I read an amazing book called Kid Writing! It gave me so many amazing and practical ideas for my writing block. I would recommend the book to anyone looking for some practical ideas for teaching writing in the early years! Many of the ideas in this post come from the book.

Image result for "kid writing" book

At this early stage of the year, most Prep and Foundation students are at the stage where they can write using squiggly lines with some students who write letters or names they are familiar with.

 

To start my very first Writer’s Workshop session, I ask my students to show me some writing in the sky with their fingers. We do some squiggly writing, zig zag writing and write some letters we have already learnt at school. I really reinforce that kids have their own way of writing (called Kid Writing) but with lots of practise, they can start to write like grown ups too. You might even get some students to come to the board and write an example of how they ‘kid write’ which might include the squiggles, their name or even a sight word or two. This gets them really excited and makes everyone feel like a writer already. It also shows your little writers that we can all write, we just do it differently at the beginning of the year.

Next I model what independent writing time will look like. I close my eyes and imagine what I’m going to write about while verbalising this process “Hmmm on the weekend I did some really fun things with my husband at the beach. I wish I could go to the beach right now! I think I might write about that today.”

On my whiteboard, I start by drawing a picture to match what I thought about in my head. Then it’s time to write! I get the students to help me with sounding out the words as I go. When we get to a tricky sound or word, we use a magic line to show that we know something needs to go there but we aren’t too sure how to write it. I mostly focus on just beginning sounds or sounds that are very obvious so that I don’t overwhelm the students. When students give me incorrect responses [y for was] I use their suggestions and praise them for trying really hard to hear the sounds and words we wanted, I don’t correct them at this stage.

At the end, we celebrate as we read back our writing and see that it matches my picture beautifully. To conclude the session, I do my grown up writing underneath – we can then notice that there are lots of sounds that we got right! You could also get students to come up and write with you.

Next I ask my students to think about what they are going to write about. I encourage them to share their ideas with a friend before they head off to the tables to start their drawings and kid writing. At this stage of the year, we draw first and write second. After 15 minutes of drawing, I ask my students to start their writing to make sure everyone has time to get some kid writing done. I walk around with my aide during this time to help any students that aren’t too sure and to do grown up writing on a few books as students finish.

Below are some photos of the writing that my Prep/Foundation students did after our very first modelled writing session in March (Term 1). They absolutely blew me away with how many sounds the students were using, as well as the magic lines! As you can see, some students were happy to write a few random letters while others tried really hard to sound out a few key words and some even attempted some sight words which we definitely hadn’t started at school. The magic line (which is something I saw in the Kid Writing book by Eileen Feldgus & Isabell Cardonick) is such a great idea because it helps to teach new writers that there should be print for each word they say as they write.

After the students finish their writing, we go back to the carpet and I select 2 or 3 students to share their work. Some days I pick students who have worked really hard and other days I select students whose writing I can use for a mini lesson at the end of the session. For example, the student in the last piece of writing used a full stop so we could use this piece to discuss punctuation. I am very careful not to negatively comment on writing ever because new writers are often not very confident, so I would never use a piece of writing without a full stop at the end to talk about why we need punctuation.

I found that having a free choice writing session every single day really helped my students in all areas of literacy! We often dictate to students what they should write about, so having this time each day for students to just write about anything they like is incredibly beneficial! By the end of the year, some students are using their Writer’s Workshop time to write their own multi-page books. It’s absolutely amazing to watch.

Each day, our writing routine was exactly the same, so I made up a little Writing Workshop Expectations chart which we refer to each morning before we start our session.

About the author

Casey is an early years teacher turned stay at home mum to three little learners aged 6 and under. She is passionate about supporting parents that want to use play as a vehicle to bond with their little learners and create magical memories of childhood! You can follow Casey on Instagram right here.


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  1. Wow – your kids did a fabulous job! I may have to borrow this idea and use it with my Preps (they're all very nervous about writing – which isn't helped by the very confident Grade 1 writers in their class!). Thanks for the great idea!

    Stef
    Miss Galvin Learns

  2. I swear by the Kid Writing book – it's a very easy read (I read it over 2 days) and has soooo many practical ideas for beginning writers! I was told last week that 80% of prep kids come to school believing they can write and after the first week, it drops to 13% which is so sad. I am so excited to see how much better their writing is after a whole year of writing workshop. The growth over the term I used it for last year was amazing =D can you tell how much I love it? Haha

  3. Hi Casey!

    I used the magic line idea with my Preppies this week and have been amazed with the results! They were doing a great job writing the sounds they could hear but were getting stuck when they came to a sound they had no idea how to represent – either waiting for me to come and help or moving on to their picture. The magic line has worked a treat to allow them to keep writing and finish their stories.
    Thanks for the awesome idea!

    Lauren 🙂
    lovelaughterandlearninginprep.blogspot.com.au

  4. Yay that's great to hear! I have been collecting writing samples every few weeks to put together into a book for their parents and I am sooooo impressed with their growth as writers since the beginning of the year. It's great to see them so excited about Writers Workshop! We do need to work on having an idea in our heads before we write because a couple are sitting there stumped about where to start.

  5. Hi
    I’m a recent graduate and have just taken over a prep class till the end of the year. Loving reading through your blog for ideas.
    I am wondering where i can buy the Kid Writing book? I have looked online but only Amazon comes up and it is expensive and also shipping takes a long time!
    Also in this lesson did you give your class any guidance in what to write about? I know if i did this my students would come up to me and say ‘but i don’t know what to write about miss!’

  6. Hi Aleida! I believe the Kid Writing book is out of print at the moment but last I heard, they were working on a new and improved version! I just had a look on their website and they provided this email if you’re looking to buy a copy. It might be worth emailing them directly to see if you can get it cheaper than on Amazon – [email protected]

    Sometimes during Writing Workshop I would get students that weren’t sure what to write about so I started getting them to brainstorm with a partner before they went up to their desks to write. They rarely sat there thinking then and would get stuck into their writing straight away. I hope that helps! Congratulations on your first class! =D

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