My writing philosophy is a combination of many research-based writing programs and workshops that I have attended. As teachers do, I took a bit from this and a bit from that and made them my own. Most of my influence has come from Bobbi Fisher, author of Thinking and Learning Together: Curriculum and Community in a
Primary Classroom (Heinemann, 1995) and Inside the Classroom: Teaching Kindergarten and First Grade (Heineman, 1996). I highly recommend these books for ANY teacher, new or old, who wishes to enhance their classroom
with practical strategies that make students feel part of a community and involve parents in the learning process. Our writing rules are simple: (1) Name it. (2) Date it. (3) Draw something. (4) Write something. Once students have written, they can choose to share their story or put it in their folder.
During the first month of school, writing time consists of “roaming the known,” when I get a feel for what the students are bringing to the writing table. This time consists of 3-5 minutes of “free writing”. Some students only get pictures drawn during this time, others begin using the strategies that I have demonstrated in “modeled writing,” and others get a picture drawn, labeled and one or two sentences written. This lets me know what each student has in their “toolbox” of writing skills. I got this idea from a workshop run by Nancy Sharp—to learn more about her workshops: www.NLSharp.com
Modeled writing gives students the opportunity to see all of the different strategies that they can utilize to express their ideas in writing. The teacher acts as a scribe and writes in front of the students, putting words together to make meaning of print. The teacher “thinks aloud” and verbalizes every part of the writing process.
First and foremost, DON’T BE ALARMED (or attempt to correct) when your first grader brings home writing with misspelled words. At this point in development, it’s important for young writers to feel comfortable with their writing and not be hindered by conventions. Eventually we will worry more about spelling, punctuation, etc. Right now—we just want them to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE!
Students are always encouraged to use inventive spelling to write words that they don’t know. The adult simply guides the student in sounding out the desired word and “what you see is what you get!”
As the year progresses, students are growing more aware of their writing and words that they aren’t able to spell on their own. So, second semester students are introduced to a new tool for their toolbox—the “Have-a-go.” This strategy affords students the opportunity to try a new word then have the teacher show them the correct spelling before they ever write anything on their paper. To the left is an example of a Have-a-go. Thanks Bobbi Fisher—my kids LOVE this strategy!
Each month I meet with students to discuss their writing, talk about what they’ve learned, and set a writing goal for the next month.
I fill out a Writing Meeting Form (see below) that guides our discussion and reminds students of some of the things we worked on that month. At each meeting we try to focus on something different but we always set a goal. Examples of writing goals might be, “Keep my writing folder neat,” “Work on capitals and periods,” or “Neater handwriting.”