First grade has changed considerably in the 20 years I've been teaching it. I believe that's a good thing. Even though I've never taught kindergarten, I believe the same is true for that grade level. This is an oversimplification, but in many classrooms, it's gone from naps and snacks to being a miniature version of first grade. Some might argue that our littlest learners aren't experiencing enough of that important play they used to get. I would tend to agree with some of this argument, but that topic is for another day. Instead I'm interested in something else I wish kindergarten students were getting more of.
For many years I've been wishing for more writing in kindergarten classrooms. I don't mean worksheets. I don't mean filling in the blank or finishing a prompt either. I wish these young ones could choose their own topics and freely write small moments about their lives. I wish they could write persuasive letters about topics that are important to them. I wish they could write how-to pieces explaining procedures that they're experts in. I wish they could write free-verse poetry with their innocent and beautiful words. I wish they could experience the power and accomplishment that comes from being writers. I don't simply wish these things because it would make my job easier. I wish it because I know that kindergartners are able to accomplish these writing tasks with the right daily supports and would benefit greatly as readers, writers, and thinkers if given the opportunity.
I've kept my thoughts to myself about this topic for a long time. I'm not a kindergarten teacher, so what do I know? Melissa, a kindergarten teacher extraordinaire, gave me the boldness to speak up. I've been admiring her writing instruction for a while now. Recently she posted about the need for daily writing workshop in kindergarten, and I thought, "If she can say it, so can I." This is an excerpt from her post.
I have two boys in kindergarten this year. It’s amazing how quickly the year goes by. Prior to entering kindergarten if I had only one wish for my boy’s school year it would be that they have writing workshop. They have had a wonderful year in kindergarten. They have learned what it means to be a listener, a friend, a student, a reader, and many more important things, but they didn’t learn to be a writer.
My kids did lots of worksheets that “prepared” them to learn about reading and writing. I do not believe worksheets teach kids anything about reading or writing. I think worksheets keep kids busy.
I think writer’s workshop should be happening in every kindergarten classroom, if we expect students to learn how to be confident readers and writers.
She mirrored my thoughts exactly. Kindergarteners don't need to be prepared to write using artificial means. They don't need to wait until they know all their letters. They don't need to wait until they have better control of phonological awareness. They need to write every single day. I don't mean to insinuate that teaching five-year-olds to be writers is a piece of cake. Since I teach six-year-olds, I know better. From someone who's in the trenches though, Melissa proves that it can be done. She's got credibility. Even though I've never watched her teach, I imagine that she accepts and celebrates approximations. At the beginning of the year, the writer who can only write a story through pictures is celebrated as much as the one who easily writes most sounds in words using complete sentences. She understands the many levels of writing represented in a classroom and knows how to nudge each one to next appropriate steps. The bottom line? She knows that writing in her classroom will markedly influence the next twelve years of the lives in her care. It's that important.
Please visit Melissa's blog and read her whole post. She's an expert at what she does.