This coming Sunday (October 20th) is National Day on Writing. Yes there really is a national day on writing! If you are interested, you can join Penny Kittle (@pennykittle) and Katherine Sokolowski (@katsok) on Sunday, October 20, at 8 p.m. ET, for a Twitter Chat (#nctechat) celebrating the National Day on Writing!
Must of us think of writing happening only when children get to elementary school, but even in preschool, children can begin to write! Writing for a young child often takes place in the form of scribbling. How many of us remember our own children doing this? I know I do!
At first I thought our daughter, who was three at the time, was just obsessed with notebooks. It seemed every store we went into, she wanted me to purchase a notebook. But soon I learned she just wanted a place to keep all of her ideas she had in her brain! She would scribble and scribble for hours it seemed. Of course when she brought me her notebook, she would ask me to read it for her. Not wanting to let her down, I simply told her that I had forgotten how to read scribble so would she mind helping me. I was amazed at the stories she would tell me from her “scribbling”!
Here is what the research says-when you see children scribbling, don’t disregard it! Just as we don’t discourage children from babbling; we should not discourage the scribbles. On the contrary, we should be encouraging them to write in whatever form it takes. As children continue to develop, they gain more fine motor coordination and the scribbling begins to take shapes. They will actually form lines on the paper like real sentences. We might think that when we see this we need to start teaching letter development. But not so fast! Research has taught us that children attend to the whole written lines as opposed to learning how to do parts (whole to part learning). Only after they attend to the whole-written lines, do they start to pay attention to letters. (Temple, Nathan, & Burris, 1993).
When we moved our daughter in preschool, we were lucky to find a provider who believed in early writing. From scribbles to actual stories, our daughter was learning how to write and communicate! In our family room, we have her very first published story! Entitled “Our Dog Abbey,” it is her story of our wonderful pet. Ms. PJ, her teacher at the time, sat with our daughter and asked her to tell her about Abbey. Together, they created a cute and funny story. Even though she was only five, she was creative and insightful! Did you know that dogs wear collars to “keep the fuzzies from falling off?” Well our Abbey did! Our daughter even wrote about how she loved to put something over her nose to keep Abbey from barking so much (guess we used that muzzle just a little too much in those days)!
For my son, scribbling never became lines of sentences. Instead, his scribbling turned into drawings.
Drawing can be a great first place to start when it comes to writing. Think about it, the first cave paintings held no words at all-just pictures! It is true what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words if it is done well. If you have ever read the book, Bunny Tales, you understand what I mean.
Written by Rosemary Wells, the book tells the story of Max. When he goes to make his mother a birthday cake, he wants Red Hot Marshmallow Squirters for his cake. While his sister can simply write down what she needs to make her cake, he has yet to master the art of writing! So he draws pictures. Problem is, his drawings are not always clear. Only when he really thinks about his drawing, is he able to communicate what he wants.
Drawing is a great way for students to start writing down their ideas and to share what they are learning with their parents
Young Scientists Journal!
Several years ago I began volunteering with Bullfrogs and Butterflies, a local preschool, to do science activities and experiments with the students. As we were doing the activity or experiments, we would write for the children. Even thought we had done all these great experiences and had the children engaged, we found out they still went home and had nothing to share. If you have had children, you know what I am talking about. You pick your child up from school and ask “what did you do today?” and get the famous answer-nothing!
But we knew the children were learning and doing so much more than just nothing! To help the children tell their parents what they did that day, we made simple journals and began incorporating them into the day. Students would do a science activity or experiment and then we had them journal what they observed. The basic set-up for the journal had the students draw a picture before and a picture after.
Here is a picture of a journal page from a lesson entitled “What is Black?”
After the children drew their pictures, we would go around and ask them to share what they learned or share with us what they drew. We then would write this information in their books. These simply journals became a tool the parents could use to engage their children in conversations about the learning that took place that day!
So how do you encourage writing in your classroom?