Endless Opportunities for Writing

Although writing workshop is the time in our day devoted to the craft and process of writing, there are many opportunities throughout the day to write in different situations and for various purposes and audiences. Here are a few ways my kindergarteners write throughout the day.

During Open House in January, students created signs around the room with information for our parents and guests about what the students do in that area of the classroom.

 openhouse3 open house2  

 Our math journals, reading response journals and science notebooks are ways we write in other areas of the curriculum.  These examples are taken from our science notebooks with information recorded during our study of balls and ramps.

 science4 “Friction stops the ball.  It went further thatn last time.”

science3   “Gravity stopped my ball from hitting the chair.”

  science2     Ball investigation where the student recorded observations of the different balls.                

This writing is taken from our Class Historian book.  Each week a new Class Historian is chosen for the week.  This person is responsible for recording what we have done during the school day.  We often turn through the book reminiscing over all we have done and how much we have grown in the past year.

 historiian2from November in kindergarten:  “We ate in the lunchroom.” 

 historian from February in kindergarten: “We were outside at recess.  Then we did come inside from recess.”

Here are a few pieces of writing taken from our Dialogue Journals.  Each year I begin this writing project at the start of the 4th nine weeks.  The students learn what a dialogue is and how one has a conversation or dialogue through writing.  The student writes about what they have done during the school day and the parent reads it and responds each night.  (There is an explanation glued inside the front cover explaining to the parents the purpose of the journal.)  This activity helps the student grow as a writer in a whole new aspect.  Their handwriting and their spelling often improves greatly because they are focused on the fact that someone is going to read this and respond so they know they have to communicate clearly.   This also gives them an opportunity to write for a different audience.


“We had a busy day.  1.  We had Kona Ice.  2.  We had Preschoolers in our class (visiting).  3.  We went to guidance.”


“There (were) preschoolers.  We showed them around.  It was fun and we go to go to Kona Ice.  Ya! Ya! Ya!”


“In gym we played Battleship and it was fun.”

Parent response.

“How you play is you get on a mat.  Then there (are) two circles and people will be guarded.”

It is amazing to watch these young writers grow all year long! 



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Persuasive Writing in Kindergarten

My kindergarten writers explored opinion writing this fall working to state an opinion and possibly provide a reason for the opinion.  This is quite a simple task and most students were easily able to grasp this in the fall.   At the start of the new semester we took on something new and exciting in the genre of persuasive writing.  The students were challenged to not only supply an opinion, but to also convince others to agree or take action.

The first day of this work, I felt a little overwhelmed and quite like a writing teacher failure.  During the mini-lesson we reviewed the types/purposes for writing we had explored this year.  We have learned that writers write to tell stories, state an opinion and to teach or inform.  We were now ready to explore how writers write to solve problems and change the world.  We discussed how writers observe the world around them and sometimes see a problem they think needs to be changed and write to convince others to agree and take action.  When my young writers took in this new idea and went off to write I quickly assessed they did not completely grasp the purpose I had described.  One student wrote about a house on fire (the problem) and that they called 911 to solve this problem.  Another student wrote that their friends pipes busted and flooded their house (problem) and they had to call a “pipe fixer.”  Through conferences with these writers I knew what tomorrow’s mini-lesson would be.

The next day I began our workshop time with a discussion of things that were problems in our opinion.   We had a little trouble with this so I began to name problems and we categorized them as “It’s a fact this is a problem” and “In some people’s opinion, this is a problem.”  The students were then able to distinguish between the two.  (i.e. a house on fire is in fact a problem, where as in your opinion you need a pet rabbit.)

Jeyton’s persuasive piece.

jeryton-persuasive(“I’m breathing in your stuff.  I know a different way.  Wait until your kids get in.  I’m having trouble breathing.”)






When I conferred with Jeyton the first thing he said was, “Will you please fold this into a paper airplane?”  After some questioning, I was able to determine that he wrote about a problem he has with the bus in front of his bus and he wanted to fly it into the door of that bus because he couldn’t get in that line to deliver it to that driver.  Jeyton further explained that he thought it was a problem that while he was in line to board his bus, the bus in front of his would finish loading and pull away leaving a cloud of exhaust that caused him to cough.  His solution was for the bus to wait until his bus was also loaded before they pulled away.  His reason to try to persuade the driver was that he was having trouble breathing.  In his illustration he drew the cloud of exhaust, his line and bus and even added a speech bubble with “cough” written in it.  This was a well thought out opinion with a solution and reasons.  I was amazed by this 6 year old writer!

Kate’s persuasive piece.

kate persuasive (“Harrison, will you please stop spinning me <around>.  I don’t like it.”)






Kate decided to write a letter for her persuasive piece because her audience was her brother.  Kate explained that her brother thought it was fun to spin her around but in her opinion it was not fun.  In her letter she stated her opinion and gave a reason to persuade him.   She was serious about persuading him and wanted to deliver this letter immediately so  I made a copy of her piece for her to take to him that day.  She reported back that he said he would stop and he didn’t know she didn’t like it.  Five year olds can use writing to solve problems!

Jackson’s persuasive piece.


(“Boys and girls, stop running.  You will trip.  It will cause commotion.  If you run, you will maybe knock three people down like dominoes.   Page 2…  If you run, your backpack’s maybe going to choke you.  Page 3…  You will maybe break your head.”)

Jackson worked on this persuasive piece over several days which is impressive for kindergarten writers who often do not revisit writing pieces to revise or extend.   Jackson decided that in his opinion there was too much running in the halls during dismissal and he wrote a persuasive piece to be read over the morning announcements because his audience was all students at HES.   Jackson incorporated many things we had studied about persuasive writing in this piece.  He stated the problem and listed several reasons to persuade.  He also included possible consequences for inaction.  Besides using what he learned as a persuasive writer, Jackson used one of our new vocabulary words (commotion) and numbered each page at the bottom.  Jackson is six years old and is already a thoughtful, competent writer.

On the first day of this writing study, I felt overwhelmed and thought it was “too much” for these young writers.  I am so grateful that I trusted myself, the process and these precious little writers who have so much to share.   When we trust and we work to grow each day as writers and teachers of writing, magic happens!

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Informational Writing in Kindergarten

After Thanksgiving, we began to work on informational writing.  My kindergarten class tackled the “How To” type of non-fiction writing.  We began with discussions around what “How To” books were and what type of information was included in them.  We studied several examples and then began to think of all of the things these young writers knew how to do that they could write about to help others who may be seeking information and direction.  In the following days we refined our work and they were writing books about How to Tie your Shoe, How to Be a Friend, How to Read a Book, How to Brush Your Teeth, How to Build with Legos and How to Feed Your Dog.  The ideas were pouring forth as they grew in confidence and realized they knew how to do so many various things.  This is a piece by Emma from December in kindergarten and is titled How to Ride a Bike.  We enjoyed working in this genre and they all grew so much as writers.


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Inspired Young Writers

It happens every year. Each class has a personality of their own and it dictates which books are favorites, which work station is the most popular and which author the class picks as a mentor. This year my group has loved Mo Willems’ Pigeon books more than any class I’ve ever had. They love the humor, they relate to the theme of begging for something you can’t have and they love that pigeon. Several students have written pigeon inspired stories this year and they are all so great. This book by Jeyton was one he worked on at home and was so proud to bring in and share it. He told us that he saw the first wrapped present under his tree and he REALLY wanted to open it. He went on to explain that he wanted to open it so badly that he felt like the pigeon saying, “Please! Please! Please!” And in that moment, a story was born for this kindergarten writer. I absolutely love the moment a child begins to live the life of a writer. They notice things in the world around them, relate to situations and feelings expressed in books they love and turn them into ideas for their own writing. It’s magical really.


If you are familiar with Mo Willems’ books then you notice the detail that Jeyton included.  He showed the pigeon’s expressions and feelings in his eyes, he used speech bubbles, he used voice and he showed action in how he drew the pigeon.  On one page he placed the word FLAP around him to show action and on the last page he drew the pigeon begging on bended knee.  I’m in awe of all that is possible with young writers.

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Conferring With Young Writers

The writing conference is my favorite part of writing workshop.  It is a special time to meet with my writers individually, hear their thoughts, see their growth and set writing goals together.   I remember feeling intimidated by the conference when I first started teaching, thinking “what will I say?”  The unpredictable part of conferring with young writers can be off-setting at times but when we focus on the writer and knowing our students, the teaching flows naturally.  Lucy Calkins reminds us, “The single most important guideline to keep in mind in a conference is that the writer should leave wanting to write.”

I was asked to share some clips of writing conferences in my classroom by teachers are working to fully implement a writing workshop in their classrooms.  Since I am the only adult in my room this year, I asked students (5 year old students) to use the flip video camera to record a conference during our workshop on a few different occasions.  Please excuse the swaying camera at times.  However, for 5 years old, I think they did really well.

In these conferences you will see me working with kindergarten writers.  In these clips you will see me:

1. Observe, ask questions, listen.

2. Focus on a teaching point(s) based on each writer.  (Because I know my students well, I know whether it is time for one teaching point, several small points or simply time to celebrate and reflect on how they have grown.)

3.  Summarize how they have grown and what they can do to continue to grow.

This first clip was taken at the end of the last school year and we had lots to celebrate.  When I see Charlie’s smile and him lean over to hug me, I’m reminded of Donald Murray’s words.  He said, “Above all, in a good writing conference, a writer’s energy for writing should go up, not down.”  In every conference I want each writer to know that I see and acknowledge their efforts and their growth and that I believe they are capable of great things.   Here’s Charlie.


In the next clip, I am meeting with Harper.  I know Harper and what she is ready for so you see me focus on a couple of teaching points.  You  also see me using a dry erase board that I carry with me during writing conferences.  I use this to write on because I do not write on the students work.  I feel that this sends a message to the student that my writing is correct and their’s is not and I always want to honor the student and the efforts they have made in their  writing.  I end this conference by focusing on the hard work Harper has done each day in writing workshop.  It is important for teachers to praise things students can quantify.  I comment on their hard work and efforts, things they have control over, not their IQ and being “smart” which is not something they feel they have control over.  Here’s Harper.


Here is a picture of Harper’s writing.

Screen shot 2013-11-16 at 12.09.04 PM


In this last clip, I am working with Gabi.  I am focusing on her as the writer and what she is trying to tell her reader.  I ask her some questions for clarification and then support her in adding words to her illustration.  I then look back with her at other pieces of writing.  We predict what her writer may wonder about and want to hear more about.  She uses this thought process to add more details to her writing.  I love that at the end of the conference she wants to turn back to another piece and share it and add more to it.  Here’s Gabi.


Don Graves said, “The conference is the heart of teaching the writing process.”  I agree and am so grateful to witness the growth of these young writers each day!



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Celebrations….Week of Oct 28-Nov 1

celebrate link up

This week in kindergarten we celebrated Halloween with scarecrow book characters, wearing our costumes and more!  We also had our annual Boosterthon fun run to raise money for our school and have lots of fun.  With all of this excitement we still packed in lots of learning.  We are still working hard as writers and growing in independence as capable writers.

On Tuesday night I found myself celebrating writing in an unexpected place.   I was watching my daughter cheer at a youth football game and a student in my class who has a brother playing football for the team came and sat down with me as she often does.  She had a white board and dry erase marker and was writing away.   She wrote, erased, wrote again, illustrated.  There were kids running everywhere-playing, her friends were running up and talking.  She would stop briefly and then continue writing.    She was so engaged and excited for me to read each fleeting story.  Don Graves said it best.  “Children want to write!”


This is my sweet little writer and one of her stories.  She wrote, “I was with my friend.  We were playing.”  LOVE it!isabella


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Celebrating Writers

Ruth Ayers has a new book coming out this month titled Celebrating Writers. It’s all about celebrating young writers in every stage of writing wherever they are in the process. In the spirit of celebration, she has started a link-up on her blog and through twitter for teachers to share celebrations each Saturday. You can find detailed informations on her blog here. I have placed the button for the link-up on the sidebar of our blog and hopefully HES will be sharing a lot of celebrations each week.

Ruth Ayers shared this in a post on October 10th and it spoke directly to me.

“We only get one shot at this life. One chance to make the most of it. One chance to live in the moment. If we aren’t careful, it is easy to become tattered and worn and even a little undone.

Or we can choose joy. Happiness is a choice. We can wallow or we can celebrate.

When I first started teaching, I had a friend who always had a hysterical story to share at the end of the day. In fact, after the students cleared the building and hall duty was finished, you’d find a group of teachers gathered around to hear her daily tale. I wondered why she was the one who always had funny things happen in her classroom.

Then one day it hit me — it wasn’t that she had a magic wand to conjure up funny things, but rather she knew how to notice and remember funny situations.

The same is true for finding things to celebrate. More good stuff isn’t happening in one place or another. There aren’t some lives that are more worthy of celebration. When I think back to a dark time I had after adopting our daughters compared to these months after our most recent adoption 9 months ago, I realize there isn’t more good now than then — I’m just positioning myself to find joy.

It’s an intentional choice I’m making. It’s a choice that makes a difference.”

We have to intentionally choose to honor children and where they are.  With all the pressure that is put on us as teachers, it is all too easy to dwell on what they don’t know or how much they need to grow.   Trust in our belief that all children can learn is at the heart of teaching.  Let’s celebrate where each young writer is and who each child is now.

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Growing writers!

We are working hard in kindergarten and already making so much progress. My students love Writing Workshop and look forward to it each day. We have established our routines and procedures and our workshop time is running smoothly. We are working on opinion writing this nine weeks. They are able to share their opinions and tell why they hold that opinion. Here are two work samples from the same student. One is at the end of August and the other is at the end of September. Writing Workshop is such an exciting part of our day! We are all growing together!

photo 1photo 2

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Melanie’s post about building relationships reminded me of this Donald Graves’ quote in No Better Way to Teach Writing: “At the core of the conference is a teacher asking a child to teach her about the subject. The aim is to foster a bursting desire to inform. So the teacher never implies a greater knowledge of this topic than the child possesses, nor treats the child as an inferior learner. We are in the business of helping children to value what they know. Ideally, the poorer the writing the greater interest the teacher will show in it — or rather in what it might become.” This nugget of wisdom guided writing conferences with my former students and it guides my conversations with children today. Trust is absolutely essential to the effectiveness of the conference.

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Building Relationships

Mary Ellen Giacobbe once said, “Focus on the writer and the writing will come.” This truth guides all of my writing conferences with students. In kindergarten I work hard to help children view themselves as writers. As they begin to grow as writers I use the writing conference as a chance to build relationships with each student. When you focus on the writer, showing them that they matter and that what they have to share is important, they feel valued and safe to take necessary risks as writers. The mechanics of writing, conventions, and craft will follow. Relationships and communication are at the heart of writing workshop and are vital work at the start of a new year. Once that rapport is there and a community of growing writers is formed, the possibilities are endless.

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