Tag Archives: kindergarten writing

A Letter to Myself in the Mirror

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As each year passes, I feel like the time goes by faster and faster.  We have 17 school days left – SEVENTEEN! It seems like just yesterday my kinders were walking into the room for the first time.

Earlier this year, I posted about managing a hectic personal schedule with my professional one and my struggles with shifting priorities.  This school year has been wonderfully chaotic, albeit overwhelming at times.  I took on professional responsibilities, married my best friend, lost my wonderful grandmother, and will welcome a bundle of joy this summer.  All of these experiences led to the need for more structure and kicked my OCD into hyperdrive!

One of the items on my full plate this year, has been a literacy class.  My hopes for the class were simple – be a better than usual professional development opportunity and be an addition to my literacy credentials.  “Literacy Beginnings” has been so much more.

Each session, we take time to reflect on new and old learning.  We reflect on things we have tried in our classrooms and shared with our colleagues.  We discuss our successes and our defeats.  It is truly a safe space where we all feel comfortable sharing our true and honest thoughts about education and concerns we have about teaching our children.  For our last class this week, we have been asked to think about all that we have taken and all we will take away from the course.

Throughout this school year, this class has served as a reminder for me.  More times than I’d like to admit I’ve arrived at class with concern or frustration.  I’ve needed the class to lift me up. And yes – some tears have been shed.  I’ve needed that class to remind me, with everything else happening outside of or linear to my teaching, that what I believe and hold true about teaching is valid.  That my passions have merit – even if they are different from someone else’s.

Dear Self,

These are things you KNOW in your heart, mind, and gut to be true:

  • Play is important. The second half of this year has been amazing!  Being fortunate enough to restructure the schedule for a sizable junk of sustained play has helped with their development.  They are blossoming socially and developmentally.  They are using their literacy skills everywhere.  Their love for learning and literacy continues in their play.  They are bringing their literacy into everything.  During this choice time – they are choosing literacy whether it is obvious or not.  They are creating lists in the kitchen center, designing maps and plans in blocks.  They yearn to put pencil, marker, pen, and crayon to paper in the art center.  They create their own story time in the reading center.  Reading is a social activity for them.  It is a way they are connecting with others.  This is so powerful. Enter their play more – the assessment can wait.
  • Meeting a student where he/she is is priority number one.  Taking a child’s age and maturity into account while teaching him is not an excuse.  Pushing for developmental appropriateness for my students creates a positive learning environment.
  • If it frustrates you and them – you’re pushing too hard!  STOP and ask yourself why?  Is it for the benefit of the children or someone else?  I know you feel guilty.  You’ve let others’ opinions seep into your bubble.  You’ve let whispered judgements about your students from people who don’t know what being in your class is like to affect you.  Do not let the pressures you feel push you to push your students before they are ready.  Do not halt their progress by skipping rungs on the ladder.  Do not leave them dangling. Look into your students’ eyes – are they broken?  No!  Fortunately, the excitement is still there as they put letters to match sounds they are hearing in words.  They feel success as they read their sentences to you – sentences they created, rather than copied.  Words they put forth with true effort rather than words that were pulled from them for someone else’s benefit.
  • All gains should be celebrated – even if the gains aren’t “good enough” according to someone else’s standards. Every child has grown – and at a different pace.  Keep in mind the district expectations, but do not let them defeat you.  Your students have a strong foundation that will help them succeed later in their schooling.
  • Continue to surround your students with love and acceptance.  They should feel capable and successful.  They should feel confident in their “expertness” and safe enough to fail.  We all know that success is built on top of failures.  Continue to show them that it is ok.  To take chances. To be brave.

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Filed under Things That Matter

Autocorrect… FAIL!

We all enjoy reading those hilarious text messages that are a result of Autocorrect taking something mundane and turning into something wildly inappropriate.

What I’ve come to learn however is that it is not hilarious to see your students’ faces scrunch up at the red squiggly line or become frustrated when trying to read back something they have typed.

My kindergarten students use Book Creator on their iPads to publish their writing in book form.  Autocorrect is great for older students and adults when typing, but as a kindergartner who spells phonetically – autocorrect is just confusing.  They come to me for guidance to make “that line” or “new weird word” go away.  In their developing minds, they are spelling correctly by putting what they hear.

We spend our writing lessons stretching out words to record the sounds we hear and the students do this on their own in the writing center.  When creating their own books, they record their voices reading them.  They want their friends to be able to read them.  And how do kindergarteners begin to read?  Phonetically.  They read the sounds that they see.

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To keep my emerging authors confident – I turned autocorrect OFF!  They are no longer discouraged by the red squiggly line or confused by the “new” (albeit correct) words on their pages.

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There are many words that don’t follow the rules – and plenty of time to learn about them.  For now – we are going to concentrate on getting our ideas out into the world!

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Filed under Literacy, Lower Grades, Technology

My name is Skippy-Skippito (clap clap)

I am always looking for a great read aloud to use as a mentor text. One of the strongest visuals for beginning writers is a finished product that uses the writing technique you hope they will use.

In kindergarten, it can feel like pulling to teeth to get them to extend their thought process and put their ideas on paper. We see a lot of “I like my mom” or “I love my mom” or “I like pizza”. We have put “I like” and “I love” to rest. We are working beyond that in our classroom.

A privilege my students have is to go read their writing to the principal. The principal loves to hear their creative stories and see the progress in writing. Most of what they write is independent. That independence takes A LOT of front loading during writing workshop mini lessons. We work together to figure out how to stretch out words, put our thought on paper, and make those ideas more interesting. The students know how to rate their writing on a 1-4 scale (more on that in another post). They also know the principal loves to see writing that ranks at a 3 or 4.

As part of my mini lessons on extending ideas, I turned to my tried and true old friend Skippyjon Jones. I love him for many reasons – he is a Siamese cat with identity issues (thinks he is a Chihuahua), his imagination is out of this world, and the books are fun to read! I pulled out Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice because we were studying space during our unit time. The children thoroughly enjoyed the story of the kitty boy venturing to Mars and rolling around in spice (the cayenne pepper he used to turn his bed into the big red planet).

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After reading we talked about what the story would be like if the author just wrote that Skippy went into his closet – and that was it. What if we never learned about his chimichangos? Or if we never found out he saw an alien? Would the story still be as interesting? The answer was a resounding NO! We then discussed our favorite parts. I modeled adding to a simple 2 sentence story by asking the students what I could add or what questions they had.

As students wrote independently, I did have a few strugglers who just couldn’t get past one sentence. I would simply say – what would Skippy do? They would giggle and buckle down to try another sentence.

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I found this to be an amazingly rewarding experience. I know that whenever we find ourselves in a writing rut – we can count on Skippy to “bounce-ity, bounce-ity, bounce” us out.

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Filed under Lower Grades, Mentor Text, Writing Workshop