Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of attending the publishing party hosted by our Kindergarten team. The celebration was the culmination of weeks of effort and hard work in the area of writing and we were really fortunate to have an incredible turn out from our parent community.
Often times, one of the questions I am asked is how we work on writing with children who are not yet able to write words or sentences. The answer is that we expand have to expand our perspective on what actually constitutes a good piece of writing. Beyond the mechanics and letter-sound relationships are the more sophisticated concepts of developing strong ideas, adding details and linking ideas in a logical or sequential fashion. It is these core concepts of effective communication that we seek to develop at the outset because these skills create the foundation for future success when sharing ideas, whether it is through writing or orally.
When looking at the work of the Kindergarten students yesterday, it did not matter whether a child had developed the ability to write words or sentences in a conventional fashion. Each one of them had picked up key ideas about communication and the writing process through the creation of their stories. Each story had a specific title, which indicated the main idea. The majority of the drawings had multiple details, similar to the way an older author might describe a scene in writing. Many children added speech bubbles or drew specific symbols to express further information (for example, one child drew a light bulb on top of a character’s head and subsequently shared orally that this symbol represented the character getting an idea at that moment in the story). Additionally, the children made a distinct effort for the drawings to unfold in a logical sequence with a start and finish. By providing an opportunity for the children to explore and develop the larger concepts behind writing, the teachers did an incredible job of ensuring that each child experienced success and of equal importance are establishing a foundation for the future. The physical act of writing comes with time developmentally but the ideas and concepts are areas that our young thinkers and communicators are already capable of showing.
As an elementary school, we have launched into a school wide effort to refine our instructional practices in the area of writing. Guided by the methodology stemming from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, we began in August with three consecutive days of professional development from Stephanie Parsons, a well-known leader in the area of literacy development, that was funded by the BFIS Annual Fund. The benefits of this strategic and focused professional development have been evident throughout the elementary school with teachers sharing significant improvements in student engagement and the overall quality of writing.