Teaching Children to Write from the Start
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Teaching Children to Write from the Start



These slides accompanied a talk I gave recently for the Potomac Association of Cooperative Teachers http://pactconference.org/

These slides accompanied a talk I gave recently for the Potomac Association of Cooperative Teachers http://pactconference.org/



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  • I’m a professor at George Mason in English. My PhD is in education with a focus on writing development across the lifespan.
  • I also am the Director of the Northern Virginia Writing Project. Nvwp.org
  • I work with LOTS of teachers throughout Northern Virginia. I don’t like to give one-off talks as a form of professional development, but I’m really interested in expanding the nvwp to include preschool educators. I’m also interested in early childhood writing development; so, this is a fun conversation for me to have!
  • This is my little girl, Estella. She’s 3 years old. So, there are three reasons I’m giving this talk: I’m an educational researchers, a teacher of teachers, and father of a preschooler.
  • The cognitive
  • and to engage in positive interactions with parents and teachers
  • Why does she jump rope? How does she learn?
  • Please don’t use writing as a punishment!
  • Pt. 1 is the constructivePt. 2 is the multimodal
  • Children draw on the world of print that surrounds them in forming their hypotheses about what writing is and what it does
  • Let’s climb to the top of Mt. Obvious for a minute
  • The thank you card! Remember its intentionnot convention!

Teaching Children to Write from the Start Teaching Children to Write from the Start Presentation Transcript

  • Teaching Children to Write from the Start: Ability,Culture, Meaning and Mechanics October 17, 2012
  • An Overview• An interactive conversation – You are the experts on the children at your school• Some background about writing and writing development
  • Why focus on writing?• Writing is a key element of academic success.• Writing is a powerful learning too that supports both understanding and remembering.• Writing is a key ability for full participation in the 21st century.
  • 2 out of 3 U.S. students failto meet grade level demandsin writing.
  • When does writingbegin?
  • • After children learn to read?• When they begin to write words conventionally?
  • A Different Perspective• Literacy development begins long before formal schooling• Children learn about reading and writing simultaneously in their everyday experiences
  • Children’s literacy isconstructive and multi-modal
  • Learning to write is about cognitive development and social participation
  • Children engage in writing toexplore the characteristics of writing materials the cognitive development
  • Children write to engagein positive interactionswith adults and to formrelationships with peersthe social participation
  • What motivates children to learn to walk and talk? To learn anything?
  • By what mechanismsdo children learn towalk and talk? Dochildren learnanything?
  • Focus on Engagement
  • The Basic Skills• Spelling and punctuation• Thinking, memory, and language a(speaking), plus fine motor skills
  • Children’s handwriting develops sequentially “through stages ofdrawing, scribbling, the making of letterlike forms, moving to well- learned units, invented spelling, and conventional orthography” (Boscolo, 2008)
  • Scribbling
  • Drawing
  • RandomLetters
  • Inventedspelling
  • ConventionalSpelling
  • Writing before schooling can best bedescribed as exploration …But … there’s more
  • • What hypotheses do children develop about writing prior to entering school?• How do children being to manage and use multiple sign systems?
  • Identify the background knowledgethat all children possess … learning revolves around the child’s mind not the teachers.
  • Not convention but intention
  • In schoolchildren learn what they are taught.So focus on the multiple purposes for writing like …
  • Authentic Purposes (Brainstrom)
  • Authentic Purposes• Telling what I’ve learned (reports)• Describing an experience (travel writing)• Keeping notes (journaling)• Comparing ideas (reviews)• Conducting research (creating knowledge)• Analyzing problems (making the world a better place)• Sharing happiness and wisdom (fictional narratives)• Introducing an important person (profiles)
  • Create anenvironment forwriting
  • Create a Writing Center– Provide supplies and journals • Everyone gets their own journal binders work very well– Most important ingredient is YOU (close and sustained support)– Open ended and semi-structured– Lots of “prewriting” • Lists • Maps • Proto writing • Name writing
  • Integrating writing with art
  • Linking reading and writing
  • What happened in “Click Clack Moo Cows That Type”?
  • Strategies• Write every day• Revisit and reread• Share the writing as a group• Letter tracing• Name writing
  • Name Writing• A window into children’s emergent writing• The child’s name is often the first word they begin to write• The child first learns to recognize letters in their name, especially the first letter (own name advantage)
  • Name writing tends to progress in the following manner:• (a) scribble; (b) linear scribble; (c) separate symbols, with letter-like forms; (d) name written with correct letters and mockletters/symbols; (e) name generally correct, with some letters reversed or omitted; and (f ) name written correctly
  • Use Name Writing with Self- PortraitsLook for lots of little transitions
  • Strategies• Focus on what’s RIGHT!• It is the act of writing that needs encouragement• Write with your students
  • Strategies• Extrinsic rewards??• Using mentor texts – Supplied by both teacher and child• Share what You write• Celebrate writing• Writing floats on a sea of talk
  • Evaluation• Respond to completion• Respond to pride of authorship• Encourage students to try out ideas
  • Freedom of Choice• Varying the amounts and types of input – Experiment – Let’s spend the next few minutes writing anything we want
  • What are the most importantelements of of written language that children need to learn?
  • Conventions or mechanics
  • Conventions and mechanics
  • Beginning• Does a story have a beginning?• Does everything have a beginning?
  • Middle• What comes after the beginning?• Does a story have a middle?• Do you remember what happened in the middle?• The Climax is the final event in the middle before the problem is solved or resolved?
  • End• Does a story have an end?• What happened at the end?
  • Retelling• Guided• Individual
  • Pictures, key words, and mapping
  • Beginning 1/4Middle 1/2End 1/4
  • • Have the children label the parts• Draw pictures to illustrate the things that they think are important in each part of the story
  • Retell the story using the pictures
  • Key words• K-2 Ask and write down the words the children say• 3-5 – Use questions• Who were the main characters? Where were they? Was there a problem? What was it?
  • Beginning Key wordsMax, wolf suit, mother, Wild Thing, “I’ll eat you up!” bedMiddleRoom, Max, forst, tamed, ocean, magic, boat, trick, sailed, kind,wild things, wild rumpus, roared, lonelyEndHome, supper, room, hot
  • Rewriting the model story• Once the children have had enough experience so they understand the basic parts and can retell the story, they will be able to rewrite it using their own words.
  • Write an original story• What is a story?• What are the parts of a story?
  • Instructions• Now that you’ve learned so much about the parts of a story you will enjoy writing your own story. Let’s write a story together. It can be funny, or spooky, or you can write an animal story, or one about your family and friends. The only thing you need to remember is that your story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  • Thank you for your attention