Questions About Writing Instruction
How can I support my students' writing?
The process of learning to write begins in very early for many children. The oral and written language experiences children have at home, day care, preschool, and kindergarten contribute to the developing ability to communicate in writing. Let's look at ways in which you can support your students' writing.
Adults in daycare settings and preschools can promote the development of writing skills by offering informal opportunities for children to observe, explore, and experiment with writing. When children observe adults writing in order to accomplish real tasks, they learn the value and function of writing. Caregivers can involve the children in writing brief notes to parents or listing the foods that are to be purchased for the next day's snack time. It's a good idea to have a box of writing tools and materials available for children to use when they want to engage in independent writing. The materials can be arranged on a special table that is set aside just for writing.
Although informal writing opportunities should continue at the kindergarten level, teachers should begin to provide slightly more formal and organized opportunities for students to engage in writing. For example, educators can create an "office center" in the classroom and set aside a special time when children are allowed to work in the center. The office center should contain everything students need to scribble, design signs, send notes, record telephone numbers, or write stories.
Although many kindergartners can recognize some letters, words, and phrases, they may revert to drawing or scribbling when encouraged to write a story. Educators should accept this as a valuable attempt at writing. "Invented" or "phonetic" spelling is when a young child writes a word the way that it sounds without concern for spelling the word correctly. In the course of the school year, some kindergartners will experiment with invented spelling and begin to move closer to "standard" spelling. Teachers should treat such development as part of the natural process of emerging literacy. Attempts to use emerging skills should be warmly supported, not forced or scrutinized for errors.
Throughout first grade students will still experiment between invented and standard spelling. Their attempts should be encouraged, supported and then followed by instruction. Instruction should consist of creating stories with beginning, middles and endings. It should also feature information on how to use capitalization rules and punctuation tools in appropriate ways. As a student's writing ability develops, further emphasis may include instruction on the different areas within a written piece of work. For example, a student's word choice may not be powerful or interesting enough to grab the reader's interest or attention to continue reading the piece.
What do I do with struggling writers?
Encourage listening and responding to read aloud
Allow students who have difficulty with writing to first respond by art (drawing their favorite part or character) or drama (rehearsing the story). This extra time allows writers to rehearse their ideas before putting them on paper.
Provide time to talk about their writing
Sitting down with a child and discussing their ideas, helps them to organize their thought and details. This also gives them an idea of how to begin their written piece.
Teach strategies in small groups or one-on-one
Spend the majority of your teaching time with small groups or one-on-one to guide a student through their writing. Strategies such as sounding out a word to hear its sounds, reviewing a spelling a pattern or teaching students to circle words that they need help spelling, are essential for children in feeling confident in their writing process.
Most importantly CELEBRATE writing
All students need to feel that their work is valued. After a student has gone through the process of brainstorming, rough draft, editing, revising and final draft; celebrate their written work! Celebrations could include inviting another class to hear stories written, hanging papers in the hallway or allowing the struggling student to read their work to a special staff person in the building of their choice.