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Looking at writing: An emergent writer

This writing sample comes from a 5 year old boy in my neighborhood, who happily wrote a big long message one afternoon. "Wow, Nelson! What did you write?" Mom asked. Nelson looked at it, scrunched his nose, and said, "I dunno. Something about a butterfly, I think."

writing sample 2

What this sample tells me:

Looking at writing: What can we learn?

Readers of this blog know that I love writing samples. I've collected them from my kids since they started scribbling, and I often ask friends and neighbors if I can make a copy of their kids notes, assignments, or scribbles.

Children learn about reading and writing from the time they're born. When young kids watch parents and siblings use writing to communicate, they are learning about the purpose and value of writing. Many children become interested in making marks and scribbling on paper beginning around 18 months.

Using but confusing, with laundry

I've written before about using a child's writing as a way to understand what she needs from her instruction. This weekend provided me with more insight into Anna's (our 6 year old) development by showing me what she's "using but confusing," a term used by Donald Bear and colleagues in their research in word study.

The girls' Sunday chore was to organize their dresser. Always industrious, Anna took it a step further and labeled each drawer. You can see her work in this photo:

How writers write

Lately I've been spending lots of time in my car. This week while driving around I was fortunate enough to hear two children's authors talk about their craft and what writing means to them. I love to discover how authors write, what inspires them, and how hard they work at their craft.

'Tis the season, again!

Was it really a year ago that I wrote this post about feeling frenzied and guilty about the lack of quality reading and writing time at our house? Because it's happening again! And once again I realize that my girls ARE engaged in reading and writing. It just looks different this time of year.

Here what we're doing, language arts style, to get ready for the holidays:

How young is too young for cursive?

My friend Cathy called to talk about her daughter's first grade teacher. Lilly, her six year old, started complaining about school a few weeks ago, and over the past two weeks the situation has gotten steadily worse. Cathy finally coaxed it out of Lilly that the problem is all about handwriting. Lilly's teacher requires that all school assignments, including spelling tests, be written in cursive. In cursive! In first grade! Lilly's handwriting is apparently not up to par, and she's had to do lots of extra practice sheets to work on her cursive writing.

No more Friday spelling tests!

I think I'll open a can of worms this week and declare that teachers should abandon the age-old practice of Friday spelling tests. You know the routine (because you went to elementary school, and it hasn't changed): students get new words on Monday, "practice" them during the week using various drills; they take a test on Friday, and then on Monday, misspell the words and all the other words that share that spelling feature.

Using volunteers in the classroom

Sometimes parent volunteers require a lot of extra work for a teacher. Other times, parents work as a second set of hands but don't really work one-on-one with kids. Somewhere in the middle is a setting in which the time flies by with both the volunteer and the students benefitting from spending time together.

Pen pals, old school style

On the last day of school, Anna came home with a stamped envelope from her kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Z had offered to be pen pals over the summer with kids from her class. By 4:00 that day (the last day of school, after getting home at 3:00), Anna had written her first pen pal letter.

In case I forgot…

…how to make Anna's favorite lunch, she left me these directions, taped to the oven door handle. I particularly like step number 7: Serve and enjoy.

As a parent, I love finding writing samples around the house. They're everywhere! We've got notes taped to the guest room door, over the hooks for their backpacks, and on one particularly industrious Saturday morning the girls labeled the playroom bins with "Polly Pockets," "train tracks," and "other small stuff."

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio