Tuesday, August 5, 2008

i heart writing workshop (day 7)

today two quiet children with learning disabilities volunteered to tell their stories in front of the squirmy class during writing workshop. volunteered. to orally tell a simple story from their lives, touching the pages with the teacher as they described in detail a street light outside their window that went out one night, or finding a teddy bear hidden under their covers. such simple stories that became lights into their worlds, letting us work with their language skills using their own language, letting us build classroom community by allowing these shy students to sit on the story telling stool as their classmates watched in awe.

i love it.

someone commented last week about the changes in writing workshop this year and i realized i wasn't very clear in describing why this year is different than others. this year, as a kindergarten team we are trying something new. we are reading Katie Wood Ray's book Already Ready, and are introducing writing workshop through oral story telling. normally we'd start writing workshop in a journal, giving a student one page a day to draw a picture and then write a sentence. the pictures are usually them at the park, or at the pool, and it takes long-drawn out conferences to pull a story out of them. even then, our focus tends to be on their legible writing, the sounds they include in their words, or how they record their high-frequency words.
this year we're teaching how to tell a story first and when we give them paper (which we don't every day) it is a little booklet of 3 pages. we're setting up the expectation from day one that a story is told in multiple pages with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and with lots of details and characters. this is fabulous for their language development (the majority of students at my school are english-language -learners) as well as getting them to practice sequencing information. this is a huge skill for kindergartens, especially those who are growing up in poverty (Ruby Payne's book A Framework for Understanding Poverty does a great job describing why this is.) eventually we'll lead them into labeling their pictures, scaffolding them into writing sentences, listening to sounds in words, and all the other aspects of writing we expect them to do in kindergarten.

but we're starting orally, teaching them their lives have stories in them just waiting to be told. writing workshop has become a magic i can't fully describe and i look forward to it every day.

1 comment:

Snippety Gibbet said...

I love Ruby Payne. One school in which I taught, showed a whole video series regarding her work. It was so helpful. I need a refresher course now. (....and sitting and watching, rather than sitting and reading, would be much preferable at this stage in the game.)