Teaching children how to write is very different from teaching children how to think of themselves as writers. Teaching writing involves learning to hold the pencil properly, to slant the paper and to form the letters within the guidelines. While it is true that written language must be legible, learning to do this is very different from generating ideas worthy of being written down.
Young writers are like seeds, filled with the potential of the mature writer, but small and compact. When we work with young writers, we provide nutrients, light and an optimum place to grow. Reading stories of all kinds, poetry, non-fiction, picture books, chapter books and books in a series begins to loosen up our little seeds and infuse them with the most important nutrient for a young writer, ideas.
Writers need light, just as growing plants do, and the light in this case, is an encouraging environment that inspires young writers to crave creating their own stories. A classroom filled with writing materials, paper of many sizes and colors, envelopes, hole-punches, scissors, stickers, markers, crayons and paints to illustrate their stories, word walls and word books to lend support for spelling words and journals to write in will help to entice young writers to begin writing. Housing these materials in an attractive writing center, or in a portable writing center that can be put on a table during language time or learning center time has, in my experience, made the writing center a first choice activity.
Once the writing bug has bitten, a teacher can encourage writers by focusing on different themes, such as fairy tales, adventure stories, non-fiction stories, science investigations, and stories about historical events and holidays. Beginning in kindergarten with simple stories with a beginning, middle and end, and expanding throughout the primary grades with the edition of embellishing adjectives and adverbs and dialogue, as stories become habit, children enjoy the process more and more.
My students love it when we come in from recess and settle in for our story time, and the stories I select are the stories they have written. Their faces beam as I announce, “Here is a wonderful story written by________!” The children listen to each story and are thrilled when I read their story and show their illustration. As they sprout, my little writers show signs of growing into strong, healthy writers. My job is to tend them.
Our guest blogger, Mrs. Amy K. Weisberg is a wife, mother of three grown daughters, teacher and writer. She holds a B.A. degree in Sociology from the University of California Santa Barbara, a teaching credential from California State University Northridge, a Language Development Specialist credential and a Master’s Degree in Education Administration with an Emphasis on Organizational Leadership from Grand Canyon University.
Mrs. Amy K. Weisberg has been teaching for 35 years in the Los Angeles Unified School District in California. She has taught in East LA, South Central LA, the East San Fernando Valley, the West San Fernando Valley and has been teaching at Topanga Elementary Charter School for the past 20 years. She has taught Pre-School, Transitional Kindergarten, Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd, grade, 4th grade and 6th grade.
Mrs. Weisberg has conducted numerous professional developments for school staff including the LAUSD West Area, and District training sessions for the School Readiness Language Development Program. She has presented at the California Kindergarten Conference, Southern California Kindergarten Conference, and the SCAEYC. She served on an Instructional Transformation Team instituting education reform during the LEARN movement in the LAUSD. In June 2007, Mrs. Weisberg was awarded the Lori Petrick Educator Award for Excellence in Education from the Palisades Charter Schools Foundation.