On Monday, Steven sat and sat. It was the first day of Writer’s Workshop in first grade. He did not write one word while his friends began to fill pages about the small moments happening in their lives. I chose not to prompt him, or tell him what to write. Instead I gave him the time and space to think of small moments in his life. The next day, at the start of Writer’s Workshop, I squatted down next to his chair, and softly asked,
“So, has anything happened to you lately? Did you do anything?” His body straightened up. With a huge smile on his face he said, “So I went to my grandma’s house and took a bubble bath…” That was all he needed to get started. And so his life as a writer began.
One of the biggest mistakes we make in education is underestimating young writers. This might explain why so many first grade classes consider writing time to include filling a word in a blank. This does not need to be the case! When we underestimate these young writers, we shortchange the power of THINKING and CREATING.
I love that where I work as a first grade teacher at The McGillis School, we are writing personal narratives, reviews, informational pieces, and stories in a series. Our extraordinary children are a mixed academic level group of learners. This kind of writing is truly within the grasp of every young writer.
This writing support can be given at home as well!
Here are a few tips to encourage your young writer:
Young writers need a space at home to call their own. Set it up with some paper, pens, a stapler, and a folder. If space is not available, simply keep supplies in a small box. That works just as well.
Young writers might not be able to draft their stories on paper yet, but they can certainly compose with their voices. Let them tell you their stories. Encourage each story to have a beginning, middle and end. Encourage them to put down letters according to the sounds they hear. Or act as their scribe and then encourage an illustration.
Next, encourage revision by asking questions about their picture. Can they add color? The weather? Talk bubbles?Honor their writing as “real” even if it is just a scribble. We want that our young writers become aware that their lives are filled with stories and that these stories are worth writing down.
Listen carefully to the story and then try saying, “Thank you for sharing that story with me. I might never have known that happened! What are you going to write next?”
We want to keep our writers ALWAYS WANTING TO WRITE MORE. This starts with believing they can do more than most think they can!