Recently on one of the yahoo groups I belong to someone posted the best idea for writing. It was from the program – Write from the Beginning. I do not know how the program is structured but what I gleaned from the post on yahoo – this is what I have adapted for my classroom.
The writing process begins with a topic and the class brainstorms what they already know about this topic. This is captured in a bubble map (I did not get a photo of this). Next that information is transferred to a t-graph. These are thinking maps.
We use the t-graph to form a sentence for handwriting practice. I love this for several key reasons:
1. The word choices are directly related to our current topics of study.
2. Most of the sentences are just three words – simple, clear and easy to write.
3. We work from one t-graph a week. This gives students an opportunity to see how one topic can be written about in many ways:
Seeds can transform.
Seeds have roots.
Seeds are plants.
Seeds grow big.
Occasionally, I may tweak a sentence like the one above. On the t-graph the sentence would read “Seeds have sun.” I felt it was important to use the correct vocabulary for our sentence that related directly to our study of plants.
I lead the children through handwriting each letter – one by one. They write the sentence on their own one more time. It is engaging and they seem very excited about the new topics. It has made handwriting practice creative and from their words.
Another note about handwriting practice. I keep handwriting and writing (journal writing) as two separate practices in the kindergarten. The stage of writing development that most of my kinders are at is invented spelling. I want their entire attention to be on the sounding out process and to not be concerned with forming their letters inside of lines at this point. It is a complex process for a five year old to write down their thoughts with the correct sounds, putting spaces between words, and such. I noticed that when I gave them lined paper for journal writing, they would stick to what they knew they could write. I encourage my young writers to take risks and to build their writing.
And when they are practicing handwriting, I want them completely focused on the formation process. I feel both processes are in the early stages of development and each need to be tended to with special care.