Building Independent Writers

I absolutely LOVE reading kindergarten writing!!!  Little ones have so much to say and if they can get it on paper it can be so fun to read!  Plus, watching the growth they make in a year is just awesome!  Now teaching little ones how to write can be a hard task and getting them to write independently can be even harder so today I want to share a few things that I think really help to build independent writers.

1. Model

First.... MODEL!  I really believe that as a writing workshop teacher you have to model good writing for your students.  This means well planned and thought out mini lessons where students can observe and see YOU write.  When it comes to kinders I like to say think SMALL and BIG things are sure to come.  Teaching writing at this age has to begin with baby lessons and most likely re-teaching of these lessons.  Really take time to tell students your thought process while you write and then encourage them to try out what you've taught when they're ready.

2. Interactive Writing

Break out that pen and SHARE it!  Little ones need opportunities to practice and interactive writing is ONE fabulous way to do this.  Interactive writing can be done anytime of the the day and gives students a chance to try things in a collaborative setting which will build their confidence.  Be sure to add in additional confidence boosters such as whole class "Hoorays!" when someone helps out.  If you aren't doing interactive writing why not try it?  Start out small like maybe doing an end of the day recap sentence before going home.  Biggest thing to remember is that this is a learning time!  It is not perfect and that's OK!  You are teaching them the skills of writing: thinking of a topic, planning a sentence, sounding out words, adding punctuation etc.

3. Give them TOOLS!

As adults we know there are tools we can use to help us be better writers but our kinders don't!  It is our job to give them tools to help them succeed and to teach them how to use them.  I'm a big fan of writing workshop folders and as part of my workshop folder I like to include a working word wall, alphabet sounds chart, familiar words list, and topic ideas.  When doing a mini lesson I'm always sure to model my thinking and how I can use my workshop folder AND other things in the room to help me succeed. Other things in the room might include a class word wall, spacing sticks, themed vocabulary charts, friends etc.

4. 1:1 Conferencing & GOALS

One thing that I love about writing workshop and I find makes a HUGE difference for reluctant writer's is 1:1 conferencing.  I know this may seem impossible, but make a checklist and try to meet with all your littles every week.  The conference doesn't have to be long.  I like to chat about what they are currently working on, give positive feedback, and refer to their personal writing goal and how they have achieved or are working toward this goal.  Having individual goals for students is very important and if you have them you must follow up on them or to be frank... what's the point?

I am in LOVE with this writing goals clip chart product by Runde's Room! And don't worry if you're not a kinder teacher she has made goal charts for grades K-8!

5. Talk it Out

Give students the opportunity to plan and say out loud what they are going to write.  
- Give students time to brainstorm and think about what they are going to write.  This can be done on the rug before sending them off to write or done at the tables with quiet think time followed by drawing a picture.
- Next, have students plan out their sentences and SAY them OUT LOUD!  I call this the stoplight model.  Give students a set of green, yellow and red cubes (green - topic, yellow - supporting, and red-ending) You can choose how many yellows students need based on ability level.  Next get them talking and have them use the cubes as reference.  They hold up the green cube and say their introduction sentence, then hold up and attach a yellow cube while saying their supporting sentence, and lastly they hold up and attach the red cube while saying their closing sentence.

6. Fun Motivators

Don't forget to throw in some fun!  Little motivators have always gone a long way for me and two of my favorites are my "All Star Writer Cup" and my "writing dance." You can check out what my "All Star Writer Cup" is by clicking HERE.  As for my "writing dance"... well this sort of just happened one day and my kiddos ate it up so I kept it going!  Basically during writing time as I was conferencing or walking around and talking with students I would point out and share fabulous work BUT the way in which I did this was with a dance.  For example I knew my students were very capable of writing multiple sentences (not all of them were though :/) so when I came across student writing with let's say 3 sentences  I would stop and sing "Three Sentences Woo Woo, Three Sentences Woo Woo"  all while doing the running man.  I would then share out that students writing (if they said it was ok) and give them a big high five praise!  My kids LOVED this and I found that my students started to write a lot more just because of this.  Best part is it's so simple and FREE!

7. Share and Celebrate!

Students work hard and are proud of their writing so be sure to celebrate this!  Here are some ideas of how too do so.

- Author's Chair: Set up a special chair and have students share their writing with the entire class. 

- Pair and Praise:  At the end of writer's workshop have students pair up and share what they did that day then have partners praise them on something they liked and did well.  For this to work you must TEACH what it means to really listen and give praise/feedback.  Be sure to practice this a lot as a whole class first then let them try on their own.  I've found this makes kiddos work a bit harder because they want to be proud of what they've done to share with others.

- Share with others!  Think another class, the principal, on a class blog etc.  I like to really talk up sharing events and use this as an encourager.

What do you do in your classroom to help build independent writers?  Do you do writing workshop?  If you enjoyed reading this and want to chat and learn more about writing workshop be sure to join my good friend Amanda's Writing Workshop Teachers FB Page and check out her writing tips at Amanda Write Now!  Hope you all have a great day.


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