Why did you take your journals page down? In 2008 I read two eye-opening books: Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten and About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers. I realized that new advances and insights into the way children learn to write had emerged and I wanted to adopt these new ideas in my classroom as well as share them with my website visitors.
I will admit, at first I was somewhat skeptical that young children, especially those who were only 4 years old, at-risk, or English Language Learners could handle bookmaking, but I decided to give it a try anyway. The results were amazing and were enough to convince me that this is a very powerful method for teaching young children how to become writers, much more so than journaling.
I don’t like this new page, how can I access the old one? Sorry, it’s gone. As a professional educator I can’t in good conscience leave information on the internet that is outdated and no longer reflects Best Practices in early childhood education. I encourage you to read the books listed above before deciding to do journals in your classroom.
What’s so great about these books? There are many great things about Already Ready. One aspect I really like is that the authors dispel some common misconceptions teachers have about writing and young children, such as:
- Children don’t need to think about writing until they begin reading.
- Children need to be given a topic for writing
- Writing on a single sheet of paper is all a child this age can handle, they’re too young for making books.
- Children’s attention spans are too short to write an entire book. They will never remember what they wrote.
Why make picture books with young children?
- Picture books are familiar to young children.
- Children have background knowledge of how picture books work and therefore can relate to them better than journals.
- Picture books help children read like writers.
- Making picture books builds stamina, an important part of being a good writer.
- Making picture books is fun and developmentally appropriate.
How do you make picture books with young children?
- Allow children to choose their own topics when writing books..
- Provide opportunities for children to make books every day.
- Provide supplies for bookmaking in an easily accessible area of the classroom.
- Allow children to make revisions to their books.
- Invite children to share their books with their classmates, friends, or other teachers and staff members.
- Intentionally expose children to different genres.
- Explicitly call attention to the different text features when you read aloud to your students.
I work with an at-risk population, do you think my students could handle this method of writing? Absolutely! This method works with all children, not just certain “types”. I used this method very successfully in my classroom of at-risk, ELL students, if it worked for me then it will work for you. The authors of Already Ready address this issue when they discuss “The Literacy Club”. The basic premise is that all children are members of the club, however some have had more experiences than others; it is our job as adults to help them gain that experience.
What is the purpose of writing in pre-k? I once saw a poster in a classroom that said “The top ten ways to become a better reader: read, read, read, read, read, read… “. The very same is true for writing, the best way for children to understand that print carries a message and to begin developing their writing abilities is to provide them with consistent and comfortable means to do so. Children move through various stages as they begin to write and the more experiences a child has with writing the more quickly he or she may move through the stages.
The stages of writing:
- The first basic stage is scribble writing.
- The second stage involves “letter like” markings, some may resemble letters and others may look more like shapes.
- The third stage is when the child makes continuous strings of letters.
- In the fourth stage the child actually begins to make some letter/sound matches in his writing; for example he may write the letter “F” next to his picture of a fish.
- In the fifth state the child will begin to use more conventional spellings of words.
How often do you have students make books? We provide children with opportunities to make books EVERY day in Pre-K. You will see the best results with bookmaking when you offer it on a daily basis.
We don’t have the time in our schedule to make books every day, will we still see the same results if we make them only occasionally?
No. You will only achieve the best results when you engage your students in the making book process on a consistent, daily basis. Bookmaking on an inconsistent basis defeats the whole purpose of offering it in the first place. Just as good athletes develop their athletic abilities through consistent exercise, good writers develop their writing abilities through consistent writing practice. When you provide children with an opportunity to “exercise” their writing abilities on a consistent basis they will move through the stages of writing more quickly. Many students in my class began the year in the scribble stage of writing and ended the year writing sentences phonetically complete with punctuation. I directly attribute this success to the consistent use of both the morning message and bookmaking opportunities.
Do you require your students to write about a certain topic? No. Requiring students to draw or write about a topic of my choosing would not be empowering or meaningful to the students. We want the children to be excited about what they are writing and to view it as a fun and creative experience. For example, if I required my students to all draw or write about pumpkins in October then it would become a tedious task. Instead, I might say something like, “If you need an idea for a book, think about what we are learning about.” I would also encourage them to visit the word wall, morning message, or book boxes for ideas or spelling help. You will see the best results with bookmaking when the students are allowed to choose their own topics.
Intentionally embedding book topic suggestions throughout the day is the most effective method of guiding students toward writing topics. For example, if Sophia enters the classroom bursting with the news of her aunt’s wedding she attended this weekend you could say, “How exciting! It sounds like it was a lot of fun, maybe you could write a book about it for us today.”
If your students are struggling to choose a topic, holding a class meeting and brainstorming a topic list generated by the students can be very helpful. Illustrate each topic with a picture to give it meaning to the students and then post the chart on the wall in the classroom. Refer students to the chart whenever they are “stuck” and can’t think of a topic to write about. Matt Glover recently came out with a new book titled Engaging Young Writers, Preschool-Grade 1 and he talks about ways to motivate and invite young children to write. I was fortunate enough to see Mr. Glover present at the 2008 NAEYC conference in Dallas. I highly recommend his new book in addition to Already Ready. Already Ready addresses the process and the “why” behind bookmaking, Engaging Young Writers addresses the HOW in depth.
What do the books look like? Books can take many shapes and forms. The most basic books are just copy paper cut in half (portrait) and the pages are stapled together on the left. But making larger and smaller books and using different colored paper for covers is also encouraged. Providing a wide array of materials for book making as well as tools for writing, such as colored pencils and markers in addition to crayons will entice young children to write.
Do you use lined paper? According to Best Practices in early childhood, lines are not appropriate for preschool aged children. One reason is that visual acuity is not developed enough for most four year olds to see the lines. Another reason for using blank paper is that this is the child’s very first experience with writing in a school setting and lines may detract from that experience. Some children may focus on the lines on their paper and not the product, thus causing frustration and defeating the whole purpose of writing.