slice of life · Uncategorized · writing · writing journal

First Writer’s Notebook

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Front Cover of the Notebook

Over the weekend, we attended a blueberry festival at the farm where we pick pumpkins, apples, and blueberries annually. While there were plenty of berries to pick, one of the best parts of the festival happened away from the blueberry bushes. It happened amongst the craft vendors.

Isabelle insisted on browsing the craft vendors’ wares. I felt myself get frustrated since Isabelle, like many kids her age, usually wants to blow her money on junk. She’s been saving her money and had $24 to spend. And that made me fearful she was going to buy $24 worth of junk! (Yes, I do have the final say. Like I said no to her buying stuffed animals. However, I can’t say no to everything!)

The second vendor’s tent she walked into was selling polymer clay-covered notebooks. They weren’t cheap: $12 for small ones and $24 for large ones. Isabelle insisted she wanted one. Even though it was a notebook, I felt my heart sink a little bit. Was this going to be an overpriced scribbling pad?

“Let’s come back after we pick raspberries and blackberries.”

Isabelle held me to that promise. Even though she visited other vendors’ tents, she bought a small notebook since “that will mean I’ll still have $12 left.” (Imagine how pleased I was with that declaration!)

Lo and behold, Isabelle has written in her new writer’s notebook the past two days. In fact, she’s pretty excited about writing in it. She’s decided to keep it in the car so she has something to do while we’re driving places. Of course, that makes looking up unfamiliar words and decent penmanship challenging, but I think she’s off to a great start. Take a look:

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Perhaps I should’ve looked inside the notebook to make sure it would be appropriate (in terms of line size) for a rising second grader. But then again, she wants to write, so perhaps I should continue to have a hands-off approach on this one!

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slice of life · writing · writing journal

Storytelling Practice

The latest and greatest from Isabelle's journal.
The latest and greatest from Isabelle’s journal.

Like many Mondays this school year, I found myself in Isabelle’s classroom yesterday morning. And like many Mondays I’ve volunteered in Isabelle’s classroom, I talked to Isabelle yesterday morning about what she was planning to write in her journal. She came up with a story idea (i.e., visiting someone’s sukkah a few months ago), but that was it. I told her that stories have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Then, I demonstrated by telling her a story, across my fingers, that had a beginning a middle, and an end. Afterwards, we practiced her story (about 10 times!) until she felt confident enough to do it on her own at school.

I did a minilesson during her class’s circle for the past two weeks. I used this chart in my minilesson:

I wanted to teach the children that there's a process writers go through in order to complete a piece of writing.
I wanted to teach the children that there’s a process writers go through in order to complete a piece of writing.

Isabelle did not request to come to the writing center first yesterday. About halfway through center time, she joined me at the table. There was another girl there who was actually writing words independently. She was curious about her classmates letters on the page, but also seemed frustrated she couldn’t write her own wordsI can’t write words!” she told me before starting the drawing for the story we discussed in the morning.

“I can’t write words!” she told me before starting the drawing for the story we discussed in the morning.

“Tell me, ‘I can’t write words yet.'” I retorted.

“I can’t write words, Mommy!”

“You will learn how to, Isabelle. That’s the next step. Today you’re adding words by telling me the story and then I will write them for you. I want you to say ‘I can’t write words yet.'” (There’s nothing like shoving a growth mindset down your kid’s throat, right?)

She complied. “I can’t write words yet.” Then she opened her marker and started drawing.

Once her drawing was complete, I labeled it with small sticky notes. Then, I made an audio recording of her on my phone.

This version wasn’t quite as detailed as the one she recited at home in the morning, but I was delighted by it. (Especially because she used the word finally in her story to signify the last thing she did.) I also reminded her, after I finished writing her words on the sticky note, that she was a good writer because she went through the writing process by thinking (and talking about her story), drawing it, and having someone add the words.

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slice of life · writing · writing journal

The Preschool Version of a “Things I Can Write About” List

Over the years, I’ve espoused the benefits of a “Things I Can Write About” List, which comes from the work of Davis & Hill, on Two Writing Teachers. As I reflected on the last few times I’ve been into Isabelle’s preschool classroom to help out at writing time, I realized that she claims — in class — that she doesn’t know what to write about. I know she isn’t serious. She has plenty of stories inside of her. However, she’s claiming this as a way of getting negative attention. Therefore, I decided to combat this trend, if you will, by preempting it.

I sat down with Isabelle in my office yesterday afternoon. I explained how many of my former students would keep written lists of things they could write about when they weren’t sure what to write in their notebooks. We combed through photographs from the last few months looking for ideas of things she can write about. Every time she found a photo she wanted to write a story about in her school-based writing journal, I downloaded it to my computer and inserted it into a Word Document. Once we reached ten photos, I organized them on two pages and printed them out.

“But I can’t write,” she admitted.

“You can’t write yet, but you know what makes a good story. Let’s go through some photos. Any time one of them looks like something you can write about, tell me. I’ll put it on a list called “Isabelle’s Things I Can Write About.”

She nodded, “Okay!”

We combed through photographs from the last few months looking for ideas of things she can write about. Every time Isabelle found a photo she wanted to write a story about in her school-based writing journal, I downloaded it to my computer and inserted it into a Word Document. Once we reached ten photos, I organized them on two pages, put a small line next to each one (That’s where the check marks would go once she wrote about a photo.) and printed them out.

IMG_1502This morning, I caught Isabelle eyeing the list as I made her breakfast.

“What are you going to write about today?” I asked.

“Dance class!” she replied as she pointed to the photo.

Sure enough, two hours later, Isabelle looked at both sides of the sheet. “I’m going to write about dance class, Mommy.” she declared.

“What about it?” I asked.

“Dancing with the other girls,” she replied.

“Okay, get started.”

Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.

I turned my attention to another girl sitting with us. Before I knew it, Isabelle was ready to tell her story. I wrote down what she said on a yellow sticky note. When she finished, I asked, “How would someone know you’re at dance class by looking at your picture? Is there a barre or something else that makes it look like dance class?”

“Hold on,” she said. She grabbed a few different markers and made some additional illustrations on the page. While she didn’t want to add more to her dictated story, I was delighted she went back to add more detail to her picture.

Once I finished working with all of her friends, Isabelle found her way back to the writing center. She had another story she wanted to write!

Click on the image to enlarge. It's not exactly the most accurate tale, but it is her version of us celebrating my cousin Scott's graduation from graduate school when he was in town last month.
Click on the image to enlarge.
It’s not exactly the most accurate tale, but it is her version of us celebrating my cousin Scott’s graduation from graduate school when he was in town last month.

And here she is, checking off the spot on her Things I Can Write About list!

 

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preschool · writing · writing journal

Preschool Journals: Year Two

I asked Isabelle’s new teacher if she’d like me to volunteer on Mondays — except for weeks when I have consulting commitments — to work with the kids during journal time. (My desire to volunteer was prompted by my freak-out about Isabelle’s journal writing last spring.) Granted, most of my experience has been with kids in grades 1 – 5, but her preschool teacher said “yes.”

Today was my first day.

Let me be honest, I am exhausted. Do you know how hard it is to get three and four-year-olds to sit down and write while there are other centers happening in the classroom? Magnatiles were being erected into skyscrapers. Jungle puzzles were being pieced together.  There was something exciting inside of the sensory table. And there I was in the writing center. But somehow, I met with every single kid in the class in one hour. Well, except for one who walked away from me.  I guess the idea of writing a true story about something from her life wasn’t enough of an enticement.

Thankfully, Isabelle was willing to sit with me today. In the midst of our discussion about me coming in to work with her friends, we also talked about what she’d write about today. She had a story she wanted to tell, which made her willing to come right over to the writing center. The requirement was that she bring a friend. Thankfully, her friend Grace was not only willing to join us, but she had a great story to tell (about her brother’s birthday party over the weekend). Grace was highly independent while I worked with Isabelle, which allowed me to give Isabelle lean prompts to help her (e.g., turn your paper to the side to show someone laying on the ground; “Should you draw a smiley face or a sad face if someone is hurt?), without intruding too much on her writing process. After all, today was supposed to be a baseline of what the kids could do.

I worked with Isabelle to label the people in her drawing, which is the same thing I did for other kids. Even though I knew there was much more to her story (i.e., the fact that she ran to get help from our neighbor after my mom fell on the ground yesterday), I didn't prod her for more information since I wouldn't have known there was more if I hadn't personally known the story.
I worked with Isabelle to label the people in her drawing, which is the same thing I did for other kids. Even though I knew there was much more to her story (i.e., the fact that she ran to get help from our neighbor after my mom fell on the ground yesterday), I didn’t prod her for more information since I wouldn’t have known there was more if I hadn’t personally known the story.

I have no idea what the unlabeled parts of the picture are, but what I do know is that this is a marked improvement from where she was in the springtime. (And, yes, I have worked with her on storytelling — oral and through pictures — at home this summer.)

I noticed she started another page in her journal when I started working with one of her other friends. I didn’t have time to coach her at all, but she did have a story to tell about her picture:

I have no idea where she came up with this kitty cat story, but I wrote it down just as I would have for another child.
I have no idea where she came up with this kitty cat story, but I wrote it down just as I would have for another child.

The second picture is what I’d consider her default. This is the kind of picture Isabelle defaults to when left to her own devices. And that’s okay. It counts as writing and will live in her writing journal at school, just like the previous page will.

I’m looking forward to watching her grow this year — one Monday at a time.

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preschool · writing · writing journal

First Writer’s Notebook (of sorts)

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I made note of the fact we were sitting in her classroom chairs. (When she heard we were going to her classroom without her this evening she was less than pleased.)

My husband and I attended our daughter’s first Open School Night. We got there early. Yes, early. Why? It’s mostly because we heard parking would be tight. But truth be told, I was really excited to be on the other side of a back-to-school evening since I’ve always been on the teacher-side of things.

We got to taste the zucchini muffins and homemade butter the children made this morning. Her teachers had a slide show of photos from the first month of school, which gave me a better idea of how engaged she’s been.  We read through past stuffed animal weekend class journals.  But, for me, the most exciting part of the evening was getting to see my daughter’s blank writing journal!

I believe her teacher put the journals out in the past day or two since they caught my eye when I dropped her off at school this morning. Isabelle’s portfolio was blank, therefore we wrote the first entry, which was encouraged by her teachers.

Marc and I sat down next to each other, folded back the purple construction paper cover, and thought about what we wanted to write. I knew I would need to supplement with pictures. (Art is not my strong suit, as evidenced by the lack of a cow utter on the cow in the photograph above.) I tried not to agonize about it too much since it is, after all, her very first place for drawing pictures (her teachers will scribe her stories).  In the end, we filled the page of her journal. I wonder what she will think what he sees it tomorrow morning.