Today I am going to tell you how I am teaching my students to begin to write PARAGRAPHS! (Yes, you read that correctly- paragraphs! It could happen!) They are very short paragraphs, but they are still paragraphs, none the less! Okay, some of them have only two sentences, but hey- this is kindergarten, for goodness sake!
|These are Kimmie Butkus' Fishy Hearts!|
Along the way, I would like to post some pictures of our little "Fishy Hearts" that my class made. I am especially proud of this project, because my "baby" Kimmie came up with the idea for this art project! She will be 21 years old this month, and is studying to become a teacher.
|This is my daughter Kimmie with one of her best little friends! Doesn't she look a lot like her mother?|
We gave the kids a one inch black square to form the eye; all they had to do was cut off the corners of that square to form a circle. After that, the children used water colors to paint the fish. It was a wonderful project, and went right along with a book that I found called, My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall. In this book, the author/illustrator uses hearts to create a whole zoo full of animals. The children enjoyed the book, and then LOVED making their "Fishy Hearts!" So three cheers for Kimmie! By the way, Kimmie is also the soloist on all of my albums so far, so if you ever hear a solo voice in one of my CD's, you are hearing my daughter Kimmie singing! She sang on the Addition Doubles Song on Musical Math, for instance.
Last year in a blog entry, I posted a Writing Rubric that I had created to include on my presentation called, "Developmentally Appropriate Ways to Get Kindergartners Writing." I adapted my version of this writing rubric from one that was originally made by a teacher from my district that is now retired. I made some changes that I thought were appropriate, and added my own artwork that I based on writing samples that I had collected over the years.
|This is a sample page from the book.|
This year, we are being trained in using Step Up to Writing. At the Kindergarten level, this means that we are supposed to work with the children orally to first brainstorm ideas. Then we train them to organize their thoughts into paragraph form. Finally, we teach them to write these thoughts down, hopefully into a paragraph that they can read back. Assuming that they can write phonetically and that they can write a few sight words, then they can at least make an attempt to do this! Admittedly, this really is a very TALL order for Kindergarten students! But we are breaking it down into the tiniest of steps to help them along. This is how we did it this week:
First, we read some books about Valentine's Day, and then brainstormed a list of things that happen on Valentine's Day, and what we like about it. Then, I tried to get the children to give me a "Big Idea Sentence" that would tell us what our story about Valentine's Day would be mostly about. They gave me several ideas, including sentences like, "I like Valentine's Day," "Valentine's Day is Fun," and "Valentine's Day is Cool" or "Valentine's Day is Awesome!" I told them that any of these sentences would work just fine!
We did have to discuss some of the suggestions that were a bit off, such as the more specific sentences, such as "We give cards on Valentine's Day." I kept telling them that I need a "bigger idea," and tried to point them to a sentence that would tell MORE about the holiday, rather than just one thing about the holiday. I asked them, "Does that tell me one thing about it, or more than that?" We settled on one sentence, and I wrote it down. Then, according to our Step Up To Writing program, we give that sentence a green dot. That is supposed to help the kids organize it in their minds. The green dot sentence is the "Big Idea Sentence." After that, the supporting sentences get a yellow dot. As you can see, some of the children have started adding their own colored dots to their own writing, too!
|This is what I demonstrated to my class whole group. Note the colored dots.|
My class hasn't gotten to the point where we finish up our paragraphs with a conclusion sentence, but I know that one easy way to do it is to have them just rewrite their first sentence at the end of their paragraph. In any case, I think my students did very well with it! I am posting some writing samples from the children in my top two groups. Naturally, some of the children in the bottom two groups needed quite a bit more support to complete this task. (And yes, I do group by ability.) And when the children in my lowest group got to my writing table, I guided them through it, step by step. I keep a
dry erase board next to my table and I wrote on it as they wrote on their papers. Together we sounded out each word and talked about how we might spell and write it, and then they copied my sentence down onto their papers. I let them know that if they dawdle and get behind, they are on their own, and I am not going to help them catch up later. So they had better sit up and follow along and just DO IT! They are a good group this year, and I generally don't have any trouble getting them to follow along with lessons like this, thankfully! This is how I differentiate my writing lessons for my lowest group.
With the group that is one step higher than they are, I get them started with the first sentence, and then release them to finish the second sentence on their own. The top two groups do the whole thing on their own, though I do answer questions and help sound out words as needed. The Sounds Fun Poster, cards, and songs are really a big help when trying to get kids to sound out words and write them down! I am constantly amazed by how much it helps to have a visual aid right there in view all the time in the form of that Sounds Fun Poster, mounted on a tri-fold presentation foam board. I can move it wherever I need it to be at any time, and that makes a big difference. Whenever the kids need to write a sound that they do not know, they just refer to the poster or the cards on the wall, and copy the sound that goes along with the character. So if they need a /ch/ sound, they look for the choo choo train, and copy the "ch." If they need a /th/ sound, they look for the boy that is blowing raspberries and copy the "th." If they need the /oo/ sound, then they look for the monkey that says, "oo-oo," and copy the "oo." It makes sense to them, and it's fairly easy. (For a more detailed overview of how it works, click on the link for the CD below and scroll down. There are videos of the songs, too!) Many of them have memorized the letters that go with each character, too, because of the songs on the CD. By the way, the first volume of the Sounds Fun Workbook is finished and is up on the website now as a download!!! (The printed book will arrive in a couple of weeks.)
|This is the Sounds Fun Poster stapled to a Tri-Fold Presentation Board. I can move it around wherever it is needed.|
Sing and Spell Vol. 1) and it would be quicker! Later, I read all of the children's papers back to the class. After I read his paper, one of the children looked over at him and said, "Wow, God is your father? That's COOL!" (I think the other child was picturing Jesus sitting down at the table nightly, eating dinner with him and helping him with his homework, LOL!) There were exclamations of agreement in the class, as many of the other children congratulated the first boy on having GOD as his father, as I tried to suppress my giggles and smiled in wonder at this beautiful conversation! Then the little boy that wrote the sentence burst out in irritation, "He's EVERYONE's Father, not just MINE!" (I think that if he had known the word, "DUH!" he would have added that onto the end of his sentence, too, but thankfully he did not.) After he clarified this point, half of the class all said, "Yes, He is everyone's Father," while the other half just sat there, saying, "Huh?"
I wished that I could have clarified what was going on there, but you know how it is in a public school.... We just have to leave it up to children to deliver the lessons that God wants delivered. I hope that enough of them go to Sunday School, Awanas, and Vacation Bible School to make that happen. :)