Why Should I Bother?
The days of instruction in early childhood grades is focused on teaching students to read and begin to understand mathematical concepts. Writing often consists of teaching students letter formation and possibly short sentences by the second half of the year. However, writing can be so much more than that! Teachers can teach students the steps of the writing process, the different modes of writing, and literary terms like simile and onomatopoeia. Children at this age have such an active imagination, but their only ways to express them is verbally, through play, or through acting. Teachers can capitalize on this incredible imagination by allowing them to dictate their ideas. The teacher can capture these stories by recording them or writing them down. The ones which are written down can be a day to day model of good writing.
It all begins with reading. When a primary grade teacher reads a story to their students, he/she should take the time to utilize the three anchor standards. Understanding the key ideas and details of the story or informational passage helps students to recognize important details from the passage. By asking questions to understand the craft and structure of a passage, the students have a clear concept of what is describing, what is a story, what is explaining, and what is an opinion. Even at these primary grades, a teacher can introduce the point of view and voice of the author. Finally, the third anchor standards helps students to make those connections of text to text, text to self, and text to world through the integration of knowledge and ideas. The anchor standards provide a tremendous foundation for understanding writing by breaking it down piece by piece.
When an early childhood teacher turns to a writing lesson, he/she will model the process step by step from understanding to brainstorming, to planning, to writing, and finally to revising the content and the editing of the writing. In other words, the process is broken down to engage the students to think like a writer would think and to do as a writer would do. It removes the mystery and the frustration behind the craft of writing — for the student as well as for the teacher.
By displaying this modeled piece of group writing in the classroom, the students are constantly surrounded by great writing. When the time arrives for them to take paper and pencil and create their own piece of writing, they will have lived the process through modeling, and they will have strong examples to follow.
From our days as infants, we learned through modeling. Everything from blowing our nose to taking our first steps. Writing is no different. We must take baby steps with our students, and we must model the process to help them master the writing process.