How do you teach a Kindergartner to write? Getting children started writing can be tricky, but it is definitely not impossible! Here are some things that I do that help my little ones get started writing.
Kids need to be able to write some sight words if they are going to be able to write even the simplest of sentences. So I always start in September teaching them some of my Sing and Spell the Sight Words songs. We start with the color words, and once they have a handle on those songs, I add in “the,” “is,” and “see.” The songs have movements to them, so they are engaging for the children. I always hold the word card in my hand as we sing, and when we finish a song, I always ask, “What’s that word?” and sometimes also ask them to spell the word to me. This helps them focus on the letters that they see rather than just recognize the word as a whole unit or visual symbol.
There are always some children that start to recognize whole words by sight before they even know all of their letters! These kids seem to learn best by going from “whole to part” rather than from “part to whole.” And then in learning the word, the child actually begins to learn the letters! It doesn’t make sense, but it always happens. And there is nothing wrong with that; it’s just good to note that some children use the sight word songs as a vehicle to learning their letters.
Once I introduce a few words, we sing the songs during transition times, as well as when the kids are tired of sitting and need a movement break. Around the beginning of October, I start having the children write the words as the song plays, using a class set of Magna doodles or dry erase boards that I have.
Writing the words while the songs play helps children to understand that the song that they are singing is actually spelling a real word that is on our word wall. I write the word as the song plays also, and let the children copy it that need to do so. Then, when the song ends, I have them point to their letters and spell the word aloud, and then say the whole word. We try to do this about once a week. I love that we can do this with no prep work at all!
At the beginning of October, I start modeling how to write a simple sentence with the sight words we have learned, such as “the,” “is,” and “can.” The words are on my word wall, and I always put only the words on the wall that we have learned, so that there are not so many that it is too overwhelming. I tell the kids that I am going to write a sentence such as, “The dog is red,” for example. I have them repeat the sentence, and then tell me what my first word should be. Then I choose someone to find that word on the word wall using a pointer. The class sings the song for the word with no CD playing (a cappella) as we watch the child find that word. Then, he or she points to the word, telling me the letters as I copy them.
After I have written the word, I talk about how I need a space, and I put a magnet there in the space to “hold it” and help me remember to leave it there! I encourage the children to do the same! Then we start over, figuring out what the second word should be, and having someone find it on the word wall, just as before. We sing the song as the child finds it on the wall, and then we copy it. Then we re-read our sentence so far. This continues, etc., until we reach our last word. Since at that time we are studying farm animals, I put some farm animal words with pictures on the word wall. A child would find the word, “dog,” and then point to the words as I copy them. After I have modeled the whole process, and then we have re-read the sentence and discuss what the picture should look like, and why.
I do this same thing with the same type of “I see the ____,” sentence for at least three weeks, once a week. Every three weeks or so, I introduce a new type of sentence, (or “sentence structure,” as I call them) so that by the end of the year, they know how to write a whole variety of sentences. For example, we might write sentences that start with “I see ___,” as one type of sentence, and then move on to “The ____ is ______,” such as “The horse is brown.” I focus on each type of sentence for a few weeks until most of the kids have it, and then we move on. (See this blog post on teaching different types sentences, or “sentence structures.”) When the kids start asking to write words that are not on the word wall, I show them how to spell the words like they sound.
I try to get family help on this by putting the writing of these types of sentences on the weekly homework, and I send home flash cards for the kids to make their own word wall. I describe this process to parents at Back to School Night so that they will know how to help their children with writing assignments, rather than just have them copy a sentence.
Around March, I introduce writing journals, and try to get the kids to write independently, anything that they want to write about. I model how to write other types of things, and again how to write a new word by sounding it out. Sometimes, some of my higher kids want to know how to write sounds other than short vowels and consonants. I introduce other sounds through my Sounds Fun Phonics songs, poster, and cards.
When the kids finish their journal writing, I try to find time to let them read it to me as often as possible. Sometimes, I have them write before playtime, and then during playtime, ask them to read to me individually. At the end of the year, they are given a writing test to see what they can do on their own. My kids always do very well on this test! My low ones will always try to stick with the easiest sentences, like “I see —,” and “I like —,” but other than that, the other ones usually just take off! It is a really fun process to watch unfold.
If you check the Sight Words pages on my website, you can download the words and a written description of the motions for all of the spelling songs. Lots of them are written to familiar tunes, so if you know a lot of children’s songs, you may even be able to get started without buying anything. You can also see lots of clips of the songs on our YouTube page, too. Plus, they are on iTunes as well.
Have fun teaching writing to your little ones!
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