Monday, January 4, 2010

Writing Workshop

The break in between semesters gave me some time to reflect on where we started, how far we've come, and where we're going...which led me back to the beginning and Virginia's Standards of Learning, which are described this way:

The Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools describe the commonwealth's expectations for student learning and achievement in grades K-12 in English, mathematics, science, history/social science, technology, the fine arts, foreign language, health and physical education, and driver education.

The SOLs are a very broad set of guidelines for what kids should learn in each grade, and I am using them to make sure I stay on track and to make sure my oldest daughter doesn't miss out on anything I may have overlooked.

In reviewing them, I came across this goal in the English curriculum for first grade:

The student will write to communicate ideas.
* Generate ideas.
* Focus on one topic.
* Use descriptive words when writing about people, places, things, and events.
* Use complete sentences in final copies.
* Begin each sentence with a capital letter and use ending punctuation in final copies.
* Use correct spelling for high-frequency sight words and phonetically regular words in final copies.
* Share writing with others.
* Use available technology.

Hmmmmmm...writing? Honestly, other than handwriting practice and grammar symbols work, we don't do a lot of writing.

I wasn't sure where to start, and then I remembered a conversation I had with our local public school's kindergarten teacher when I was investigating schools for the 2009 - 2010 school year. She said that her kindergartners start each morning by journaling. That got me thinking...

I did a little research, and I came across this website, which I found to be extremely helpful. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll find links to the writing units this teacher uses each month. I looked through the units and decided to start with October. I thought the whole exercise was a big success!

I started by asking my daughter about our pets and how she would tell someone new about our dogs. Then I asked her to draw a picture of the dogs and write down what she had described. I didn't tell her what to capitalize and what not to, and I also didn't tell her what to punctuate. She occasionally asked me how to spell certain words, and I just encouraged her to do her best. After she had finished, I asked her what she would call her story. She made a front and back cover for it, and we stapled the whole thing together into a book. For her first time ever doing something like this, I thought her story turned out great!

[The cover has her name on it, so I didn't scan it]

My Dogs + Me
By ___________

Other homeschooling moms I know have mentioned that they're not sure how to teach their kids to write, and I thought this was a great place to start. I didn't use lined paper based on what I read at the website I linked to above. Now that I have a good baseline by which to judge where my daughter stands, I think we can progress through some of the other units.

Question to all you Montessorians out there: How is something like this done in a traditional Montessori classroom?


Amy Fields said...


Journaling is used on a regulare basis in the Montessori classroom!

Jennie said...


Can you point me to any resources that discuss the use of journals in the classroom?


Sheryll said...

Montessori in the Classroom by Paula Polk Lillard. About a kindergarten class. Quick! Go get it now, you won't be disappointed. There's a whole section on language arts and she talks quite often about the children writing and reading their own stories.

Jennie said...

Thanks Sheryll!

I'll look into it right away!

Annicles said...

We also follow and interest in a cultural subject and turn it into a small project. So i have 2 girls writing about lakes and islands. They have researched islands and discovered some facts they find interesting and incorporated them into independent writing. We make word banks of words they ise a lot and have a class dictionary that every child can contribute to and we have a writers workshop to add inspiration. There is a blog called the Write Stuff but I can't link here that has lots of ideas for making writing an exciting experience.

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Jen said...

Not sure if this is what you mean (I just found your blog today), but I remember growing up in Montessori school that we would look through magazines or catalogs and cut out pictures we liked. We'd glue them onto that paper that has a place for drawing at the top and lines on the bottom half (like this ) and write whatever we wanted about the pictures.

Jen said...

The link doesn't seem to work. I'll try one more time: