letter work · teaching thoughts · topic · Uncategorized · writing

Penmanship

This week I have been writing about writing. Each day I not only shared a story for you to share with your child, but also talked about what writing looks like in the early childhood years. I mentioned, ok often, that there is a difference between writing and penmanship. I linked you to the phases of writing and explained how to help your child get started. You can see these posts here, here and here.

Ok… I keep telling you that writing is not penmanship, so I guess we need to talk about penmanship. Penmanship is the actual skill of putting letters on paper. It is teaching correct letter formation. Before children can begin to write letters on his/her own, they need to: copy horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, draw a circle, draw horizontal and vertical lines that cross, copy a square and triangle. This on top of being able to hold a pencil correctly are the proper all skill children need to have developed before writing.

Now, does this mean that you don’t show children letters, how to form letters or anything like that before they have mastered these other skills? NOOOOO. We want children to play with letter first. Yes, you read that correctly… play with letters. Provide them magnetic letters, and other letter toys. Make letters with Lego, play dough and other toys. Write letters with markers, pencils, crayons, sidewalk chalk and other writing tools.

One skill that many children struggle with is the fact that letters start at the top. Children are egocentric beings and everything comes from me and goes out. They want the letters to start at the bottom and go away from them. This makes letters very disjointed in their formation. Practice drawing lines on paper, in the air, on the sidewalk and drawing top down.

I could go on and on about the skills a child needs to develop before he/she can master penmanship, but I won’t. Yes, children need to learn to write letters. Yes, if you learn to “properly form letters” they tend to be neater. Yes, it is easier to learn to do something “correctly” the first time and not have to go back and reteach it. Yes, yes, yes… this is why I do teach penmanship in my prek and kindergarten classes. When I teach children letters, letter sounds, etc., we practice how to form the letter. I teach this in conjunction with the skill of letter knowledge not as a separate entity.

This is the letter “a” it say /a/ as in apple, astronaut and alligator. The capital A is written like this “start at the top middle, slant down to the bottom, jump back up to the top, slant the other way down to the bottom, cross in the middle.” The lowercase a is written like this “make a “c”, go up just past the top and then down on the same line”. We do the same for all the letters. I choose to teach the letters in order of writing the lowercase letters. (c, o, a, d, g, q, s, l, i, t, h, b, k, j, p, r, m, n, v, w, y, x, f, e, u, z)

  • c, o, a, d, g, q, s all start in the same place, “start like a c”
  • l, i, t, h, b, k, j, p all start with a straight line down
  • r, m, n all start with a straight line down, but come back up and have a curve
  • v, w, y, x all start with a slant left to right
  • f, e, u, z each have their own path

While many teachers and programs have you teach the upper case letter first, I do not agree with this concept. Gasp! Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, I understand that in a lot of ways capital letters are easier to copy because there are less curved letters, but, if a child is not ready to correctly write curved letters they aren’t ready to correctly write letters. Also, when you read and write text we use a LOT less capital letters. As a kindergarten teacher, my job the first few weeks of school was to typically reteach children how to write their name. Many children come in and say I can write my name and proceed to write “SIMON” and then get upset when you try to teach them to write “Simon”. So… let’s teach it “Simon” to begin with! It might take an extra few steps, days and even weeks of practice, but you don’t have to unlearn something!

So… play with letters. Work on fine motor skills. Talk about how to go from top to bottom. Work on copying letters, shapes, numbers and such. Do not stress… your child will learn to make letters. Put the focus on writing for meaning and the rest will fall into place!

family activity · story · writing

Idea Jar

Do you ever struggle to know what to write about? Do you have too many ideas? Not enough? Typically in the early childhood years, children do not struggle with ideas of what to write about, but they often need encouragement to branch out and choose new things to write about.

Today, read the story Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt. In this book, the class collects story ideas in a jar. The Viking from the the idea jar wants very much to be part of the story. The students learn that stories can be written, drawn or just told aloud. Stories can be about one thing, or many things. The children use the ideas from the idea jar to create a story together.

Today, begin collecting ideas for your own Story Idea Jar. What could you put inside? What topics would be fun to add to a story. Then pull 2, 3 or even 4 ideas out of the jar and create a fantastical story with those fun ideas.

Hmmm lets see I think I’ll pull “penguin”, “chocolate”, “train” and “happy” out of my jar.

Once there was sad, little penguin. He was sad because he was all alone near the edge of the ocean. He wanted friends. As he started to waddle away he heard a noise. What was that? Toot, Toot, he heard. The penguin looked around, he saw a train. Wait that isn’t just a normal train, it is a chocolate train! Yes, the train is pulling cars full of chocolate. The penguin waddled closer to the train. Not only was he happy to see the train, but the sweet smell of chocolate drew him closer and faster. As he drew closer to the train he noticed something that made him smile. More penguins! The passenger cars were filled with penguins. This made the little penguin a very happy penguin riding on a chocolate train.

high frequency words · story · writing

A Word Tree

This week’s post are all about writing. Often times when people think about writing and the primary aged child, they think about penmanship. There is so much more to writing than forming letters correctly. When I talk about writing with your child, I want you think about story telling. Getting your child to see him/herself as an author. Tell me a story. Write me a story. Spelling, letter formation, sentence structure… that will come with time. But the concept of seeing yourself as an author… you can either make or break this for your child. Tell them they are doing it wrong, they won’t want to do it… praise their efforts and attempts… they will thrive!

Today let’s listen to the story Rocket Writes a Story. by Tad Hills. In the story, Rocket, a dog, works with his teacher, a yellow bird, to write a story. He collects words and puts them on his word tree. Then uses those words to make his story more meaningful. This story goes through the process of picking a topic, learning more about it, and writing then rewriting a story. While children at this age don’t necessarily needs to go through all the steps of editing, it is helpful for them to see you can go back and revisit a story to make it better.

Today, begin creating your own word tree. Find a space in your home and help your child collect words. These words can be written in word form or written in picture form. The key is add words. Add words that make your writing easier, such as high frequency words (a, I, the, in, it, go etc) but also add words that make your writing more interesting (colors, sizes, motions, emotions etc). Encourage your child to look around their world, inside and out. Add words you hear in stories. Add words you see in the store. Add words!

story · teaching thoughts · writing

A Squiggly Story

This week we will focus on writing. Listen to the story A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larson. Next, encourage your child to write his/her own story. They can choose to draw a picture and write the story based on the picture or just write the words as the boy does in the story. But, the goal is for your CHILD to do the writing. Just as the sister did not write the words for the boy. Remind your child that he/she is the author and the author decides what the story is about. If they draw the pictures, then they are the author and illustrator! (My example is actually a poem)

I love books. Big books, little books. Long books and short books. I love books

There are many ages and stages of writing. Children begin by imitating what it looks like when adults write (some form of squiggly lines typically). Then as they begin to recognize and learn about letters and numbers, they transition to writing random forms that begin to look more and more like letters. Then move into writing beginning sounds, ending sounds and finally words. Once children are able to form words they will typically transition to writing sentences. (read more on my post about stages of writing here)

Often times adults are the reason children do not write. Adults see children “writing” and are quick to jump in and do the writing for the child. They want children to write like an adult, but the goal is for a child to write like a child. You need to encourage your child to write like a child. Call it prek writing or kindergarten writing or child spelling and “correct spelling” is book spelling. Children will learn and recognize that they will transition from child spelling to book spelling and it is a process.

So, what is the adults job? Ask questions. Can you read to me what you wrote? What is going to happen next? Who is your story about? Why did that happen? Where are they going? How does the story end?

And even more important than asking questions… LISTEN! Children love telling stories. Encourage them to tell them through writing.

teaching thoughts · writing

Writing vs penmanship

Today I continue my series on my thoughts on education. Today’s topic is writing vs penmanship. Often times when people think about young children writing is has more to do with penmanship than actual writing. When we discuss writing in education it is not the process of putting words on paper… it is the process of putting thoughts on paper. Read that again!

We teach children that writing is a powerful way to share thoughts and information. And, if you know anything about children they LOVE to share their thoughts and information.

Writing is a process and has steps. I am not talking about the writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising, editing) while we do teach this in school too. I’m talking about the process of learning to write. Learning to put your thoughts on paper in a way that others can understand. I have shared these stages in the past. (click here)

When adults tell children exactly what to write (a dictation) or write it for them (scribing or for copying) we are taking away the power of writing. I would rather my students write one word on their own than copy a paragraph I stated. Now, don’t get me wrong there are times for dictations, scribing and copying, but we can’t confuse this with writing.

Again writing is the process of putting your own thoughts on paper.

When children are young then begin to scribble write or write random letters, numbers and symbols. Often this is not seen as writing, but it is! It is your child writing their thoughts on their own. When we start telling children that the work they do on their own is not good enough, not correct or acceptable…. they don’t want to write. When you make the writing process more about correct letter formation and not about the thoughts behind the writing… they don’t want to write.

We need to empower children. We need to praise the work and listen to the thoughts behind it. We need to challenge them to add more to their work. As they develop more phonics and sight word skills their sentences will expand. Their writing will develop into a more conventional form. But, until them we need to say “Please read me what you wrote”, even if what they wrote was random scribbles… recognize that they are writing.

art · STEAM · story · teaching thoughts · writing

Let’s Build a Snowman!

Even before Frozen asked “Do you want to build a snowman?….”, building a snowman was a favorite snowy weather activity. (I found out that the first recording of building a snowman was in 1380.)

So, how do you build a snowman? Well… SciShow Kids will tell you in Do you want to build a snowman? So yes, the answer to how to build a snowman is SCIENCE! And I just have to share this favorite from my classes MooseTube’s Yes, I want to build a snowman.

And since we are sharing favorites from my classes. Here are two favorite snowman building stories: Sadie and the Snowman by Allen Morgan and All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle.

Ok… now that we have heard and seen how to build a snowman… let’s write about it.

This is the beginning steps of informative writing… how do you build a snowman? first, then, next, finally for the steps. I chose to fold the paper into four columns this time, but you could do the same thing by folding the paper into four quadrants. The goal is to break it down into simple steps. If you do not have your child doing the writing, make sure to have them articulate the steps.

This is a narrative writing based on Sadie and the Snowman. Sadie used different snack items to make her snowman’s face each time. Have your child draw a picture of a snowman and decide what (s)he would use for the eyes, nose and mouth.

STEAM · story · topic

Bears Hibernate for the Winter

When people talk about hibernation typically the first animal to come to mind is the bear. Bears actually do not truly hibernate, but do slow down their heart and lungs. When animals truly hibernate, they cannot be woken up, but bears brains stay alert enough to be aware of their surroundings. Bears go into a state called torpor.

Torpor involves physiological changes related especially to body temperature, metabolism, and water balance. Hibernation is when an organism spends the winter in a state of dormancy

science direct.com

Why do bears hibernate by Mystery Doug

Hibernation Video by Keeley Johnson

Baby Bear’s Not Hibernating by Lynn Plourde — read by Lynn Plourde

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson (as told by Between the Lions)

Talk about what bears can, need and are for hibernation/torpor and then write and draw about it.

STEAM · topic

Hibernating Animals

I hope you enjoyed learning about migration. This week we will work on hibernation. Today we will learn about the concept of hibernation.

Snuggle Down Deep by Diane Ohanesian

Why Do Animals Hibernate by David Martin

Getting Ready for Hibernation from SciShow Kids

So why do animals hibernate? Here are some facts Hibernation fact from Scholastic and 10 Fascinating Facts about Hibernation from National Geographic Kids.

Most animals hibernate because of a lack of food. They are unable to store enough food to have enough food to eat through the winter. Most hibernating animals are warm blooded (bears, groundhogs, chipmunks and other), but there are also some cold blooded animals who hibernate (frogs, snails and snakes)

Hibernation allows an animals body to slow down, this is not sleep. The animals whole body slows down, including their lungs, heart and other essential organs. They use the energy they stored to use keep their organs functioning at a slower rate than normal. Some hibernating animals sleep through the winter, others wake from time to time to “use the bathroom” and eat some food they have stored.

Ask your child… Would you want to hibernate for the winter? Now draw and write about your answer. I really do like winter, it’s cold, but it is pretty!

teachers pay teacher

Migrating Animals

Today we finished up migrating animals. I hope you enjoyed this and choose to delve deeper into the topic! If you do, here is a kit I made to help with organizing thoughts and writing about the topic.

Migrating Animals Kit

You will also find a mini book, picture cards, read the room activity and labels.

The writing pages are also provided in just writing lines and just handwriting pages so your child can use it for other writing beyond the can, are, need piece.

Next week we will be working on hibernation and I will make a similar kit for those animals as well!

STEAM · topic · writing

Pumpkins Can, Have, Need, Are

Today we will think about pumpkins! Today’s story is Little Boo by Stephen Wunderli. I hope you enjoy this story!

Today for our activity we will create a chart of facts about pumpkins. First, I encourage you to watch Dissect a Pumpkin from SciShow Kids. Watch Jessi and Squeeks learn more about pumpkins.

After learning a a bit more about pumpkins, lets chart some of our knowledge! In this example I created a four box page to collect information on what pumpkins can, have, need and are. You could also limit this to two or three concepts. The purpose of charts like this is to begin writing informative sentences: Pumpkins can rot. Pumpkins have seeds. Pumpkins need space to grow. Pumpkins are fruits.

In my Teachers Pay Teachers store, you will find a collection of Can, Are, Have charts for fall. In this kit, Fall Graphic Organizers, you will also find circle maps, writing pages and venn diagrams. Topics covered: apples, pumpkins, spiders, bats and owls.