So, I really didn't plan on taking part of the book study taking place over at Mrs. Will's Kindergarten. The book In Pictures and In Words by Katie Wood Ray looked interesting and
I planned on reading it. I wasn't planning on taking part of the book study but I would just read along with everyone else to see what they had to say.
Then I began reading.
This book is amazing and I now I can't wait to take part in this study!
Before I began reading this book I knew that I was looking for something "more" to add to my approach to teaching writing in my classroom. Writing with Kindergartners is my absolute favorite activity and subject to "teach." However, I've felt recently that I could be accomplishing more with my young authors. Like many schools we are feeling the pressure of the trickle down effect and the expectations that young five and six year olds should be writing novels (not really... but you get the idea) before they go onto first grade. I sometimes wonder as teachers if we put this pressure on ourselves? We of course always want our students to do more and do better each time. While reflecting I decided that of course I want my students to do better but what I really want is to make writing fun and something that they can't wait to get to during the school day! Lately I've felt as if my students were rushing their writing in order to write more and more books. The quality was going downhill in some cases. I knew before this book study was even introduced that I needed to slow down with my kiddos and begin encouraging them to take more time on their illustrations and elaborate more on their chosen topics and characters.
When I began reading about teaching out of illustrations and into words as quickly as possible I realized that I have been guilty of this. I read and re-read this section of the chapter several times. Aah...now this makes sense. I've been so focused on teaching word wall words and writing sentences that the meaning the children are trying to convey in their stories gets lost in the frustration of trying to write when perhaps they are just not ready for it yet. I loved the author's example given on bats. Can you imagine trying to learn about bats in a book and not being shown detailed illustrations or photos. The meaning would have a hard time being conveyed of course.
I've been thinking about this a lot since doing the Daily 5 book study. Building stamina in a Kindergarten classroom takes lots of time and practice. I LOVED how the author wrote about curriculum of time in regards to teaching writing! "When children regularly fill time with work they've made for themselves, they will come to understand what it means to do the creative work that writing demands. On the other hand, children who spend their school days completing work that is laid out in front of them for them to do, work they can see - a puzzle for math, a worksheet on colors, a match the animals game sheet-they are doing scooping poop work all day long." ( Page 22) If we want children to develop stamina for writing then we have to give them the TIME to be creative. They need to learn how to deal with the demands of having a blank page in front of them. What will they fill it with? What types of creation will take place?
Now, I've always given my students time to explore with journals and free writing time. You can see a post here on my typical approach to teaching writing. I believe that if you don't give them time at the beginning of the year it will be hard to expect them to "just create" as the year progresses. I do believe that after reading this chapter that I need to devote even more time for my students to explore illustration and telling stories through illustration rather than focusing on just the words at the beginning of the year.
Writing and Illustrating as Parallel Composing Processes
I found it interesting that as the author discusses the "writing process" she says that teachers don't really need to teach the "writing process." That it just occurs naturally. So true. Now I will admit to discussing the writing process to my students. However, I agree that it does occur naturally and in a Kindergarten room too much time is not needed to discuss this cycle. The process of creating words to tell a story is very similar to creating illustrations to convey meaning. You must create and revise continuously until the meaning you are striving to convey is there.
I totally agree with the author's stance that students should not have their markers and crayons taken away during writing time. These tools are just what they need to create and convey their meaning through their color and texture.
Teaching an Essential Habit of Mind
I had to laugh as I read about the author building a house and she would be checking out specific details in her friends homes as she was working on her own! I am an HGTV addict who LOVES old houses. Whenever I am able to see a show on an old house being remoldeled or I'm actually able to visit another older home I am constantly checking out the little details and comparing them to my home. I'm in a constant state of thinking about ways that I could bring out the best in my eighty six year old house. I believe that young author's naturally do this as well. I see it during our sharing times. When they are able to have time to focus on a friend's story they do NOTICE the details. I see their little minds reflecting and thinking about how they could create something like that in their own work. I will admit that I've not spent much time on studying illustrations as a book study with my class before. This is something I am looking forward to starting with a new class this fall. I think that by really looking at picture books and noticing the details the possibilities for what they may create are endless.
Reflections...Chapter 5 and Chapter 6
Learning Qualities of Good Writing from Illustration Techniques
The Writing Workshop
Writing and pictures are connected of course. As I mentioned earlier I love the idea of a book study that is not focused on a specific topic, but rather the illustrations instead. This may be what I'm looking for to help get my writer's workshop off to an amazing start! I love the idea of giving them time to work as individuals and in pairs to explore the illustrations. The use of stickie notes will of course be a positive resource to help the young author's reflect on what motivates them. Besides...who doesn't just love stickie notes?????
As I read chapter six something really caught my attention on page 79...."In a prepared unit, students are recipients of curriculum. In a unit of study, students are active cocreaters of curriculum. And students need to be active, helping to generate curriculum around the framing question: What does it mean to make smart illustration decisions?" This simple phrase reminded me so much of what I learned about The Reggio Emilia Approach when I first began teaching. As I visited classrooms in Reggio theory based schools I was always amazed at the detail in their artwork, stories and how they could convey such meaning by using a variety of materials. The children were engaged in so many meaningful learning experiences! Of course the focus was on the children, their interests and their questions. They drove the direction of the curriculum. Now of course we have set curriculums in our schools but, I do find it worthwhile to let the students guide the direction of the book study. I can't wait to do more of this and see where their interests and observations will take them!
Now as summer continues I have lots and lots of family activities planned. I may miss the next part of the book study but I'm so looking forward to what everyone else has to say. As the new school year begins to inch closer and closer I'm really looking forward to begin implementing all of the new things I'm learning from the rest of you. Thanks for reading!