Below is an example of writing from a student who has made exceptional progress this year and it is my challenge to make sure he makes even more. He and a small group of other classmates have reached this stage of writing. They came to school with limited exposure to writing materials. Much of there beginning writing looked like tornadoes on a page, and sometimes the story to match included a tornado or a big storm. They didn't know how to draw anything else so they went with what was safe, scribbles and drawings that they scribbled over. Using a pencil and crayons was still a newer experience for them and it was my job to fill the gap. A challenge we all face every year. Every year there is a crop of kids who come to school with these limited experiences due to varying circumstances. Some of them soak up everything like a sponge while others take longer to get there.
These students need more opportunities to talk and draw, and I don't mean just during writer's workshop. I need to expose them as much as possible throughout the day. Just last week I found this particular student in the "storytelling corner," the name of my dramatic play center, and he had gone through about 50 sheets of paper with squiggly writing on every page. Though, I must admit, at first I was a bit frustrated, I composed that as quickly as I could to find out what he had written. I also showed him that he could do this same task with a little less paper. ;)
During math workstations I am encouraging him to draw pictures any time it is appropriate, one example is drawing small shapes to represent quantities from 0-10. This student and others like him need more of our time, which is difficult to manage, and some days this might be impossible. But, as long as they are on our radar and we are doing the best we can, it is sure to pay off.
This is how his story began, but he told me he was already in the bed. He wasn't sure what to write next. I asked him what he does before he gets in bed and he began telling this story of going to bed and then sleeping. Now he just needs a story idea that he can really talk about with detail and take some risks with his drawing.
He is using a letter chart to help him form the letters. He recognizes some letter sounds. When I told him to repeat the word "bed" he did and said he heard "/b/" and said "b." Then he could go look for the letter B. I feel it is very important that the child make the sound and tell me what they hear; this fosters his independence. If I just told him the /b/ sound and told him to find "b" I would be forcing him to depend on me for every step of his writing.
I went to sleep.
Me, "Where are you?" Student, "See, that's me under the covers!"