How to Teach Writing in Kindergarten – Writing Strategies in K
August 13, 2022
Wondering what writing strategies work best in kindergarten classrooms? In this post, I share three of my favorite writing strategies for kindergarten! These three tips will help your youngest students feel confident writing and sharing their ideas. I also wrote a post about three big ideas to keep in mind when teaching writing in kindergarten, so you can check it out here if you’re interested: (read things to keep in mind when teaching writing to kindergarten).
Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know you can watch or listen to all this information in video format below:
Tip #1: Say It First
When we say our stories aloud, it gives students ideas to write about and they can “hold” their idea in their minds before they draw/write. In kindergarten, you will see many of your students writing stories while relying on dictation or illustration. This is developmental and we always praise our students’ work, regardless of how much they are physically writing. Saying our ideas aloud is often used as a pre-writing strategy, and students tend to benefit from telling stories orally first before moving on to drawing and writing.
Note: If you are interested in other prewriting strategies, I made a video all about them that you can check out here (prewriting tips for k-2).
You can practice this in your classroom by modeling it for your students. Any time you are going to write or draw something on the board, make sure you narrate it first so your students can register that this is the first step of writing. It also makes a great partner activity because your students can flush out ideas and organize their thoughts as they tell stories to each other. They can ask questions and work through ideas so they will have a clear narrative when they move on to draw their illustrations or write their story.
Tip #2: Add to the Illustrations
In the same way that saying your story out loud helps with the writing process, so does adding to your illustrations. A great way to get your students to write more and make their stories longer when they reach that step is to have them add to their illustrations first. There are many different ways students can add more to their illustrations, but below are some of my favorites to have my kindergarten students add to their work:
Add labels to the illustration
This exercise is great because it adds to the illustration but also allows your students to practice their letters and words by sounding out what they hear and, to the best of their ability, writing it on the page. I always encourage my kindergarten students to write even just one letter to label things in their illustrations.
Add character emotions and actions
The anchor chart below is an excellent resource for going over character emotions and what we can add to our illustrations to show how a character feels in our story. You can also add different elements to show movement, such as action lines to show that a character is running or a ball is flying through the air. You’d be surprised how only a few small lines on a picture can bring a whole new narrative to a story.
Add background and setting details
Ask your students questions about what time of day it is, whether it is night or day, or if they are outside or inside, etc., and have them add to their illustrations to show these background and setting details.
Add speech and thought bubbles
Speech bubbles are another way to add a lot to a story through illustrations. However, many kindergarteners may not be at the level yet to add words to a speech bubble. This is a great opportunity for them to go for it and practice with inventive spelling, or they can even just draw another picture inside the thought bubble. They can still add to their story without even having to use any words yet.
Tip #3: Model Everything
I mean it. Model everything. Every single day when you are teaching a mini-lesson, model it first for your class to show them exactly what it is going to look like before having them try it out.
I like to model writing in two different ways:
By writing it in front of the class
Write the whole piece either on the whiteboard or on a piece of chart paper in front of the class and go through the whole process with them. You want to model exactly what you expect your students to be doing when it is their turn, and you want to give them at least one clear way to get the job done.
Using mentor texts
If you find a book or text that clearly demonstrates a skill that you want to work on, you can use a mentor text as a reference to show your class. For example, if you tell your class to add background details to their illustrations, there are plenty of picture books you can show them and point out how the clouds or the color of the sky do a great job of describing the setting.
So there are three of my best tips for teaching writing to kindergarten students! To recap: #1 is to have students say their ideas aloud BEFORE writing or drawing. #2 is to add details to the illustrations (this will give students more ideas to add to their stories). #3 is to model, model, model! Explicit instruction is necessary for our youngest students so they know what their writing should look and sound like!
Do you have other writing strategies you love using to help build successful writers in kindergarten? Let me know them in the comments!
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