CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 12 . . . . February 17, 2006
What's Next for This Beginning Writer? Mini-lessons That Take Writing
from Scribbles to Script.
Janine Reid & Betty Schultze with Ulla Petersen.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2005.
123 pp., pbk., $23.95.
English language-Composition and exercise-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Review by Robert Groberman.
1. Tell the students that you are going to show them how to develop a picture like a writer. You might sound like this: “Today you will be writers and you are going to have a special time called Writing Workshop where you will draw and write a story about something interesting that you did or saw.”
This text for teaching writing to young children is the product of the authors' work with The Early Literacy Project in Vancouver, BC. Working as mentors in the Vancouver schools, the authors assessed beginning writing with school staffs and discussed with teachers the needs of beginning writers in the early grades. From this work, veteran teachers Janine Reid, Betty Schultze and Ulla Petersen have authored this book which consists of an introductory rationale and 22 lessons of increasing sophistication in terms of the demands on student writers.
The authors include in their introduction the answers to such questions as “When should I start teaching writing?”, “Doesn't reading come first?”, and “How do I encourage students to write?” The answers to these questions, that writing instruction should begin on the first day of Kindergarten, that reading and writing should be taught at the same time, and that all writing breakthroughs should be celebrated, point to the authors' fundamental belief that “all children are writers (and that) the teacher works actively alongside the child to move the writing to higher levels of competency.”
A two-page graphic entitled “From Scribbles to Competency: A Developmental Continuum” offers the reader a quick guide to how writing progresses in each of the areas of Picture Development; Oral Language That Precedes Writing; Hearing and Recording Sounds, Spelling; Printing and Punctuation; and Writing Development.
Each lesson begins with a graphic reproduction of students' writing that the lesson has provided. The first lesson, “Making a Picture That Tells a Story,” includes a black and white reproduction of a student drawing. Below the sample are examples of teacher language that could be used to celebrate the student's success (“Eric, you've been working so hard on this picture. Look at your colors.”), extending the student's language, extending the writing and setting a goal for next time.
The lesson format is then quite standard: identifying the need, gathering materials, and steps for teaching the lesson. The lesson steps include teacher language from an actual lesson as an example of a presentation. The lesson plan concludes with ideas for monitoring student progress.
The lessons in this book progress in sophistication:
a) -drawing a picture and then having the student tell the story based on the picture
b)-drawing a picture and having students label objects using invented spelling
c)-having students print one or two sentences below their pictures to describe the contents and the story contained, again using invented spelling
d)-students using webbing to write a report using standard spellings
What's Next for This Beginning Writer? contains much information to begin or enrich an emergent writing program. The lessons are user-friendly and very adaptable to the individual classroom. The lessons progress logically for increasing skill levels.
Robert Groberman is a grade one teacher at David Brankin Elementary, Surrey, BC.
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