On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend a training with David Matteson. David's work focuses mostly on early literacy skills and his presentation made me really think about getting back to basics when it comes to teaching reading and writing.
My AHA! moments were:
- Reading comprehension and writing skills are rooted in oral storytelling
- I need to model, model, model, model, and model some more. Then when I think I am done modeling, I should probably model again. I just don't model enough-even though I model all the time!
We watched a great example video of a pre-school writing lesson. Pre-school? Writing? Writing in pre-school? YES! It starts with drawing and telling a story. The teacher started telling a story about her birthday as though she was sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories:
- "It started when the moon was still in the dark sky (draws moon). The dresser drawers had not yet been opened (draws house, dresser). The flowers had not been sniffed (draws flowers on dresser). I was snuggled deeply under the covers in my bed snoring away (draws bed, lumpy figure, starts making loud, exaggerated (?) snoring sounds)."
As she talked, the entire room full of adults was immersed in this simple story. Her storytelling technique was one to be envied, as were her artistic abilities. She went on to say that her husband walked in the room carrying a cake and woke her up singing her "Happy Birthday." The kids joined in as she sang the song and little giggles kept popping up as she finished narrating the morning's events. She drew speech bubbles and wrote a simple sentence below her drawing. Every day, she keeps the chart paper stories for kids to retell and "read" during center time.
AHA! moment: I must try this with my first graders!
I used the technique today to introduce a writing idea for their Daily 5 choice during reading. We're on unit 5, week 3 of Treasures, which is all about weather. First we brainstormed weather that would make us want to run for cover. Our list included floods, tsunamis, thunder and lightning, tornadoes, rain, hail, and other crazy weather. I decided to tell a story about a time when I was living in Spain and I went for a walk and suddenly the wind started blowing so fast that my umbrella turned inside out. I started by talking about the setting, then the characters, then the main event. Those elements are SO important in storytelling, reading, and writing and this is such a great way to teach them! If kids go back and read or retell the stories later, they are getting practice with sequencing, too.
Well, they loved my silly little anecdote and when it came time to make their Daily 5 choices, I told them they could write about something that has happened to them with crazy weather. Over three-quarters of the class chose writing as their first choice (usually writing is the least popular)!
It was so much fun to see their cute little stories! One boy told me he'd never been in crazy weather, but he has seen a rainstorm from his bedroom window while watching SpongeBob. He has a hard time with fine motor skills, so I (against my nature usually, but inspired by Monday's workshop) drew him a house to get him started. As he told me the story, we talked about what he could draw around the house. This was amazing! Just a little start and he drew himself in the window watching SpongeBob, and such a detailed storm outside! Usually it is like pulling teeth to get this guy to write or draw anything, but he really went for it this time. There were clouds, wavy lines showing wind blowing, and branches falling off of trees. I'm so proud!
My idea for next year is to do developmental journals. In September, I want to really get kids thinking and telling stories before I ask them to write and tell me the elements of a story. I do have high expectations for my students, but I don't want to miss these milestones of story telling. Mr. Matteson says that many of these milestones are met during pre-school, but very few of my students had even read a book before coming to school, and they certainly didn't get the benefit of pre-school. My duty is to catch them up and give them rich experiences. He also says that kids should start "above the line" (drawing) and work up to "below the line" (writing).
What better way to build language than to tell stories?