Tag Archives: young dveloping writers

The Studio Teacher Fellowship Program – WNY Education Associates: What have I been learning?

In 2014, I was given the opportunity to complete a Fellowship project under the guidance of Angela Stockman. I’m currently writing a paper summarizing what I’ve learnt. Initially my project started with a simple question:

What are the key ‘bump up’ indicators which should be on a student continuum?

Sounds simple! Well, that’s an understatement… I decided to start by looking at the continuums we have in place at my school, which are based on Fountas and Pinnell. How could I make these usable for my young writers? Then I started asking my young writers…

December School and Europe 2015 001

December School and Europe 2015 002

December School and Europe 2015 003

Photo: This student was in their second year of schooling in Australia (Year 1). The student is in control of all aspects of their writing from the beginning. I presented the topic for this piece of writing but that’s it. I’m teaching this student again this year and many others, and I’m wondering what their writing will be like at the end of this year.

My project changed many times after exploring current research, speaking to other educators and most importantly my students. How could I nail down a topic or could I?  The very action of looking at my student’s writing and speaking to individual students about what helps them to be the best learners and writers has guided my project. My paper will finish with a list of recommendations largely created by six, seven and eight year old students and I’ll share those here.

Cheers Nina


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Comprehension: A 4 Part Diorama – Three Little Pigs or Little Red Riding Hood

One of our Prep classrooms was working on comprehension dioramas and I knew I had to make these with my students. The children have been engaged in narratives and are loving this task. Young children need to be able to demonstrate their understanding in a variety of ways and having opportunities to create is important. Writing a narrative is our genre focus along with comprehension.

The narrative has a beginning, middle, end, problem and resolution. Using a fairy tale works well beacause the children are familiar with the story and this is important. They were read two stories and were able to choose which story they liked best.

The first task was to complete a story map. The map is used by students to guide their diorama. The children will use their diorama to retell the fairy tale to a peer and then to the grade. Identifying the problem and resolution will help my students format and write their own simple narratives.

Cheers Nina


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PrepD Student Led Interactive Writing – 5 & 6 Year Olds in the initial weeks of their first year of formal education. Why students need to ‘think aloud’?

Think Aloud is a strategy that scaffolds students’ interactions with print. I’ve been using this strategy in literacy sessions – Interactive, Shared, Guided and Modelled. When modelling my journal, I’m making my thinking process very explicit. Articulating the strategies I’m using, resources that are helping me, and constantly articulating the ‘read back & check and change’ process.

This has definitely increased my students’ use of these strategies. During Student Led Interactive Writing, I roam for part of the session listening to conversations, and prompting when necessary. It’s wonderful to see these very young children sharing their thinking strategies aloud with their group. Today I noticed a number of children prompting not telling , and when this happens the learning truly becomes collaborative.

I model editing when I write, and I think by doing this I’m giving my beginning writers the message that it’s good practice to cross out, change and check. I’ve noticed this starting to happen. I’ve included a number of photos from today’s Interactive Writing learning experience.

Our Language Experience whole class negotiated sentence is: I went to the playground. At this stage of the year, all groups do the same sentence. There are excellent attempts at writing  ‘playground’. The children  had to draw upon everything they knew to attempt this word.

Cheers Nina


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5&6 Year Olds Can Develop Criteria for Editing. Hand over the responsibility!

Why? & When?

Last year, I decided to develop editing criteria with the children to provide them with a checklist to support their editing efforts. Editing should become a natural part of writing, not a completely teacher driven and controlled process. Writing is a process and there are many models used by teachers. I’ve discovered developing criteria with older and now younger children works best. It’s about handing over the responsibility to the learner.

Having developed criteria with older children, I decided to use the same process with my younger students. I’ve heard teachers talking about ‘dumbing down’ things. It’s not ‘dumbing down’, it’s making teaching and learning relevent the learner’s needs. The children have nearly finished three/quarters of their first year of formal schooling  i.e. half way through 2nd semester for international readers. They know a lot about writing, can write, can read and understand and use simple punctuation and audience. These initial concepts need to be in place for children to maximise the benefit from introducing criteria based editing. This process needs to be child understood and owned!


Children need to explore an appropriate piece of writing. I selected a simple piece of writing from CARS Book A which I know is true to form. The selected text contained many of the features I wanted the children to notice i.e. talking marks, commas, capital letters etc… I read the text to the children and we discussed the text. I  introduced the word ‘text’. The children were invited to share the reading of the text. Many of my students were able to independently read the provided text.

N.B. I use cheap large sheets of paper for children to record their thoughts in collaborative groups. Large sheets enable children to have space to write and space to stand. It solves some of those problems when children are standing in each other’s space.

Each child was given a copy of the text to explore individually. They were instructed to identify what they thought a good piece of writing needed to contain. They were very industrious and excited when they found and marked spaces etc… Conversation is crucial, hearing the children discuss what they had identified is enlightening and an appropriate time to engage with students, gather prior knowledge and understandings in order to differentiate future teaching and learning tasks / opportunities.




It is interesting to note that this student circled ‘orange’ because it is an adjective-‘coloring in’ word. This child articulated this, and as tmy students have been learning about adjectives, seeing the transfer of what has been taught is fantastic. Some children also circled ‘action words’ or ‘doing words’ which was interesting because we have only looked at these briefly as a class.

I can’t stress how important it is to rove and listen to student conversations, recognise their understanding and question children individually to inform  teaching and record  learning. The word ‘Tim’ was circled by this child because the student knew that names need capital letters. Some children knew about ‘talking marks’ even though they have only been addressed informally to the grade, and individually at a student’s point of need.

When the children finished looking at the text individually, they shared and recorded what they found in collaborative groups. Groups then shared what they found with the grade while I recorded their findings. The text didn’t contain exclamation marks (‘make it louder marks’) so this was added to the list because my students had been taught about their use and were using them.

The checklist will be used initially for Interactive Writing both teacher and student led. When the children are familliar with the criteria and checklist use, the checklist will be attached to all independent writing. I should also note that now is when I start formal conference appointments with feedback given to children in terms of personal learning goals. Young children are really receptive to contructive feedback and want it! They desire future direction.  Using Guided Writing with specific learning goals to meet identified groups is crucial.

Please read Very Young Children Can Edit: Develop criteria, hand over the responsibility and watch them grow. , a post I wrote about how I introduced this in previous years.

Cheers Nina   

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Moving on up! Extending 5&6 Year Old’s Journal Writing: Children planning before writing!

Taking journal writing to the next level is the learning goal for this group of students. The focus has been extending the student’s journal writing by introducing scaffolding /planning  structures which help the children sequence their ideas.

The children usually write their personal journal on a Monday after a weekend, so it was a natural progression for the first scaffolding strategy to involve the days of the weekend. This starts with the children writing about Saturday and Sunday with the inclusion of a ’rounding off’ sentence or finishing sentence. Included in teaching sessions has been an introduction to adjectives or ‘coloring in words’ to ‘brighten up’ their writing by making  their writing more interesting. Adjectives are ‘creeping’ into to the student’s writing as transference from teaching sessions is embedded.

This week the students were introduced to another scaffolding plan based upon questioning. This simple plan involved the children writing one or two words for when?, who?, what?, where?, how? and why? A picture representing each question has been put in the plan to remind children what they have been asked to do.


Jacinta (4th year teaching student intern)  introduced the plan using a big dice with when?, who? etc… on the sides. She rolled the dice and then modelled her own journal for the children. It is really important that the children know that the plan must only have one or two words per question. This was the first time the children have used a formal plan and it has helped the children who find extending their writing challenging. It has provided a scaffold for their ideas.


The children will keep using this plan as it has helped them to organise their thoughts. A number of children wrote 2 pages of organised text and most wrote at least a page. I’ve got to keep reminding myself that these children are 5 or 6 years old and in their first year of formal schooling in Australia.

Cheers Nina

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