National Writing Project

Teaching Writing in Kindergarten: A Structured Approach to Daily Writing That Helps Every Child Become a Confident, Capable Writer by Randee Bergen

By: Pat Mumford
Date: March 23, 2009

Summary: Teaching Writing in Kindergarten walks kindergarten teachers through a step-by-step approach to teaching writing and offers a wealth of practical advice.

 

Upon college graduation, back in the early '70s, I arrived in a kindergarten classroom to find I was the only person in the school district with any background in early childhood education. Further, I was astonished to realize this rural Virginia county was offering public kindergarten for the first time.

My first year of teaching I was commissioned to write the county kindergarten curriculum as well as teach my morning and afternoon sections of finger-painters. My room was filled with children who were accustomed to spending their days turning soil alongside their other family members. These children had not interacted with peers, held a pencil, or shared written stories with their parents.

I was a suburban girl charged with transforming these play-dough potters into ready-for-first-grade readers. One thing I had going for me was simply that I believed in the ability and need of young children to love language in all its forms.

But what I would have given for a copy of Teaching Writing in Kindergarten by Randee Bergen! Teaching Writing in Kindergarten offers a wealth of practical advice for those charged with creating lifelong language lovers.

I like to think of my early teaching situation as history. However, as I work with teachers from coast to coast, I still see a wide range of early childhood teacher preparation, availability of resources for parents of young children, and confidence in the ability of our youngest writers. Caregivers typically have very little training in early literacy development. Because certification for preschool and young children is a specialized field of elementary education, many teachers lack the background in literacy development to feel comfortable working with young children.

A Step-by-Step Approach

Teaching Writing reads as a nurturing voice of encouragement. Bergen, a 17-year teaching veteran, walks us through a step-by-step approach beginning with phonemic awareness and ending with strategies to help students expand ideas.

Starting with an overview titled "Bergen's Guiding Principles for Teaching Writing in Kindergarten," she moves chronologically through the school year with chapters titled "Getting Started: August-September," "Independent Journal Writing: October–January," " Independent Writing and Publishing: February–April," and "Writing Projects to Finish the Year: May."

This day-by-day, month-by-month organization offers a chronological and comprehensive guide for those working with emergent writers.

Bergen's book is rich with specific examples and timetables. Her "First Six Weeks of School Chart" breaks down writing instruction week by week with attention to specific literacy skills. Analyzing the chart both horizontally and vertically, one can see the gradual time shift from teacher-directed lessons to increased student autonomy by week six (16). Beginning with a method to teach sound-symbol relationships, Bergen addresses everything from pencil grasp, letter formation, and word spacing, to linking words and phrases and the stages of spelling development.

Bergen also shares the importance of room arrangement, multiple uses for word walls, a list of journal topics, tips for communicating with parents, and ways for the budding authors to celebrate.

Bergen includes student artifacts for each developmental step and transcripts of guided-writing lessons. In chapter 3, "Journal Writing: October–January," she highlights five student writing samples to illustrate what the writer is doing well in each piece. Student samples include writing for multiple purposes, such as writing to learn, writing to demonstrate an understanding of math and reading concepts, and writing to explore, with students taking writing risks such as learning to chunk ideas together into beginning sentences.

Bergen also provides insight into her own reflective process as she describes her shortfall in spelling instruction for one young learner (86).

No practical classroom guide would be complete without considering assessment. Along with other useful tools, Bergen includes her "Kindergarten Writing Scoring Rubric" (92). Such tools, artifacts, and examples authenticate Bergen's experience in teaching kindergarteners to write.

Teaching Writing in Kindergarten is rich in practicality. If you, like Bergen, believe in the wonder of children and are looking for a step-by-step guide for working with emergent writers, this will augment your professional library.

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