I hunkered next to five-year-old Eric to learn about his writing and immediately noticed the illustration of a woman with a large stomach. I was joking around when I said, "Wow. I hope that's not my tummy." Without missing a beat he replied, "Oh, it is, but don't worry. I gave you a big shirt so it won't show."
This led to my most recent diet motto, "I can have any treat if I can see my feet," but that's getting off the subject.
How do we go about raising writers?
Common Core standards for Eric and other kindergartners say that they should use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose an opinion piece, an informational piece, and a narrative piece. This is ambitious, but for years the kindergarten teachers at my very diverse school have managed to develop writers who are able to do just that. How do they do it? By doing three things well.
First, they operate under the belief that their students, though young, are indeed writers and have something worth saying. It's because of this conviction that their students buy into the idea. I've never heard one of their students lament, "I don't know how to write."
Second, they provide focused, intentional lessons that raise the level of writing in the room. Each lesson is drawn from looking at what the children are doing now and leads them to their next steps. Picture books and poems frequently become mentor texts. As attention is paid to author's craft, they discover things they might like to try in their own pieces.
Finally, they provide daily practice time and confer while students are writing. It is during the individual conferences that differentiated instruction takes place, raising the writing level of struggling writers, prolific authors, and everyone in between.
No matter what the age of our students, if we believe, teach, and confer, we can do our part to raise writers, too.