Writing is one of the most, if not the most important tool children will learn at school. Writing is used for ever subject area, and it is essential children learn how to write for enjoyment, write for others to read and communicate. We read, but only because someone first wrote what you read!
Writing can be an abstract concept for children. When I first started teaching, I was handed a lesson entitled “Billy Bob.” I have no idea where this concept came from and I have since adapted it. I also thought the name “Billy Bob,” was dated. Instead, I’m using my own dog, Rae. She’s a puppy who is half chihuahua and half Jack Russel Terrier. She’s not the only dog we own, and so I use all of my pets for teaching moments. Who doesn’t like pets? AND, in kindergarten, learning about animals is an integral part of our curriculum. So, I let the kids know that dogs don’t really talk to us, but that I’m going to tell them a story about Rae.
I have some paw prints on a piece of paper and start to tell my story. My dog is a toddler. She’s just learning how to communicate and talk to me. Now, dogs don’t really talk, but they talk to us in their own way. What ways do dogs talk? (barking, scratching, looking at us, whining, etc.) This story is about teaching Rae to write. This is a fun pretend story.
Here is a piece of paper she left me. She saw me writing a friend, and decided she wanted to write too. I show them the piece of paper with muddy paw prints. (I use a real piece of paper and her actual prints on there). The only problem is that I don’t know what she is writing. What do you think she is trying to say? I show the picture of her and the paw prints. We have a discussion. “Hmmm,” I might say. Those are all great ideas. How do you think we could teach Rae to write us in English? That’s the language we speak in the United States where we live.
I post an alphabet chart with letters on them. Kids will say “letters.” I say yes. That must be it. Rae was using symbols or paw prints in her written language to tell us a story. We need to use letters in our writing. Letters are also symbols. Each letter symbol is formed a specific way and has a specific sound. Just like Rae used paw prints, we are going to use letters in our writing.
If I wanted to go the extra mile, I would have the class teach Rae how to write and film them. I would then tell them I showed their video to my dog, Rae and come back with a letter and picture she wrote. It might have the letter A, and a picture of an apple with a paw print at the end that represents her name. The kids would tell me what she wrote, and we might continue to write to Rae as our class pet-pal for the rest of the year.
Great books to read about writing and reading are the Rocket books as well.