Graland’s Lower School teachers are passionate about teaching all subjects, but helping students learn how to express themselves through writing holds a special place in their hearts. They feel that helping students adequately articulate their thoughts is not only an important academic skill but essential in cultivating empathy, learning to have perspective, and developing critical thinking skills. Through the writing process, students acquire a form of communication that allows them to share thoughts and ideas with the world in a meaningful way.
Writing is a process with distinct phases that need to be explicitly taught. Donald Murray, a Pulitzer prize-winning writer and college journalism professor, is often quoted as saying, “Writing might be magical, but it’s not magic. It’s a process, a rational series of decisions and steps that every writer makes and takes, no matter what the length, the deadline, even the genre.”
So how do early writers learn and progress through the writing process? The answer is to make them more conscious of what successful adult writers do—draft ideas, revise, edit, and publish. Using these steps, children become more passionate about writing, allowing them to write with increased confidence and details about themselves and their observations.
As soon as a student holds a writing tool, the writing process begins. At first, children may simply draw large circular strokes and random marks. However, throughout their kindergarten year, students start to progress by grouping letters together (with or without spaces) and labeling pictures with a matching beginning sound. This growth ultimately leads to phonetic spelling with first and last letter representation, allowing the young writers to construct full-on sentences with punctuation.
Often in first and second grade, students write several sentences or pages with drawings based on “small moments” or personal experiences that have special meaning in their lives. The writing is readable, and students use spaces between words and add punctuation.
In the upper elementary grades, students should write clearly around a theme or opinion, use more complex sentences and use a variety of sentences to express ideas clearly. In addition, the writing should have specific details, descriptions, and dialogue to convey an actual event, an introduction, and a conclusion in each piece.
“Knock” went the door. “WHAT!” yelled Anne Marie. It was 4:00 in the morning! Grumbling, she went to open the door, a bit cracked with age. But, when she did, she saw an amazing thing. “Ellen! You’re back!” Ellen cried, “Slow down, I missed you too!” hugging Anne Marie, “will you be at school today?” Anne Marie replied, “it’s Saturday.” Anne Marie’s face quickly turned red, “Oh, my bad!”
Parents can help to develop writing skills by encouraging writing in all forms, such as journaling, thank you notes, and helping make grocery or to-do lists. Reading or writing poetry also encourages children to play with language through rhyming and similes. If your child has a favorite song, ask them to write down the lyrics. Have your child observe you writing down your thoughts and ideas or say, “I am going to write about our trip to the mountains!” These experiences will help children to know the value of writing and the role it plays in our lives.