If you ask a kindergarten teacher what’s so special about January, they're likely to light up and even get a bit giddy. What’s going on that’s getting them so excited? It’s a well known phenomenon in the kindergarten world that once students come back from the winter break a metamorphosis of sorts occurs - and one of the areas that sees the biggest change is in kindergarteners' writing. That means that in January a student may very well write a sentence that doesn’t require a detective to figure it out, and this big leap makes kindergarten teachers very happy.
That also means you will see a big change in the writing instruction at this point. What can you expect from writing in the spring of your child's kindergarten year?
Drawing will still play a major role in your child’s writing time, and illustrations are a great springboard for telling a story. What does your child’s drawing have to do with his writing? A lot, actually. It’s not about how good of an artist your child is, but his or her attention to details. You may notice that your child is adding more elaborate details into her drawings, and drawing a picture of a person with details of glasses, clothing, or other accessories shows a new awareness. This attentiveness to visual detail will then transfer into their story telling attentiveness and abilities.
Sounding it out
"Sounding it out" or stretching it out is a writing strategy that will be front and center this trimester. By now your child should have a solid understanding of the alphabet and letter sounds, and he will be putting this knowledge to work in his writing. Students will be encouraged to use this technique to write words that they don’t know, by saying the word slowly and then writing down each sound they hear. Don’t worry if your child misses a sound or two in the middle - that’s still pretty normal at this stage of the game. But you can help by slowing down the word, and doing the stretching with them. Think of the word as a rubber band and say the word slowly as you pull the rubber band. Then, as you let the rubber band snap back, say the whole word at regular speed. Giving your child a visual, like a rubber band, as well as hearing the sounds or phonemes isolated is great reinforcement.
Now this is where teachers start getting picky about correct spelling. While the list might differ slightly from school to school, every kindergarten class will have a list of sight words that the students are learning to recognize on sight, specifically words that are used often and can’t be sounded out. Make sure you have a copy of the list at home and you hold your five-year-old accountable for knowing those words.
In reading, your child has been spending a significant amount of time learning word families. Word families are chunks of words that help students learn other words. At is a word family because it can help you make many more words such as hat, cat, sat, fat, mat, rat, just by adding a beginning sound. This reading strategy naturally spills over into their writing.
Capitals and Periods
Teachers will now be looking to fine tune the basic sentences that are now common practice. While your kindergartener won’t be expected to use quotation marks or commas, he will be expected to start each sentence with a capital letter and end every sentence with a period, exclamation mark, or a question mark.
This is another useful tool teachers will use to teach new vocabulary and give students access to more difficult words to use in their writing. If the class is studying the water cycle they will probably have a word bank on the wall with words used when taking about rain and evaporation. You can do this at home as well! If your child wants to write a letter to grandma, get him started by making a word bank of useful words, such as, Dear, thank you, and visit. This will prevent much of the, “mom….how do you spell….” that accompanies kindergarten writing activities. It also teaches them not to get hung up on each word, and to build fluency in their writing.
To Spell or not to Spell….
You're probably wondering when it’s okay to tell you child how to spell a word and when it’s not. While this issue is not cut and dry, a simple rule of thumb is to consider first whether it's a kindergarten sight word. If the answer is yes, don’t spell it for your child. If she can’t remember the spelling have her look it up from the list.
Second, think about the usefulness of the word. Is it a word you know your child will use a lot and is ready to learn by memory? If so, go ahead and give her the spelling. Make sure you write it down for her, saying the letters as you write, and then ask her to spell it back to you. If it is a less common word or a more advanced word, let her attempt spelling it on her own. It is good practice of phonemic awareness!
This is an important time for emerging writers: not only do they need many meaningful opportunities to write each day, but they also need to read and share what they have written with others. Have a family authors night, where every member of the family shares something that they have written that week, even if it’s your to do list!