Authentic Writing

Taking lunch orders at the restaurant.

Receptionist booking an appointment at the Doctor’s office.

Just as with reading, most of our writing is non-fiction. We write for a purpose – to make a grocery or to-do list, an e-mail to deliver a short message to a friend or for business purposes, we jot down our name or fill out a form or draw a map for someone. Our writing is authentic. It is rare that we sit down and write a story. And this is what should happen in our classrooms. Although, story writing can be fun and should be taught this is not what we spend most of our time doing. Fortunately, play-based inquiry lends itself perfectly to learning how to write!

Many people question why we don’t use a prescribed Writer’s Workshop model. We did try it at the beginning of our first year but the amount of time that we had to spend to make it work at this age level tells us that it’s not developmentally appropriate for our students. Doing it as a large group was impossible and doing it in multiple small groups took one of us out of the play for prolonged periods, hence away from real and authentic opportunities to write. It also seemed to give our students the message that writing is separate from what we do in life – separate from their play. We found that our students didn’t carry their learning into their play. In short, they were still not writing at the play centres. When we, as educators started to be more present in the play and deliver that authentic just-in-time teaching we noticed the students starting to write for a purpose during play. They were making signs – caution, do not touch, keep out, No Dragons Allowed, Sshh bear sleeping…, they were writing cards and invitations, passports, lost pet posters, and maps. There was a reason to write and a result from the writing – friends didn’t touch their structures at the block centre and the principal got her invitation and came to the princess’s tea party.

When we were learning about speech bubbles, some students attached their own speech bubbles to fish they made out of clay.

Learning letters can be fun!
Making shadow letters behind a sheet.

How to make letters with your body. The children used this for inspiration when they were making shadow letters.

Writing and opportunity for just-in-time teaching can occur anywhere so it is important to have writing tools available always.

Do we teach writing? Absolutely! We teach it explicitly. We make sure that the children know exactly what we want them to learn. We teach writing in many ways. We teach writing at the centres as occasions arise – to individuals or small groups, we teach writing as planned instruction to small groups, and we teach writing through modelled, shared, and interactive lessons. We take the lead from our students’ interest so that it is always authentic and we celebrate our writing and the fact that we are writers during our sharing time at the end of play periods.

The students love labelling the classroom and make use of the signs when they need them.

Seeing the need for a menu at the Pizzeria, some students independently created one on a whiteboard.

Getting information from the internet.

Showing their books about planets.