Yesterday we read “My Brain” and had a lengthy, serious discussion about the amazing things our brains can do. Then we did our daily writing with the following “word box”.
Here are a few samples:
I like to think.
My brain is small.
I like my brain.
My brain can think.
My skull keeps my brain safe.
My smell go slo.
My brain is smert.
My brain is bretid by my skull. (protected)
I thank with my brain.
I duw my wurck with my brain.
I think abowt my frens and feel happy.
I eat good food and play.
I exercise and get sleep.
My brain is in my skull.
My brain nos stuf.
My brain nos if sutheen is hot. (something)
I like my brain.
Your brain kepes you going.
Your brain kwos (to)
eat thags that ar good.
I like my brain.
Reading, writing, and spelling are skills we teach in kindergarten each day. We start with the tiniest of concepts and work our way forward until one day the “magic” happens.
Yesterday one of my students read her first book. School has been a long struggle for her and she is old enough and smart enough to realize that her classmates surpassed her abilities months ago. She is at level 2, while her classmates are at level 13. Her response was, “Finally! I’m reading!” and the joy in her eyes was something I wish I could replay a thousand times. She will continue to struggle, but she will go forward knowing that she CAN do it. And she has something that many of her smarter classmates lack, self-motivation.
Another of my students wrote his first paper that “made sense”. When I teach writing to young children I teach them two concepts: 1. Write what you would tell me at my desk. 2. Write what makes sense. Young children love to wander over to my desk between tasks and tell me secrets, stories, triumphs, and fears. Yesterday, after our discussion about brains one of my students brought me his writing paper and pointed to his name, “Do you know why I know that’s my name? My brain told me!” Sweet stuff, but a gentle reminder that young children learn a million tiny bits of information, and sometimes it’s so very difficult to sort it all out! One of my girls gave me a sad face and heavy sigh last week and said, “Mrs. Maurer, I just can’t remember my last name!” (She went on to explain that she could say it but not spell it.)
So, when we are learning to write I teach my children the simplest skills first. We copy sentences that begin with “I see…” “I am…” “I want….” and move slowly forward until they have a foundation on which to construct their own thoughts. Then we work on a little bit of actual spelling, but we don’t dwell on correctness, only phonetic proximity. (Correct spelling is taught in the morning during phonics, writing is taught in the afternoon during reading.)
The final step is teaching them to read what they have written and decide if it makes sense. There is a lot of frustration and sometimes a few tears over this task. A proud little child brings his paper to me and it says, “Dog black bark.” I say “read that to me”. The child reads “The black dog can bark.” I say, “That’s what you thought, but that’s not what you wrote. Read what is actually on the paper.” More reading, discussion and explanation. Several minutes later the child brings back “The dog is black. He can bark!” Wow! The next day we will replay the same scene with a different sentence. That can go on for a month before the “light bulb” moment when they understand the correlation between their thoughts and their writing. And I don’t expect perfection. There comes a point when I just let them go, when expression becomes more important than structure. Spelling and structure and punctuation will get better with practice.
Yesterday’s writing was astounding in many ways. The thoughts expressed by the children showed me that they were listening to the book, they understood many of the concepts, and they applied those concepts to their own life. The sentence about friends was an extension of the concept that our brain controls our thoughts and feelings. Most of my students immediately applied the “taste” information to the fact that we got some outdated milk last week and we were smart enough to not drink it. Even the sentence “my smell go slo” conveys our discussion of how our brain tells us to “go slow” and look around if we smell a skunk.
This is a great class and we are having such a good time learning to read and write!