Stacey’s question warrants a whole entry for me:
Three years ago I probably would have scoffed at the notion of my writing blog entries impacting my instruction as a preschool teacher in any other way than as a tool for reflecting on my practice. Now I know better and I know more. While my blog writing has become a proven outlet for reflection and being able to speak more coherently about my work as an early childhood professional, I have slowly become aware of the way my “Writing” impacts my instruction with these most vulnerable and immature writers.
Just as a young writer begins by writing almost anything and calling it “a story,” so I began in my blog entries. But soon I realized that to add punch to my writing, I needed to trim it up, keep it focused, choose the very best words and structure to communicate my intent. So it is with my preschool writers. They begin with the tools they have, drawing people or scribbling while they talk and think, creating a vision of their thoughts on paper. Writing with a big “W” helped me think about how I can walk the tools necessary to the craft of writing back to their infancy and support my immature writers as they begin. We talk about being particular about the shapes they draw, the colors they choose and how they organize their picture on the page.
The way I confer with my preschoolers has changed as well. I’m not sure how much I can attribute to the fact that I am a practicing Writer, but my awareness of what it takes to practice writing has helped me think about supporting practice in my students as well. The best example of this can be seen in my exchanges with students who draw the same picture over and over and over again. It used to drive me nuts and I wasn’t sure how to budge them off of this ledge – especially when I had a difficult time communicating with them because they were a young ELL.
Now my perspective is that my students’ pictures are my best source for opening a line of real communication and oral language development, foundational to their becoming fluent in English and writing, so even if the picture looks the same every day, what we say and write about it can be strengthened every day. Just as you would respond to a toddler who says “ball” by saying, “yes, a red ball,” I have learned to confer with my students by extending their picture story just a bit over time. “You and your mom,” becomes “You and your mom are going for a walk,” and then I help the child add the details in the picture to match our words.
This is a provocative question and as I go back to teaching in the fall, I want to keep it in front of me and look more deeply at my instruction and my Writing and find more connections – because I have no doubt any more they are there.