I recently got the chance to sub in a kindergarten classroom. I love getting back in the classroom and spending time with the kids. And, best of all, I got to spend some time doing one of my favorite things… teaching kindergarten writing!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… teaching writing is not easy.
And, with anything that’s challenging, we’ll undoubtedly make mistakes along the way. We all make mistakes and sometimes we can learn a lot from those mistakes.
This is definitely one of the cases!
That’s why today, I’m sharing some mistakes I learned not to make when teaching writing. You may be making them, too, so I’ll give you some tips on what you can do instead!
If you’re struggling to teach writing, make sure to read this Beginner’s Guide to Writing Workshops in Kindergarten and First Grade. And, check out 6 Critical Steps to Launching a Smooth Writing workshop in Your Classroom.
Here are 6 mistakes teachers make when teaching Kindergarten writing:
1. Rushing to writing
So often, teachers rush students into writing words and sentences at the beginning of kindergarten. Many of the most popular programs direct kids into writing words and sentences without spending adequate time teaching storytelling through pictures.
I believe that too often, the focus in writing workshops is on text early on and students are rushed into writing words without taking time to learn more about how to tell a story. Students will benefit from spending more time in this early writing stage and by spending more time stretching out words and labeling.
It’s important to me to not rush these emerging writers through this drawing stage. They’re young and they’re all at different stages of writing. That’s why I always put a strong focus on writing through pictures.
Try this instead: Encourage kids to be oral storytellers through their drawings. As writers, each student’s drawings have meaning. They can use pictures to tell stories, add words (labels) when they’re ready, and revise as they progress through the drawing stage.
These two blog posts will help you with this early stage of writing…
- 11 Tips For Oral Storytelling Practice in Kindergarten and First Grade
- 5 Tips to Support Emergent Writers in the Drawing Stage
If you need a resource that is perfect for spending time on storytelling through pictures, check out my Kindergarten Writing Unit 1: Drawing and Labeling.
2. Too much spelling help
When your students are ready to write words, you’ll often hear a chorus of, “How do you spell….?”
When it comes to spelling, there is such a thing as too much help!
Think about it, if a student asks you how to spell look, how do you respond?
Of course, it would be easiest to just spell it for them… but all that will do is reinforce them asking you whenever they come to a word they don’t know how to spell.
We want our students to write fluidly, trying their best and taking risks with new words. Of course, you will teach stretching out words, model it, model, practice, and model some more.
But when students are writing independently, unless you are working with them (conferring, small-group lesson), it’s best if you don’t spell for them.
Try this instead: Ask them to try their best to stretch out the words on their own. It sounds simple, but when they know you will not do it for them, they will stop asking. There are a few exceptions to this and you can read about them here: Invented Spelling Dos and Donts.
Many teachers will correct every mistake on a paper. I see why this is done, but it can be overwhelming for a student to see so many corrections. Additionally, it can be a bit distracting too if the corrections aren’t the skill you’re actively working on with that student.
Try this instead: Choose one skill to focus on and correct/give suggestions for during your writing conference.
4. Too-long lessons
Each writing workshop begins with a mini-lesson. The purpose of the mini-lesson is to focus only on one topic, skill, or strategy at a time. The lessons should only take between 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how interactive it is.
If your students start falling over on the carpet, spinning around, or their eyes glaze over, your mini-lesson is too long! If you lose them during the mini-lesson, you’re looking at a whole lot more questions and redirecting during the writing time.
Try this instead: Keep your mini-lessons just that, mini! Keep them engaged by asking them to turn to a friend to share an idea, repeat you, or use gestures to follow along.
5. Not enough modeling
Modeling is such an important part of teaching. You’ve heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” This can be true with teaching, too.
You can say the same thing over and over and over again, but you may need to actually show your students how to do it. Additionally, after you show them how to do it, you should then do it with them. All of that is necessary before you ask them to try it on their own.
Try this instead: Follow an, “I do, we do, you do” model. Ask students to come up and teach, too. Peers make great instructors!
6. Unclear expectations
Imagine you’re asked to write an article for your local newspaper, but you’re given no other information. You might know the topic but you don’t know how long it needs to be or if it should be an opinion piece or if you need to include images and quotes.
You’d likely feel confused, frustrated, and not know where to start!
This is what it could feel like for your students if you don’t set clear expectations for them and their writing from the beginning.
Try this instead: Make sure you clearly communicate your expectations from the get-go. Write a story together when introducing a new genre, provide students with an anchor chart they can refer to, offer samples of completed assignments, and share a rubric or checklist with them.
Kindergarten Writing Units
If you want help with getting your writing off to a great start or teaching your emergent writers sentence skills, these 2 resources will give you a step-by-step guide.
I hope these tips help you to feel more confident teaching kindergarten writing! Remember, even if you’ve looked at the list and thought, “Oh no, that’s me,” (we’ve all made at least a few!), there is plenty of time to pivot. These mistakes are very common and, luckily, very easy to change!
If you have any questions about teaching kindergarten writing, please leave them below!