Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What about my daughter's writing?

I just finished an evening walk with one of my friends. As she was about to get into her car to head home, she asked me to remind her of some authors or series books that would work for her daughter (who will be beginning first grade next fall). I suggested a few and we talked about the ones her daughter liked and disliked. She shared with me many of the strengths that her daughter has as a reader. She talked about her fluency and expression. I asked her about understanding the texts she is reading. I also talked with her about her strategies for reading new words. It was a short quick check in and I think my friend felt good about how she was supporting her choices and conversations with books. And then my friend asked (what I think is a really smart question)...what about my daughter's writing? Isn't this often the piece that is left out when we think about balanced literacy? We talked for awhile about strategies that she could when writing with her daughter. I think this is such a grey area for parents. My friend had so many specific questions ( I can't remember them all) that I attempted to guide her.

I did try to clear up that fact that handwriting and writing are not the same. ( content)
I also reminded her to invite her daughter to write authentically...help with the grocery list, thank yous, etc. (purpose)
She asked me what to do when her daughter asks about how to spell a word. Knowing that she is just starting to experiment as a writer, I talked with my friend about being careful to do all the thinking for her daughter. In the classroom, I often ask my students to repeat the word they are writing so they can think through the sounds. I also reminded her that it is ok if she doesn't record every letter. We want her to keep writing and not worry about everything being perfect all the time. Praise her attempts and choose 1 thing to teach her about. (spelling)
I gave her suggestions to help her with thinking about ideas for writing
(generating ideas)
But I also wanted to make sure I reminded her that rereading her writing is good practice as well as asking the child to find 1 thing to fix up. (revision)

We talked about a lot and my first thought was I probably overwhelmed her but then I thought again about how she seemed like she had a better understanding about how to talk and work with her child. I think parents need to be able to have conversations about how to support their readers and writers. I am a bit inspired to share this story during open house this year. Maybe it will open doors to more questions and conversations.


Sarah Amick said...

Communicating to parents the importance of writing at such an early age is hard to do. So many times parents don't understand invented spelling, they hang up on spelling everything correctly, and they have a hard time understanding punctuation and capitals. It is hard enough I think for teachers to let go, but to get parents, adminitration, society, etc to understand, WOW!
This is a great story. I love how you put the parenthesis around the parts of writing. I think it will be important to share this with parents at the beginning of the year.

Cassy said...

I initiated a Parent Academy in my school where we do a series of workshops. We cover topics such as guided reading, vocabulary development, math strategies, and writing. The writing workshops are dear to me; I get the parents to try different types of writing (How-To, narrative, persuasive, creative, etc.) so they can see for themselves what we are asking kids to do. I also have them start a writing notebook so their children see that they too are writers. After a few weeks of these sessions, these parents understood better how to help their kids.

Amy said...

Love this info about encouraging writing. I saved your list on my computer so I can refer parents to it (giving you credit, of course!) when needed. I love how simply you explain it.

Sarah said...

I agree with your comments 100%. I have been teaching first and second grade for 14 years. My youngest is going into first grade too. Your comments to your friend were right on! I enjoy reading your blog.