23 Apr

Bookmaking in Early Childhood

Submitted by the Early Childhood Faculty

In our kindergarten, it is routine for teachers to pull up a chair alongside children to confer about a piece of their writing. Two years earlier, those same children may have pulled up a chair alongside a teacher who is writing and tried to imitate them. With clipboard, paper, and crayon in hand, preschool children mimic the posture, arm and hand movements of their teachers, especially when teachers are taking notes on their peers,  perfectly capturing purposeful writing. When the dramatic play area becomes a doctor’s office, the children scribble “prescriptions” on pads, another imitation of purposeful writing.

One of the ultimate accomplishments of our emergent writers and readers is to create books. Bookmaking happens throughout our early childhood program. “Oral rehearsal” — repeatedly speaking words that may then become part of a book’s text — is an integral part in the process.

Preschool 3: Marisa Tepley, Rachel DiGiovanni, and Mary Cushman

A precursor to writing is telling a sequential story. In Preschool 3, the most popular subject in storytelling is self. Many three- and four-year-olds enjoy speaking about their experiences. In Preschool 3, we create books about each student by photographing jobs and routines that have a true beginning, middle, and end. The students take “picture walks” through the photographs to develop their titles. Once the books are laminated and bound, the preschoolers -with support from their teachers – read their books to the class. They use transitional words such as first, next, and then. Their books become part of the classroom library until their next publication is ready. Our budding authors are now on their third books, which contain printed text that they have dictated.

Preschool 3 children enjoy drawing. By spring, some are drawing several pictures at a time, and often they reveal to the teachers what they are thinking about or representing on the pages. We jot down their words and ask if they’d like to staple the pages together and make a book. These books may be read aloud to the class by a teacher before being sent home. As you will read below, by Preschool 4 this kind of bookmaking becomes more structured, focused, and independent.

Preschool 4: Teresa Cali and Ericka Butler

In Preschool 4, it is an exciting experience for the children to take their bookmaking to the next level. They understand what an author and illustrator are and appreciate what goes into the making of a book. They learn about different styles of writing and drawing through our many author studies. Children gravitate to the writing center where they create their own original books, incorporating their own pictures and/or words. Before a child begins making a book, a topic may be discussed at a meeting with the whole class or in a one-on-one meeting with a teacher. The Writing Center in the classroom is open for the children to go to at any point in the day should they get a book idea on their own.

The Writing Center has all the materials children need for bookmaking, including pre-stapled blank books, a variety of colored pencils and crayons, letter stamps and pads, whiteboards, chalkboards, sandpaper letters and an alphabet chart. At this age, some children choose to dictate their words, while others begin labeling their pictures using sound spelling. Some writers verbally narrate their picture stories without putting words on a page. When their books are complete, the children have an opportunity to share their books with the class while they sit in a designated author and illustrator chair. It is a delightful and gratifying experience for children to share their books with their friends.

Kindergarten: Tricia Fiore, Lorraine Yamin, Sandy De Cos, and Kristina Gomez

On the first day of kindergarten, teachers gather students in a huddle near the easel to share the great news that bookmaking is celebrated every day and that every student in the room is an author. Students are introduced to Writer’s Workshop, the time in their schedule when they first receive a ten-minute “mini-lesson” where teachers share information about what writers do. This mini lesson is followed by 20 to 30 minutes of practice bookmaking and being an author.

The Writer’s Workshop approach capitalizes on kindergartners’ desire to show the world everything they know. The mechanics of the workshop eventually include planning a book with illustrations, adding labels and word approximations, stretching out words orally to hear the sounds and get them on the page, and using a letter board to help remember sound/letter correspondences. Children learn to share their drafts with a partner and revise. There are three big units of study: narrative writing, “how-to” pieces, and opinion pieces, each culminating in a celebration of everyone’s best work with a publishing party.

11 Dec

“Industry” in Kindergarten

Contributed by Lorraine Yamin, Kindergarten Teacher

When five year olds cross the thresholds of their kindergarten classrooms, they bring with them all that they learned during the preschool years. They socialize, communicate, and manage climbers and gym classes with fewer collisions. They also dramatize roles as complex as a baby-Ninja-princess.

The renowned psychologist Erik Erikson identified five and six year olds by their sense of industry and their drive to feel competent.  While one can see industriousness and competency in younger children, Erikson states that kindergarteners are developmentally more eager to try out the conventional mechanics of reading, writing and mathematical thinking.  Additionally, they love constructing creative works the world will admire.

Teachers at D-E wholeheartedly agree with Erikson!  We believe that five year olds are ready to take on more independence and are increasingly invested in the world of school.  They eagerly discuss ideas, learn to listen to each other and answer questions relating to a specific topic. They want to emotionally connect to their teachers and peers and often show pride in their work.

Please enjoy these photos of our industrious, creative, and competent kindergarten children!


02 Dec

Peeking into Kindergarten

Have you ever heard the saying, “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten”?  The kindergarten teachers, Mr. Coyne, Mrs. Fiore, Ms. DeCos and Ms. Augustus, like to think it is more factual than just a saying, even though it puts some added pressure on us to get this important job done.

These days, however, it is challenging for us to know exactly what our children will need to know in preparation for their future.  If you have ever heard Dr. De Jarnett speak about the future that our children are facing, you have likely heard from him that the vast majority of jobs our children will be doing when they enter the workforce have yet to be invented, which presents us with an interesting challenge.

For example, the three C’s can be found all over our Reading Workshops, where we have been focusing on story structure by reading books that don’t have any words.  Students are asked to use the pictures in these books to help them craft stories in their own words.  They need to be cognizant of characters, settings, problems and solutions.  They use story language and transitional words as they move from the beginning of a story to the middle and from the middle to the end. Much of this Reading Workshop work is done with different partners.  Students need to clearly communicate with each other in order to give these stories words. They must also be actively listening so teams can create a cohesive story that makes sense.  Additionally partners must compromise, as teams are deciding on which book to work with, what the characters’ names should be, how their voices should sound and what details should be included in their story telling.  A solid understanding of the way stories operate will be extremely beneficial for students as they begin decoding and interpreting texts, or reading, on their own.

Our Writing Workshops also lend themselves to practicing communication, collaboration and compromise.  Recently, students have been working on personal narratives or true stories about their lives.  A premium is placed on coming up with a plan for writing before students even pick up a pen, so they are asked to communicate specific story ideas with a writing partner.  Students let each other know which part of their story will go on each and every page making the actual pen to paper writing much less stressful.  Writing partners also work with each other during the revision process, letting each other know about things that can be fixed up to make a story the best it can be.   At the conclusion of our writing units, students are given the opportunity to publish stories they’ve written, share them with classmates and compliment each others hard work.

In both of the above examples, as well as nearly all other times of day, kindergartners are challenged to explain why they think the things they do because in order to successfully communicate, collaborate and compromise we must first develop an understanding of each other.  These things are the foundation of a successful community, and how to be a part of a community is something students will always need to know.