Kindergarten writing activities and writer’s workshop can be the most challenging time of day for students. Writing involves so many steps for students, it is hard to get it all into place. Students need to think of an idea of what to write, think of how they want to say it, remember it as they are sounding out the words, and add the corresponding picture. It’s a lot! No wonder students struggle with writing. This is why, before diving into formal writer’s workshop sessions, meet your students where they are and lay a solid foundation for these kindergarten writing skills. In this blog post, we will explore three introduction kindergarten writing activities to do before you even begin writer’s workshop: Building Fine Motor Skills, Drawing Lessons, and the Importance of Hearing and Speaking. These activities will provide students with the foundational skills for writing and set them up for success when the time comes to launch writer’s workshop.
Building Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills play a crucial role in kindergarten writing activities. I list a ton of fine motor activities here, but my favorites to start the year with before launching writer’s workshop are Cutting Academy and teaching them the correct pencil grip.
Cutting with scissors helps develop these skills while also engaging students in a fun and practical activity. It’s also an important skill for students to learn early on in the year. Giving your students a Cutting Academy can benefit all your students and provide extra support to those who need it. We go through the cutting activities one at a time. I make sure to teach my students how to hold the scissors – that the thumb goes into the small hole and stays on top, the bigger hole is for the pointer and middle fingers. Then I show them how to hold the paper steady with their other hand. They practice cutting out lines, then shapes, then pictures. I let them color when they are done and as a “certificate” for finishing cutting academy, they get a badge and can turn it into a crown with all the things they have cut out.
How to use a pencil
Start by teaching students the proper pencil grip. I like to use this song to help them form the correct grip: “Thumb is bent, pointer points to the tip, middle finger uses it’s side. I tuck my last two fingers in and take it for a ride.” After students know the correct pencil grip (even though they will constantly need reminders on this), introduce various line segments for students to practice drawing. This helps improve their pencil control and prepares them for handwriting and drawing. Next, guide students in tracing and drawing shapes, which further strengthens their fine motor muscles and supports them in learning to draw.
Drawing Lessons – Enhancing Creativity and Storytelling Skills
Teaching children to draw is a critical literacy skill that supports their overall writing development. Detailed drawings means that students can share detailed stories. By breaking down drawing into manageable steps, we can help students develop their creativity and storytelling skills. Because drawing is such an important foundational step of writing in young children, I give at least a week or so to teaching my students just about drawing and giving them lots of drawing time, before we launch into writer’s workshop. I like to use these drawing journals to help guide our lessons. As a class we also spend time doing shared drawings together where we take turns adding to a drawing about our classroom or the playground. This way I can model for them the steps of drawing and everyone can have a chance to practice.
Begin by instructing students to think about the shapes that make up objects they wish to draw. Encourage them to identify these shapes and combine them to form a complete picture. After you work on shapes for a while, you can start encourage them to add detailed backgrounds. For example, when drawing a scene involving swings, prompt students to consider not just the swing, but the background too. Ask students what colors they say, what else was around the swing, and who was there with them. By asking questions, students learn to include more details in their drawings and subsequently transfer this skill to their kindergarten writing activities.
The Importance of Hearing and Speaking – Building Oral Language Skills
Oral language development is the foundation of writing. Before children can write stories, they must first be able to tell stories verbally. Engaging students in activities that promote listening and speaking skills is crucial for their writing success. Give students opportunities to tell stories, before asking them to write it down. Have them tell the story about their drawing. Encourage them to verbally retell favorite read alouds. Give them a share prompt and have them tell the story to a turn and talk partner. I do this with my writing warm-ups – you can read more about them here!
Before starting writer’s workshop, make sure that students can hear and distinguish individual words within sentences. Throughout your day add in lots of songs, poems, and nursery rhymes, and encourage students to clap or tap for each word they hear. Practicing this skill helps children understand where one-word starts and another ends. To help students more with developing phonological awareness, check out this blog post. You can also use this time of year when student’s attention span is so short, to front load a lot of phonics instruction and practice. So that, when you do kindergarten writing activities, they have some knowledge of letters and sounds. To learn more about how I teach letters, check out this blog post!
Books to Launch Writer’s Workshop – Inspiring and Motivating Writers
Mentor texts play a crucial role in launching kindergarten writing activities by providing models of what writing can look like, how students learn to write, and where students can get ideas from. All my favorite read alouds to use before launching writer’s workshop are found on this Amazon list.
My top 3 mentor texts to read before launching writer’s workshop, besides Alpert that I mentioned above, are A Squiggly Story (by Andrew Larsen), Ralph Tells a Story (by Abby Hanlon), and Rocket Learns to Write (by Tad Hills)
Kindergarten writing activities pave the way for successful writer’s workshop experiences. Through Cutting Academy, students develop fine motor skills and enhance their cutting abilities. Drawing Lessons foster creativity, storytelling, and attention to detail, providing a solid foundation for writing and illustrating stories. Additionally, emphasizing the importance of hearing and speaking helps children become effective communicators, ultimately enhancing their writing skills. By incorporating these activities into the classroom before launching writer’s workshop, teachers can set students up for success in this difficult time of day.