Friday, April 8, 2016

The Importance of Book-Making: Week 2 Already Ready Book Study

Sorry about this post being a week late. I painted Abby's bedroom last weekend and the time just got away from me.

I would like to begin this week by addressing a few questions that came up as a result of the last post.

Both questions are related to the book's suggestion to move away from dictation.

How does a parent "read" a young child's writing when they are not skilled at "reading" emergent writing?

What about the child who can't remember what they wrote in order to read it?

My personal opinion is that none of this is really important at this early stage of writing. Let them "read" their stories differently each time. Encourage parents to ask their children to "read" their stories to them. When children are lifted up as writers, they are more likely to explore the craft and to try new things. They develop a sense of agency and identity as a writer. This is a very powerful thing- much more so than if we only have them concentrate on the skill of reading the transcription.  

Chapter 2- Composition and the Importance of Making Picture Books (from Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten by Katie Ray Wood & Matt Glover)

The chapter begins by comparing functional writing and compositional writing. In the early grades functional writing plays such an important role in supporting young children's understanding about what writing is and what it can do for them.

Functional writing is important to all kinds of daily tasks, but mostly it addresses tasks at hand and does not go beyond that. Everyday people jot down notes, make lists, sign in and out, and fill out forms. These are all types of functional writing. They are writing done in response to the demands of everyday living.
Students Signing In and Out to Take Attendance

The capability to use writing to support one's jobs and projects is one of the greatest benefits of literacy. Teachers need to provide opportunities for young children to write as part of the daily school routine, in play, and through exploration; however, if functional writing is the only type of writing young children take part in they will probably not feel much like writers. 

This line was a bit of an "ah-ha" for me. I had kids writing all day and across all content areas, but when I stopped to consider how much of that time was spent on functional writing and how much of it was spent on compositional writing... most of it was spent on functional writing.

"Literate people who use writing only for functional purposes typically don't have strong identities as writers." (Wood & Glover, 2008)

Those who use writing to compose have much stronger writing identities because of it. As part of their jobs, some people use writing to compose articles, reports, newsletters, webpages, reviews, advertisements, etc. All of which are designed with a specific purpose and audience in mind.

Making Signs for Structures in the Block Center

Some of you may be thinking "What's really the big deal between functional writing and compositional writing?" 
The big difference is going beyond just the skill and emphasizing the attitude to use the skill productively. (I love this!) 

With this in mind, functional writing alone won't do much to nudge young children forward in their writing because it mostly involves transcription or simply put... writing things down. 

On the other hand, compositional writing requires writers to bring meaning to the page. Project writing and bookmaking call writers to think deeply about purpose, ideas, organization, word choice, tone, craft, presentation, and so on. 
Some of you may be thinking that your students barely know the letters or sounds or that while they know them they are nowhere close to getting them down on paper or to understanding spelling and handwriting. You may be asking how can I engage my students in compositional writing before they master the skill of transcription. 

According to Katie and Matt- Transcription is not a prerequisite for compositional writing. It is part of compositional writing, but not a prerequisite. (2008) 

If a writer doesn't know anything about how to transcribe words yet, he or she simply uses other means to capture his or her thinking while composing. 
Writers can do this through their illustrations or memory- through repeated readings or reading to others. Creating a shared memory by reading to others holds one's thinking better than one's memory alone. 
In fact, not knowing much about transcription actually frees writers to place more thinking energy into other facets of their writing. Once young children have a working knowledge of letters and sounds they will put more of their thinking energy into the transcription of the piece rather than into other aspects of it. 

The purpose of comparing functional writing to compositional writing was not to place more value on one over the other. Rather it was to persuade teachers to consider new invitations to write that encourage children to compose and make things with writing just as experienced writers do. 

Everytime I learn something new I think of this quote by Maya Angelou. Take the challenge- consider what new invitations to write you can offer your students. 

So... Why Make Picture Books?
Picture Books are Familiar
All children are familiar with books- even if they only see them at school. Contrast this familiarity with journaling or single sheets of paper that aren't in a publishing format. Picture books are the kind of writing young children know. That holds great significance. 

Picture Books Expand Avenues of Meaning Making
In picture books the weight of meaning is carried as much through the illustrations as in the words. Readers oftentimes extend meaning by talking about the illustrations in books. Our youngest writers need to see there are a variety of ways to capture their thinking.  

Making Picture Books Forces the Issue of Composition
When making picture books children extend their writing to another page and then another- connecting each new idea to the one before it in a meaningful way. 

Simply put... paper matters. When a child is given a single sheet of paper then all of the meaning is contained on that one page. Capturing meaning through a single drawing or sentence does little to help young writers understand composition. 
When a teacher asks a child to dictate a sentence to go with a drawing and then writes the sentence for him, the meaning is reduced further- to no longer being considered composition. Composing includes putting ideas- sentences- together in ways that they make sense. Single pages, illustrations, and sentences do not show this. 

Making Picture Books Helps Children Read Like Writers
Everytime you share a book, seize the opportunity to notice what authors and illustrators are doing in books. Then turn that noticing into an invitation for your students to try it out in their own books. 

For example: Add Speech Bubbles to Your Writing
From the book Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas
I love Jan Thomas! 

Making Picture Books Builds Stamina
A picture book format, which includes multiple pages waiting to be filled, encourages children to stay at their writing. 

Making Picture Books is Fun
There is a fine line between "I can do this" and "I'm way too frustrated by what you are asking me to do". Saddle up next to your young writers and help them do things that are just a little beyond what they are capable of doing on their own (Vygotsky, 1978). Make it fun, give it meaning, keep it developmentally appropriate and they will like it. 

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