Much has been written about the faults or potential failings of the common core writing guidelines for kindergarteners. Specifically, that students in Kindergarten are asked to do too much, too soon, and may not be ready—which is not only developmentally inappropriate, and could cause long-term trouble with motivation and self-efficacy. However, many of the concerns can be noted as implementation and interpretation problems. It certainly isn’t outlandish to expect: If Play-Based Kindergarten is the research-based and developmentally appropriate standard, then why emphasize literacy benchmarks at all? Because the didactic and rote- based, worksheet –emphasized structure of poor teaching is wrong no matter which standards you use.
Common core or no, the successful Kindergarten of the future is an amalgamation of time-tested techniques and proven research, focused on hands-on, interactive and independent learning.
The purpose of this article is neither to defend nor degrade Common Core Writing Standards, but practically and simply to provide educators with some tips and reminders that would keep the focus on where it needs to be for a 5-year old. Free, supported, structured, literacy-rich, imaginative and self-guided, scaffolded PLAY.
Here are some guidelines for making Common Core guidelines work for you in your Kindergarten classroom, within the framework of developmentally appropriate play.
1.“With Prompting and Support”
Early Childhood Educators involved in writing the CC standards were “adamant” that this phrase be peppered throughout the literacy guidelines.The difference between “reading” and “reading with prompting and support”, especially in Kindergarten, is tremendous. The former neglects individual needs and the latter allows for lap reading, repeating, call-and-response, and student-specific structures.
Make use of that leeway in your classroom. Neither children nor adults learn by seamlessly advancing from one level to the next. It’s more like a tree, with good roots and ample nutrition, which grows and flourishes in its own way and time. Provide ample and safe space for all your little seedlings to take root.
2. Keep what works.
The Foundational principles of Common Core Kindergarten Writing standards- that children, in literacy-rich environments, can identify their letters & read with individual support, is nothing unusual. Creating a supportive and welcoming and nurturing environment is your pleasure and responsibility as a teacher. No standards change that.
So, using the research to infuse various layered texts and complex questions into your teaching practice doesn’t require that anyone reorganize the practices that are already working well to build early literacy.
3. If you can’t say it, you can’t write it!
Provide the Language for Prewriting: Here is a great example of a CC Writing Unit plan for Kindergarten: It provides photo examples, anchor charts, printables, and differentiation opportunities.
One of the things it emphasizes is the need for modeling and providing the vocabulary that the students need to be successful in that learning goal.Since the lesson plan centers on teaching opinion vs. fact, the provided sentence starters are as follows: I think, I feel, I like/don’t like, My favorite part, This was interesting because, the reason why, and etc.
Because, if you can’t say it, you can’t write it!
4. Tell me a Story, Tell me Why, Tell me How
Get comfortable with the three types of Common Core Writing: To Provide Opinions, To Inform and Explain, and To Write Narratives. Kindergarteners are full of stories to tell, ideas to share and opinions to express.
And no matter which part of the political spectrum you land on, we can all agree that learning to back opinions up with facts, explain ourselves civilly and differentiate between a story and a report are critical to the civilized future.
Here are some great examples of each:
Remember that the best writing lessons are a spiral staircase- revisiting the foundation while circling up towards new challenges. Embrace what Common Core Writing Standards can do for you.
March on, teacher!
Next Week: 7 Printable Plans for Common Core Writing in Lower Elementary