If you’re wondering how to teach writing to kindergarten students, you’ve come to the right place. While one part of learning to write is to learn the motor skills necessary to write their ABCs, kindergarteners are capable of so much more than that!
Once your kindergartener has learned the basic mechanics of writing and letter formation, it’s time to teach them how to put those letters and words to use.
Kindergarteners learn three different kinds of writing, including opinion, informative, and narrative.
This blog will focus on narrative, also known as storytelling.
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Storytelling allows kids to use their imaginations and put ideas in their heads on paper. Whether through a series of letters, some drawings, simple sentences, or maybe just scribbles, all of this is considered part of the writing process when you’re just in kindergarten.
Below, learn more about teaching writing to kindergarten kids, how to get them excited about it, and what to expect, whether you’re teaching your own child or an entire classroom.
Tips for Teaching Kindergarten Writing
When teaching kindergarten writing, the first thing to remember is that drawing and even dictating sentences count as writing. So, if you think narrative storytelling is out of reach for a child who can’t quite yet write their name, think again!
For kindergarteners, learning how to tell a story is a big deal, even if it’s just a doodle or a few sentences long. It can be very empowering for a kid this age.
Narrative writing is usually one of the first forms of writing a kindergartener will learn how to do after they’ve learned the alphabet, how to write their name, and perhaps how to write and identify colors.
This form of writing is more straightforward for a child to grasp than opinion writing because it is based on their own experience.
But where do you begin to teach this writing curriculum? Here are some tips for teaching kindergarten narrative writing.
Determine if Your Kindergartener is Ready for Narrative Writing
To determine if your kindergartener is ready for narrative writing, ask yourself these things:
- Does your kindergartener know their letter sounds?
They should understand enough of the sounds that letters make so that they can sound out words to attempt to write them down on paper. They can still tell a story if they don’t yet know their letter sounds. Allow them to tell the narrative by drawing a picture; then, you can caption it for them.
- Can your kindergartener draw a picture?
Since kids seemingly love to doodle, we assume that they can draw whatever it is that’s in their heads to communicate an idea. But, this isn’t always the case. First, make sure your kindergartener is comfortable drawing well-known things, like stick figures, animals, and other objects. Show them picture books to help them get acquainted and excited, then teach them to draw some primary forms before diving into narrative storytelling.
- Does your kindergartener know the basics of sentence writing?
We don’t expect kindergarteners to be able to write complete sentences once they’re finished learning their letters because they don’t understand what a sentence is. Make sure that they have learned what words make up a sentence before they start trying to string sentences together for a story.
Teach Kindergarteners How to Find the Beginning, Middle, and End of a Story
Use simple storybooks to introduce the idea of a beginning, middle, and end to your kindergartener.
Describe how every story starts, progresses, and ends by making a chart together that the students can visualize.
Read a few stories together, and after each story, ask them to recount the story’s beginning, middle, and end.
Consider using mentor texts for this purpose since these stories can be reused to introduce other writing fundamentals as well.
Draw the Story
It’s time to let your kindergartener tell a story!
First, give them some parameters. Choose writing prompts to which they can all relate, like the process of getting ready for school. Children understand this routine and will find it easier to recall and draw. Later on, once they’re more advanced at writing stories, you can ask them to pick a topic they care about to be more engaged in the writing project.
Next, talk them through what happens when they get ready for school. Name each step in the process, and help them understand how to put those things in order from beginning to end.
Working with a partner, allow each child to draw this story. Sharing their drawing with a classmate will help them assign words to the story they drew on the page.
Label the Drawing
Now that your kindergartener has drawn out a story, it’s time to label each piece. This is the written element of their narrative lesson, and it helps them recall what was happening in the drawing.
Let your student assign one to two words for each drawing in the story. They should sound out the words they want to use. For example, “eat,” “dress,” and “bus.”
Write the Story
Next, use your own story drawing to show your kindergartener how to write a beginning, middle, and end.
By now, kindergarteners should have already been introduced to some essential transition words in the mentor texts or books they had read prior. Using words like first, next, and last, show them how to assign a sentence to each drawing.
For example, “First, I eat. Next, I get dressed. Last, I ride the bus.”
It’s okay to purposely exclude some words or letters here so you can show students how to revise their draft story later on. Kindergarteners need to know that writing is a process that is never perfect on the first try. Editing later is okay.
Once kindergarteners have mastered writing three sentences as a beginning, middle, and end, you can introduce them to new story concepts such as introduction and closing sentences.
Edit Your Story
It will take a day or two to teach a kindergartener the concept of writing the first draft, but once they do, it’s time to move on to editing!
First, show them how to re-read their work. See if they can catch any errors in your own three-sentence story, then show them how to make a mark to note that error.
Next, show them how to rewrite their story, going word by word, so they don’t miss anything.
Last, show them the final draft.
What does writing look like in kindergarten?
Parents are often curious about what their children should know before heading into the kindergarten classroom and what their child’s writing should look like after kindergarten.
Most kindergarteners will not know how to write when they enter this grade. In kindergarten, they’ll focus on pre-writing, which looks more like writing the alphabet, learning to listen, and developing skills to speak in class.
The year will usually start with kindergarteners learning beginner writing skills, such as proper pencil grip, writing their ABCs by forming shapes of lowercase letters and uppercase letters, sounding out those letters, and combining letters to make complete words. By the end of the year, it’s not unusual that a child has most – but not all – of the alphabet down.
Kindergarteners will be encouraged to fill in the missing blanks for words that they cannot spell by using the way letters sound, called “invented spelling.” The goal for your kindergartener is basically to get their point across.
Before kindergarteners head into first grade, they should be able to sound out most letters, connect those sounds with the written letter, sound out common words, write three-letter consonant-vowel-consonant words, and write their names. They’ll also have a basic understanding of when to use capital letters and how to use punctuation like periods and commas.
They’ll also begin to tell stories using a mix of words and doodles, which is a big step toward writing. They’ll understand words like who, what, where, and why, which can help them in their narrative writing.
Kindergarteners may also learn how to “research,” which sounds daunting for a child this age but only means that they’ll learn to recall what they learned from books that are read to them. Research might include answering questions such as “What color was the frog?” or “What was the boy’s name?”
How do kindergarteners get motivated to write?
While not in class, the best way to motivate kindergarteners to write is to keep writing tools handy.
Make pencils, crayons, markers, colored and lined paper, and rulers available for kids to play with and experiment.
Prompt kindergarteners with questions that can help them tell a story through drawings and labels.
Allow your kindergartener time to learn these new and vital writing skills, including sharpening pencils, reading, and plenty of erasing. Writing time is so much more than putting letters on a page.
Always respond to your kindergartener’s writing by telling them what they’re doing well and asking them questions about their projects that demonstrate that you’re interested in what they’re creating.
Try not to step in and write for your kindergartener as much as you may want to help. This could discourage them from trying, failing, and trying again to master their writing styles independently.
Allow them to make spelling mistakes, as they’re simply developing phonemic awareness.
When you think your kindergartener is ready for some constructive feedback, use the Oreo approach – compliment, criticism, compliment. Tell them what they’re doing well, explain what edits they could make to help improve their story, and then remind them again of something you liked about their story. Work with them to make the edits and congratulate them when they do so correctly.
Lastly, remember to read with your kindergartner and practice writing and drawing often.
By learning how to teach writing for kindergarten, you’ll avoid overwhelming your student and instead allow them to progress at a more organic pace. It is exciting to dive into storytelling once your kindergartner has grasped the writing basics. Storytelling comes naturally to kids, so let their imaginations run wild!