Students at Tobin Montessori School engage in writer’s workshop to learn about the process of writing. During writing workshop, students learn what it means to be a writer - how writers think, plan, compose, revise, and share their work. A typical writing workshop begins with a mini lesson after which students write on their own while teachers meet with small guided writing groups based on student need or confer with individual writers. Our writing curriculum is focused on helping students to develop both the mechanical and analytical skills to get their ideas on paper. We organize these general skills into six traits:

  • Ideas
  • Organization
  • Conventions
  • Sentence Fluency
  • Word Choice
  • Voice

The Children’s House writing curriculum is based on Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe’s book Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers and consists of multiple activities designed to help children build the skills they need to become expressive, confident, eager writers.

WritingThe early and ongoing basis for Writing Workshop is storytelling and the genre of personal narrative (a precursor to memoir in the upper grades). In the JK classroom, storytelling and story acting is a yearlong focus. We select books to read that will help us connect with mentor authors who tell stories based on their own life experiences; this includes both adult authors, like Donald Crews, and child authors—kindergartners from former classes. Teachers and children tell stories orally and may even act them out. We focus on aspects of what makes a good story—such as beginning, middle, and end; identifying characters; adding details, developing plot, etc. We also differentiate between “true stories” (personal narratives) and “fictional stories” (fantasy). Our first kindergarten homework assignments are based on storytelling, a timeless art celebrated by cultures all over the world.

Another early basis for Writing Workshop is learning to draw. During Sketching and Drawing Lessons, we explore line, shape, color, perspective, backgrounds, etc. and give specific lessons on how to draw people and objects step-by-step. We build children’s confidence and enjoyment of observation and illustration techniques and learn from mentor illustrators whose styles are interesting and recognizable. Illustration is a valued and celebrated part of our writing curriculum. Pictures are children’s first method of recording a story, and children’s’ Sketchbooks and Drawing and Writing Books are our first classroom experiences with “writing.”

Over time, children develop their storytelling, handwriting, and drawing skills. Children also learn much about how letters make words from shared reading, interactive writing activities (e.g. making signs for the classroom), and skills they practice in Reading Workshop and Choice Time. Teachers meet with individual or small groups of children to assist in the process. By January, we add a new format—booklets—for recording our stories “that have lots of parts.” (Drawing and Writing Books remain a choice for the whole year.) This is a very exciting time for our writing community! As children amass a body of writing, reflecting on their work and selecting a piece to publish in a beautiful format becomes a highlight of their school year.