The first step in building independent writers is teaching them how to write a complete sentence. Your students may not know what a sentence is, let alone how to write it! If your students are able to copy words from a whiteboard and write letters correctly, then you are ready to start modeling how to write sentences. Here are a few tips on how to model sentence writing to your Kindergarten students.
Letter, Word, or Sentence?
The first lesson I like to do is a Letter, Word, or Sentence sort. We create this anchor chart to talk about the difference between a letter, word, and sentence. We talk about spaghetti spaces between letters, meatball spaces between words. and how to start and end a sentence. You can create this as an anchor chart using sentence strips, or find the pocket chart sort in my TpT store here.
In order to have the most success with your student's writing, you will want to make sure you are teaching in an optimum writing environment. First, decide where you will write- on the whiteboard, anchor chart paper, or under a Doc cam. You want to make sure you have the same writing paper as the students. If you are writing on the board, you should either have pre-drawn lines (washi tape will work!) or project using a SMART Board or other projector type screen. When modeling, you need to make sure everyone can clearly see the paper. Sometimes that means writing awkwardly so you are not blocking it.
Students should have a flat surface. I've found that students pay the most attention and write their best when sitting at a table or desk. This was honestly the only time my students were sitting in a chair, usually our lessons were done on the carpet, or we took advantage of flexible seating. Make sure students have paper, a nice SHARP pencil, with an eraser. Talk to your students about your expectations during writing time and which supplies they are able to use.
Take it SLOW
My most important tip is to take it SLOW. Like painfully slow. Your goal is to teach them how to use the lines when writing, use their finger to add finger spaces, and explaining what a complete sentence needs to have every single time.
The easiest way to do this is to practice writing one simple sentence daily using a sight word that they already know. I used a writing journal (shown below) and spent about 10 minutes modeling how to write a sentence. First, I write a sight word on the board, like “can”. Next, I give my students some think time to think of a sentence using the word. Then, I’ll call on a few students to share their sentence and pick one to write in their journal. For example, the sentence might be, “The dog can run.” This is the journal I used with my students, but you could also use regular handwriting paper.
I take it one step at a time, showing them where to put their pencil, start with an uppercase letter, write each letter of the word, then add a finger space. Once we are done writing the sentence, they draw a picture to match.
Checking their Work as you Model
As you are modeling how to write, you need to spend some time in between words to do a quick walk around the room, checking their work. Noticing small mistakes right away (like forgetting to use finger spaces) will save your students time and frustration. If you don't realize they are not writing their sentence properly, they will need to do it over. It is always easier to break a habit before it starts becoming a habit. Once they realize that you are serious about their letters touching their lines, they will make sure to write their letters correctly.
To watch a step by step video on how I model sentence writing, you can find it on YouTube here.
Learning how to write a sentence is an important step in your students becoming independent writers. I hope you learned a few new tips on how to model sentence writing. Stay tuned for step number 2- building sentences coming Sunday, October 18th.