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October 07, 2008

Mayala's Note

One of my main goals throughout the year is to teach my students that people write for a purpose.  In the real world, people don't just write for the sake of writing; we write to remember information, share stories, recall events, and more.  I provide my students with countless opportunities to learn about writing throughout the day -- from journaling, to modeled writing, to using the writing materials available in all of our centers -- and we talk about different reasons why we write in each context. 
In addition to all of these more intentional teaching opportunities, my students also learn from watching adults write in natural contexts likw when I take attendance or write anecdotal notes. I take anecdotal notes on my clipboard each day during center time. While most of the time this doesn't faze my students, sometimes they come over to look for their name or letters that they know in the note. Whenever they ask what I'm writing, I tell them, "I'm writing a note for myself so that I can remember all the great things that you're doing!"  This reiterates a purpose for writing and also makes my students excited.  I often read the note back to them -- they love to hear my record of their actions! 
Last week during center time, Mayala came up to me...
"Ms. Rosenbaum," she asked, "can I write on your [clip]board?"
"Sure, Mayala."  I replied, "What are you going to write?"
"I gotta write a note!"  She answered frantically. 
I gave Maya a clean sheet of paper, my clipboard, and my pen, and she got to work.  She started writing lines of B's, a's, Y's, and M's (letters from her name and her brother's name).  She wrote from left to right and top to bottom, and persisted for several minutes.  Mayala then brought her paper to me.
"What did you do?"  I asked, curious to see if she would give any more specificity about the note.
"I wrote you a note!" She exclaimed, so proud of herself.  "It says, 'I like when your feelings are pretty.  I like your friends in their clothes.'"  As Mayala read her note, she swept her finger from right to left and top to bottom (the opposite of when she was writing). 
Mayala's note was about feelings and friends, two topics that we had discussed in depth over the past two weeks.  Earlier that day we had read Todd Parr's The Feelings Book, and we talked about some of the clothes that the characters were wearing.  Mayala was clearly still thinking about the book, as her note was reflective of our conversation earlier in the day.  She also demonstrated an understanding of print awareness; she knew that she had to write letters (not pictures), and that her writing should progress from left to right.  She confused the print directionality while rereading her note, so tracking print is something that I will intentionally focus on for the next few weeks with Mayala. 
Through a combination of intentional teaching and natural writing observation, Mayala is beginning to learn the importance of writing to share ideas.  She is enthusiastic about learning how to write, and will be able to take advantage of countless opportunities to practice and improve her writing skills throughout the school year!


She is lucky to have a teacher like you who took time to stop and listen to her! I had a third grade teacher who encouraged me like you did and I haven't stop learning since then! Thanks for sharing.

Thanks for commenting, Pat! I think it's so important for a child to have at least one teacher with whom he/she really connects...it's so wonderful that you still remember your third grade teacher and can attribute your love for learning to him/her. I hope that all of my students have that opportunity as well!

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