During the spring of last year, from early April until nearly the end of the school year (which is where we are right now, the second week of June), I tried something different with the Kindergarteners I have had this year.
Bear in mind that Kindergarten has historically been the place where Movement IV is the last thing the Ks do, and by no means all of them. That has always been my belief, and that is what was happening in the Kindergartens I have followed as the teacher of first grade. Usually, at the end of Kindergarten, children Doing Words are pretty evenly split among Movements II and III, with several – perhaps as many as half, perhaps fewer – in Movement IV.
The big deal about Movement IV is the retrieval card, on which the teacher writes only the words the child doesn’t know. For example, when Nick wanted to write “I had a playdate with Sam,” his retrieval card looked like this: __ __ __ playdate with __
He wrote the sentence into his writing book on the lines horizontally, with spaces between the words, and put on a period at the end. Then he read it to me. I said, “Good work,” or something affirming, or I said something more specific, such as “I like how your Ps are in just the right place these days.”
Then he went off to read his writing to two friends, and then he put the little book into a basket and went on to his next activity.
Movement IV books are the same as Movement III books. They are half-size, that is, 6 x 9”. There are usually five “lines” to print in on each page, each really three lines so that the children can print the letters in their correct sizes. There are about 10 sheets in each book (which is covered with a half-sheet of construction paper stapled to the front) so the book lasts at least three weeks.
When a Movement III or IV book is full, the child starts another one and the first one goes home after the child has read the entire thing to me. I won’t sent it home if the child can’t read it, or read nearly all of it, because that would be a disappointment to both the child and the parents. Since the point of Doing Words is that children will want to and be able to read their own powerful ideas, it is a failure – for ME – if they can’t read their writing books.
Fortunately this rarely happens. The other day I heard Bridget read her whole book of daily sentences with absolutely no mistakes. The content was fairly typical of the age:
Abby is my friend. I like rainbows. My brother plays with me. I like to play with my brother at home. We are going on a field trip. I like pink. I got new shoes. My new shoes are sparkly. I love Belle. I love Mrs. Johnson. We got a hummingbird feeder. My grandma is coming to see us. My mom is pretty.
These are all one-sentence captions of important stuff in the child’s head. The sentence about Grandma includes all kinds of things, including how Grandma smells, how she hugs, when she was here last, wishes about what she might bring for Bridget and her brother, the possibility that she will have a fight with Mom, or Dad, and maybe she will even let Bridget look in the mirror she carries in her purse.
The wonderful thing about Bridget’s writing book was that she could read it all to me. The only problem she had was with the word “sparkly.” When she came to that she looked puzzled. “This can’t be ‘pink,’ because it doesn’t start with ‘p’,” she said, looking at me. She pointed to the words as she read again, “My new shoes are…” and paused.
“You’re right, that can’t be ‘pink’,” I agreed. “It doesn’t start with ‘p’ – what kind of pink are your shoes? Just ordinary pink?”
Her face lit up. “Oh, that word is ‘sparkly,’ !” She looked at me again. “These are my sparkly pink shoes I was writing about.” She read on to the end of the book.
It is very helpful that I keep track of these stories in my head as they are coming to the page every day!
When I send these small books home I staple to the cover a small note to the parents who will hear this book read aloud to them.