Kid Writing Author Isabell Cardonick With Kid Writing Help
by Kathleen Carpenter
In this first of two installments
Isabell Cardonick, teacher and co-author (with Eileen Feldgus) of Kid Writing: A Systematic Approach to Phonics, Journals, and Writing Workshop, answers questions submitted by kindergarten and grade one teachers. The topic is Kid Writing, the process of turning children who don't know the alphabet into fluent, proficient, and confident writers. Questions were gathered during a live chat with Cardonick and Feldgus in the Teachers.Net Meeting Room on May 23, 2000. The transcript of that session is available in the Early Childhood section of http://teachers.net/archive.
Here is the first set of questions and Isabell Cardonick's responses. The second installment will appear in the July issue of the Teachers.Net Gazette.
1. Do you have suggestions for working with the child who spends an extended period of time (too long) on the illustration, with little time for writing the "story" text? Have you any pointers for helping children put their emphasis upon the written narrative rather than on the drawing?
ISABELL: After the children have been given sufficient time, we tell them that they have another minute to complete the drawing. They know that they can go back to the drawing once they've finished writing. We also say that this is a good time to write the story because we now have time to help them. We always give them time to finish the drawing later.
2. I teach first grade and I have concerns about the children going to 2nd grade with teachers who don't embrace this technique. What are your thoughts about that situation?
ISABELL: I'm not sure that I understand your concerns. Are you concerned because these teachers are workbook oriented and that your children won't have enough experience doing skills in isolation? If you believe in your teaching practice, this is not an issue. Children can learn quickly how to do phonics pages. The knowledge that they will have when they leave your "kid writing" classroom can never be taken away from them. I really need more information to answer this question completely.
If kids have done lots of kid writing, they will be very proficient at high frequency words and will have very thoughtful phonetic spellings for words not yet taught. They should be further along in their writing than kids who have not written daily and have not had mini-lessons addressing both the conventions and the craft of writing.
3. Could you briefly explain the magic line?
ISABELL: The magic line is an underscore: _______. It is used as a placeholder when the child can't figure out which letter/s he needs to write a word. The children know that for every spoken word, something has to be written down. In using the magic line, the children are empowered to write their thoughts using vocabulary in their oral vocabularies, not just words they know how to spell. In fact, it gives the total non-writer a tool to write. I find that most children don't need to use the magic line for more than a couple of weeks in the beginning of kindergarten. They quickly learn how to use letters and know that their kid writing will be honored. They learn conventional spelling quickly because of their constant exposure to it through the techniques described in Kid Writing.
4. How do you get them to use a bit of variety in writing? I get tired of reading "I see a ___. I see a ___. I see a __."
ISABELL: In the very beginning stages, we have little conversations with the children before they begin doing the kid writing. For example, if a child says "I see a bird," the teacher then might say, "Tell me about the bird. What is the bird doing? What will happen to the bird? etc, etc." The teacher really has some power in directing the child's writing. With children who are already writing independently, I would teach them to use variety during the mini-lesson phase. I would also call attention to the interesting sentences that authors use in good children's literature.
5. What tips do you have for an ESL kinder writing program?
ISABELL: There is a section of Kid writing which deals with ESL. (pages 54-57) It includes examples of kid writing done by children who did not speak English at all when they started school in September. We find that the process of stretching out words as recommended in Kid Writing, along with the pedagogical, emotional and physical environments that we describe, is very beneficial to the ESL child. Of course, it also helps to use lots of pictures and gestures with ESL children. I have found kid writing to work extremely well with ESL children, as have many of the "Kid Writing"teachers with whom I have spoken.
6. How do you manage to get around to all students each day when you have no help. I know that in the Kid Writing book you suggest parent volunteers. I didn't have any that would or could help this year. What solutions can you suggest?
ISABELL: I have done kid writing with one other adult in the room and 30 children in a half day program (2 1/2 hours). In this scenario, I was able to reach only half of the children each day. But the other half finished their drawings and listened and helped as the other children were doing their kid writing with the teacher. The next day, these children were ready to write first. There was a great deal of teaching and learning going on that benefited everyone - not just the kids who did the writing. Kid Writing is a very social process and is highly effective because of the social nature of literacy learning (Check out Lev Vygodsky's Social origins of thought http://csunix1.lvc.edu/~b_rehm/Lev_the_Man.html) In Kid Writing, we describe how we maximize the social aspects (i.e.: letting kids sit together on the rug rather than in isolation at their desks) so that all the kids are learning...intensely and with great joy!
Continued in the July Gazette...
To read more about Kid Writing, visit these archived live chat transcripts.
Kid Writing with Isabell Cardonick and Eileen Feldgus - http://teachers.net/archives/ec052300.html
Kid Writing with Isabell Cardonick - http://teachers.net/archives/ec082900.html
Kid Writing: A Systematic Approach to Phonics, Journals, and Writing Workshop with Isabell Cardonick - http://teachers.net/archive/ec122800.html
Kid Writing - (techniques a la Feldgus and Cardonick) - http://teachers.net/archives/ec112001.html