Infusing writing throughout our day!

Our door is the new home for our 
Dot Project documentation.
After hearing Miriam Trehearne at the "Reading for the love of it" conference, I was inspired to blog about our Kindergarten writing program.

So, without further ado, here is a window into our classroom.  Please walk through our door and see how we infuse writing throughout our school day...

 During "Thinking and Learning Time," when our students are engaged in play-based and inquiry-based learning, they make their thinking and learning visible through their conversations, creations, and daily writing.

Below you will see our classroom's main "Thinking and Learning" wall, which showcases our planning method (students take their photo and place it in any learning area that they are interested in visiting), learning goal, success criteria, list of writing ideas, a place for our students to clip their writing, and a "Personal Best Writing Wall" to display that day's personal best writing by topic.

Thinking and Learning Time: Habits of Mind

Learning Goal: 

I can show my personal best thinking (comments, ideas, connections, opinions, compliments, and questions) drawing, and writing today.

Success Criteria: 

Did you stick to your plan?

1. Stay focused
2. Take your time                (Develop Persistence)
3. Don't give up easily 
4. Add detail
5. Be creative
6. Ask questions: I wonder _______.

Writing ideas:

1. Make a book
2. Make a plan
3. Draw a picture and sentence
4. Draw and label a picture
5. Write a list
6. Mail a letter or card
7. Create instructions (procedure)

*After listening to Miriam Trehearne's presentation, I know that we will be adding more options for our students (e.g., brainstorms, surveys, etc. for "Work on Writing")

The above list has also been written as separate headings by the students on our "We can show our personal best writing today" board.  When the students show their personal best we give them feedback on the smart board, celebrate their work, and share it on this visual display (photographed blank and filled below).

Our students are invited to write in our creative expressions learning area or anywhere else in the classroom that they are demonstrating their thinking and learning.

The creative expressions learning area has individual mailboxes per student and a variety of writing materials (variety of paper, envelopes, found materials, word rings, sentence rings, fancy scissors, etc.)

The writing materials can easily be transported around the room, and we ensure that they are also readily available within all other learning areas.

Students can select a clipboard, writing paper (variety of options), and or drawing books for inspiration.  Scissors, glue sticks, staplers, tape dispensers, rulers, stencils, sentence strips, and fancy pads of paper are also at their reach.

To support their letter sounds and letter formation, students can refer to their "Beautiful Stuff Co-Constructed Alphabet." 

Educators differentiate their instruction using "Daily Mini Lessons" to support student writing and other literacy and mathematics lessons.  These mini lessons are all based on assessment data gathered throughout the school year.

Here are a few examples of writing in our classroom during "Thinking and Learning Time" (Play-based and Inquiry-based learning):

Below you will see our students demonstrating persistence and their personal best by following our learning goal and success criteria.  They are also preserving their work by placing stop signs to signal to their friends that they want to continue working beyond the time allotted in a single school day.

In addition to this, our students are engaged in a number of inquiries where they are constantly wondering, planning, and writing down their theories.

Finally one of my most favourite and memorable writing moments this school year, was when A.A. drew and wrote something and then immediately went over to our pet rabbit to show her.  Talk about a real reason to write, as well as an audience!

We are so proud of what our students come up with every day and are always pleasantly surprised with how they fill the writing wall to make visible their thinking and learning!  Even our pet rabbit enjoys watching the students clip up their personal best writing!

After we have given students feedback the following morning and celebrate those who showed their personal best, the writing gets taken day to begin fresh.  All writing is gathered for the month into a folder, to allow us to reflect upon it and add a few samples to our "Portfolio/Documentation Book."

For more details around our portfolio/documentation books please visit our blog post: Portfolio/Documentation Books: The Burning Question

I welcome you to leave any comments or questions below and thank Miriam Trehearne for inspiring this blog post.  I look forward to reading her book "Learning to Write and Loving It", trying her writing suggestions, and blogging again about it later on in the school year!

Share your thoughts :

  1. Dear Joanne,
    I was most intrigued by your BLOG posting today and read it not once, but several times to capture the true essence. The children are working with intention on their writing pieces, drawing from their authentic experiences, making connections and ever so engaged in their 'work'. I was inspired by your photos, the children at 'work' and your thoughtful words and research.
    Richland Academy

    1. Thank you!!!

      It is a pretty intense blog post!! Once I started (while I was watching the Oscars) I found that I couldn't stop! I can't seem to watch anything without multi-tasking these days...

      I appreciate your comment! I am very proud of our young writers!!

  2. Dear Joanne,
    I always enjoy reading your blog postings, which I consider to be carefully crafted forms of documentation. Through your words and photos, you make visible the learning and thinking that is taking place. Thank you for welcoming us into your classroom and into your work. You have done a remarkable job creating authentic, engaging and thoughtful writing opportunities for your children. What child wouldn't be inspired to write! Marlina Oliveira, Richland Academy.

    1. Marlina,

      You are far too kind!! I am especially flattered that you read my blog posts, and still manage to do all the wonderful things you do each day. Thank you for making time for us...

      I hope that this window into our classroom will inspire others to infuse writing into their play-based and inquiry-based learning time!

      Though I am always busy documenting student thinking and learning, someday soon, I think I might join the students and creatively write something of my own! (This would be separate from my modelled writing lessons.) Maybe that might spark more interest in writing!

      Have a wonderful week,


  3. Dear Joanne
    Your blog is amazing and so inspiring.I have been reading it almost daily for awhile now as I find it to be a tremendous resource as we at our centre are making the transformation as well.
    Thank you so much for all that you share.

    1. Thank you Debbie!!

      Good luck with your transformation!

      I hope that you can share with us how it turns out!!

  4. Dear Ms. Babalis,
    Thanks you for sharing the little details of your teaching tools and ideas. My daughter has benefitted tremendously from all the learning, creativity, independence and sense of accomplishment that you foster within each child. When we do crafts at home, she likes to cite your success criteria and tell me why it's her personal best. She also likes to cut out octagons and write STOP in the middle to put in front of puzzles and structures she is building at home (I think mostly in hopes that her little sister doesn't destroy them). Together, they make bunny worlds for their imaginary bunnies at home.

    Thanks for all that you do,
    M.Y.'s mom

    1. Thank you!

      We really appreciate you taking the time to post a comment on the blog. I am going to share it with the class during our morning meeting tomorrow. I am sure that M.Y. will feel so proud! Did you get a chance to hear her singing on my Family Day post? Please check back again, as I have a new video clip with her talking about Fairy Land.

      It's so nice to hear that she has internalized all that we have been teaching at school and transferred it to her learning at home!!

      Thank you for your positive feedback, encouragement, bunny food, Fairy book, recycled materials, and overall support! We couldn't have asked for better family involvement, especially when we know how important the home-school connection are for our youngest learners.


      Ms. Babalis and Mrs. Ham

  5. Hi Ms. Babalis and Mrs. Ham,

    First of all I want to say thank you for allowing us to be inspired by your wonderful posts about your classroom. I only wish I could observe the magic that happens in your classroom in person!

    I am a new young Kindergarten teacher in Vancouver, B.C. and I am eager to learn about early learning and most of all providing my students a play-based learning environment. I am just about to go on spring break and have been struggling with what kind of writing program I can provide to my students and most importantly how to provide it. I really enjoyed through this post how much your student's writing is celebrated throughout the day/process. I can really get the sense that your students are excited to begin writing and truly take risks in their writing. This sounds like a crazy question but I am wondering, what did it take to get there?! I assume it must have begun with alot of front-loading (criteria and expectations?) Is their writing always related to an inquiry or project? Did you have to introduce each writing idea at a time?

    I know that every classroom environment is different, that there are no simple answers. Know that I am challenged and inspired by your writing program. I hope that I can take this and adapt, try new things in my classroom.



  6. Hi Lourdes,

    Thank you for your message! I would like to share with you how happy it makes us that you read our posts. Having an audience has really given us a purpose to write.

    You live in such a beautiful province! I had the good fortune of visiting this past summer.

    Our writing program unfolds very slowly and our mini lessons help to scaffold our students to find success.

    Here are some of our steps:

    1) Students are invited to post their writing (in any form-name, drawing, sentences, etc.) on the writing wall from the first day of school. It can be from inquiry/project work, play-based learning, or their thinking and learning at the time.

    2) Introduction of learning goal and success criteria. (Show examples of each success criteria during writing lessons) (Model this as well)

    3) Teach writing ideas (e.g., picture with sentence, list, story, card, procedure, etc.) one at a time.

    4) Select one piece of writing each day to celebrate and refer to the success criteria. All students help to provide the feedback.

    5) Each month conference with students to help them find their personal best writing sample for their portfolio. Students complete a reflection page that links to the success criteria.

    6) Teach students to have a plan and share with us what they plan to write (e.g., book) and how they will show their personal best using the success criteria (e.g., adding detail) This helps to make them accountable!

    I'm not sure if this is helpful!!

    Finally, I love the last part of your comment where you say that we've challenged and inspired you to think about your own writing program.

    Good luck and please stay in touch!



  7. Hi Joanne,
    First off, I love your blog! Thank you for being so willing to share your practice. I was wondering if you could clarify when your students are doing the writing for the "Daily Writing Wall"? Is it during the Thinking and Learning times of the day? How do you ensure that each child is actually accomplishing their writing each day? I'd love some more information on how exactly you introduce the responsibility of doing the daily writing.

  8. I would also be interested in your reply to Sarah's question. I am rethinking my writing time as well. Right now we have a set writing block but I find it hard for students to be motivated, engaged, or have the stamina to write on demand for a set amount of time. I would find it more engaging and beneficial if they wrote during their learning centers. We are lucky enough to have admin who support play in kindergarten! I am curious how you are able to get all of the students to create a piece of writing each day. Thank you!


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