How to Use Picture Writing Prompts to support Beginning Writers in Kindergarten

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Teaching beginning writers is a big challenge and in kindergarten, it's even more challenging because kids come to school with all different ability levels.  Some students show up and they can write a full sentence and some can barely write their names.  Then teachers have to somehow meet all their needs at once.  Using picture writing prompts is a great way to support ALL levels of beginning writers.

picture writing prompts with animals and sentence starters

Writing is hard.  It's the hardest academic skill teachers ask of kindergarten students.  Writing requires kids to use everything they know about letter sounds, put them together to make words.  Then get those words on paper with proper spacing, punctuation, and capitalization.  It's a lot.  This makes teaching writing a challenge, too.  Thankfully, differentiating writing assignments doesn't have to be complicated. 

How can pictures help beginning writers?

Thanksgiving  picture writing prompts with sentence starters showing a parade and kitchen table.

If you have students who are reluctant to write, pictures help to give them ideas to connect with and motivate them to get words on paper.  The pictures take the "I don't know what to write about." excuse away and it gives them a specific topic to write about.   Adding a sentence starter makes it even easier to decide what to write about.  When students only have to write a word or 2 to complete the sentence, it sets them up for success.  If they are able, you can push them to write a second sentence, too.  Scaffolding support is a great way to build confidence in beginning writers. 

Pictures also help kids who don't enjoy drawing.  They can still add their own details but the majority of the illustration work is done for them.   After all, not all authors illustrate their own books. 

How can sentence starters help beginning writers?

winter themed picture writing prompts with and without sentence starters showing a boy building a snowman with writing tools

Sentence starters are great for kids who have a difficult time sounding out words or getting their words on paper.  When kids are just beginning to get words on paper, giving them the first few words of a sentence can go along way to ease their frustration.  One option is to put the sentence starter on the board for them to copy, but developmentally, not all kindergarteners are able to sit at their table and copy from so far away.  Another option is to give them a paper with traceable words or even to give them a paper with the sentence starter already on it so they simply have to add words to complete the sentence.   

How can I support confident writers?

What about kids who are capable and confident writers?  You can choose to give them a blank paper with just the topic or to give them a page with a picture prompt and let them write.  I like to include a sentence writing checklist or rubric to keep them focused on mechanics a the beginning of the year and then progress to content as the year goes on.  Having a checklist on every page helps students to self-check and holds them responsible for writing complete sentences. 

5-star sentence writing checklists and reference pages

This 5-star sentence writing checklist pack is in my TPT store.  The visuals can help students to be more independent with their writing and gives kids the tools they need to write complete successfully.

Need an easy way to differentiate writing assignments?

Create monthly writing journals that all have the same cover.  Inside the journal can be different for students based on their needs but everyone feels included during independent writing time.  If you prep the journals at the beginning of the month, you're set for 4 weeks at a time.  

Have a student working on letter formation and letter sounds? Put that in their monthly journal.  Kids ready to write stories independently?  Their journals can have blank pages ready for stories.  Kids who are in between?  Give them picture writing prompts with or without sentence starters.  

Want to try picture prompts but you don't have the time to create them?  I've got you covered.  This Mega Bundle has prompts for the entire school year!  Each pack has 3 different levels of picture writing prompts and a blank page included with a sentence writing check list on each page.  There are cover pages to create monthly journals, too. Click here to check it out. 

Disguise a Gingerbread Man Project with Digital Activities

Monday, November 9, 2020

Family projects are a fun way to engage families in the learning process and with many teachers in hybrid or distance learning models, this is more important than ever.  This Disguise a Gingerbread Man project was designed with flexibility in mind so that teachers can engage all of their learners.  This pack includes printable and digital options with 2 different premises.  Teachers can set up a "Best-dressed Cookie Competition" or a more traditional challenge to create a gingerbread man disguise so that he won't be eaten. 

►►►Click here to get your Gingerbread Disguise Project with printable & digital options!

gingerbread man disguised as Santa with screenshot of dress a gingerbread man activity

How to Introduce the Activity

gingerbread boy book with a paper gingerbread man disguised as Santa with writing prompt

Choose a version of the Gingerbread Man story to read to introduce this project.  We always did a whole unit on the Gingerbread Man story in December because we weren't allowed to celebrate Christmas but gingerbread still felt like the holidays.  The stories are engaging and they are a great way to compare texts, versions of the story, practice retelling, sequencing and so much more!  I'll link my favorites here (all the links below Amazon affiliate links.  If you are a Scholastic Book Club member, check there first for the best prices!).

After reading, you can show your students the project.  It helps to show some past examples, too.  If you have trouble coming up with ideas or you've never done this project before, just Google "gingerbread man disguise project" and you'll find lots of inspiration.  You'll want to give families plenty of time to complete the project, but not too much.  I found that giving families 2 weekends is just the right amount of time. 

How to prep this project

3 pieces of paper showing a parent letter, gingerbread template, and writing page for gingebread project

This activity is very low-prep.  Just make copies and send them home (or you could choose to complete it in class)!

-Type up your letter to families for directions (or just tweak the one included in the pack) and make sure to include a due date.  

-Make one copy of the letter and one copy of the gingerbread person template page per student (I recommend copying this on cardstock).  

Choose which writing page template you'd like to use and make a copy for each student as well. (You can choose to send the writing part home for parents to complete or you can complete that together in class. )

You can choose to connect the pages with a paperclip or staple them.  Then you send it home! That's it.

Using the Seesaw Activities

To use the gingerbread man disguise Seesaw activities, you'll need a Seesaw account.  You can sign up to get a free Seesaw account here.  It's is a great, easy-to-use platform for both in-person and distance learning.  

Then all you'll have to do is click the Save Activity Link and save it to your library.  Then you are ready to assign it for your students.  The activities and directions (including an example and audio directions) are already preloaded, so all you need to do is choose which version you prefer and click assign. 

In the first activity best-dressed cookie option, our students will use the move tool to "dress" their gingerbread person and then write a persuasive writing piece to tell why they should win the competition.  

In the second disguise a gingerbread person option, students will use the drawing tools to create a disguise and then can use the pen tool or the text tool to write their sentence (or story) about the gingerbread person. 

Don't forget to purchase your Gingerbread project here!

I'd love to see the finished products - be sure to tag me on Instagram @teachingexceptionalkinders!

If you are looking for more family projects, you can read about my Disguise a Turkey Project here

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