The other day a great Kindergarten teacher, Catherine Rutkoski, of Lebanon Township, NJ, told me a story about teaching how-to books. She was really frustrated at first because her kids were NOT getting it. She was doing the lessons, modeling, making things with them, then charting the steps for a how-to. But when the kids went off to write, they wrote personal stories. Or drew something unrelated.
So she stopped, thought about what was going wrong, and started all over again. She realized that, in Kindergarten, more than any other grade, kids need to hear it, see it, and say it many times before they can write a book about it. So she spent her minilessons creating how-to pieces with the students, then having them reread the how-tos with her. Then she would have the kids read to each other, repeating the how-to again. She did the same thing when it was time for them to write their own books. Say it out loud to yourself. Say it to a friend. Say it once more when you get back to your desk. THEN you can get something to write with. Finally, the kids got it. And they wrote some great how-to books.
Wouldn’t you know, when it was my turn to teach these little guys a few days later, and I jumped into teaching pattern books, the same thing happened. I showed them a pattern book, modeled writing my own, then had them turn and talk about a pattern book they could make. But it was obvious from their talk that they didn’t really understand the concept of a pattern book. Some of them were still talking about how-to books. Some were telling personal stories. Some didn’t have anything to say. So we went back to “hear it, see it, say it,” within the minilesson. Read some more, had them talk some more and then…they got it. And our pattern book study was under way. (See List/Pattern Books on my website under Tools for more info.)