Writing About Winter
Students review the characteristics of winter while learning to write independently and use a word wall as a writing resource.
- Grades: PreK–K
- Unit Plan:
Students will discuss and write about characteristics of winter. They will learn how to use invented spelling and word walls to aid them in their writing and help them to record their thoughts.
- Describe winter.
- Record ideas using invented spelling.
- Utilize word wall as a reference material.
- Chart paper and markers
- Writing folders (one for each student, labeled with their names)
- Blank writing paper or Blank Journal Page (PDF) (2-3 pages or copies for each student)
- Winter Is Here! by Kimberly Weinberger
- Index cards
- Clipboard (for you to use while assessing students)
- Optional: Markers, crayons, or colored pencils for the students to use during the drawing portions
Set Up and Prepare
- Gather and label writing folders. (I usually store them in magazine boxes according to table groups). Put a sheet of writing paper in each folder. I also usually have a folder in the box with extra paper, so they don't have to leave their table for paper.
- Set aside a bulletin board to use as a Winter Word Wall. If you already have a literacy word wall, you may want a separate small word wall for these science words since these words will be specific to the science theme of winter and they will change with each unit. This might even be a chart with the theme related words on it. The goal of this word wall is to teach students how to use it as a resource, not to learn how to spell these words.
- Select words to add to your word wall (such as winter, thermometer, temperature, etc.).
With these lessons I have several things I am focusing on. I want to get across the science ideas of the characteristics of winter, but I also want to teach the students how to write independently and how to use the word wall as a writing resource.
Step 1: Gather students on the rug. Begin a conversation about winter. Ask them what it looks like outside during winter, what they wear during winter and what they do during winter. Tell them they are going to do some winter writing today.
Step 2: Model the writing. Sketch a winter picture on the chart paper using some of their ideas, such as a boy building a snowman. Then tell them you are going to label the picture. Chose an aspect of the picture, such as the snowman and ask them what they hear at the beginning of word ‘snowman.' Say the word slowly, stressing the first sound. When someone calls out ‘S,' write the "s" next to snowman. Then say the word again and ask what sounds they hear next. Record the sounds they hear. The word might look like "snomn" or "somn." Stress to them that it won't be perfect, but it's okay to make mistakes. (It's important to stress the concepts they are writing and work on the spelling later.)
Step 3: When you have finished the model, tell them that now they will do some writing. Tell them they will get out their writing folders and use one of the journal pages or sheets of writing paper inside to draw and label a winter picture. Send the students to their tables to begin their writing. With some students you will need to direct them in terms of their drawing. (What aspects of winter are in this picture? What might you wear in all that snow?) With other students, you will focus on their writing. (Let's label this hat. What is the first sound you hear in hat?)
Step 4: After about 10-15 minutes (depending on the attention span of your class), chose two students who labeled winter pictures to share their work with the class. Ask the other students to put their papers back in their folders, put their folders away, and return to the rug for sharing.
Step 1: Read Winter is Here!, by Kimberly Weinberger. Talk about the different signs of winter that the book teaches us (tree, leaves, winter, cold, etc.). Write the words on index cards in front of the students. Show the students the "Winter Word Wall." Tell them that they might want to use some of these words in their writing about winter.
Step 2: Ask the students for something that they learned about winter from the book. Make a quick sketch of an aspect of winter (a tree with no leaves). Tell the students that instead of labeling the picture, today you are going to write a story about it. Model your thinking by thinking out loud: "Hmmm.....I think I want to write ‘The tree has no leaves.' Let's see, the first word is ‘the.' Oh! I know how to spell that already! T-H-E! Ok, ‘The tree has no leaves.' I already have ‘the,' now I need ‘tree.' Oh! Ms. Tankey just put that word on the Winter Word Wall! Which one is it? T-T-T-tree. It must be the one that starts with ‘T.'" For words that are not on the word wall, you might want to review how to use letter sounds to spell, like yesterday's lesson.
Step 3: Tell the students that it is their turn to write a winter story. Remind them to use the sounds they know to write words and to use the Winter Word Wall to help them write. Send them to their tables, table by table, and have them get their writing folders and get to work like the day before, using the second blank journal page or sheet of writing paper.
Step 4: As they write, go around the room and help students with a) the content of their story (aspects of winter), b) using the word wall as a reference, and c) using invented spelling for words not on the word wall.
Step 5: Choose two students who used the word wall words in their writing and have them share their work with the class.
Supporting All Learners
As you are circling the room to aid the writers, you will be able to focus on the different needs of your class. Advanced writers might be writing a few sentences about winter. Second language learners might be drawing a tree and finding the word tree on the word wall to label their picture. Children that have a hard time focusing when working at the tables might need their own personal word wall in their folders. This will keep them from being distracted by looking around the room for words to write.
You might want to continue with this writing assignment by having the students write stories about winter in booklets. You can give out booklets of 3-4 pages stapled together and teach them how to sequence a story on several pages.
Have the students chose a tree nearby their home to track during the year. Have them draw what the tree looks like now and write about it. Then throughout the year have them check in on their tree and note any changes.
- Students create and label a winter picture using inventive spelling
- Students write a winter story after learning how to use a word wall to aid their writing
- Do my students feel comfortable with their letter sounds, or should we review this?
- Are my students using the word wall effectively?
- Are my students drawing content rich pictures or rainbows and butterflies? Should I back up and discuss drawing on topic and in detail?
- Are my students comfortable with taking risks in writing? Do they do their best even though they know it isn't "spelled right"?
To keep track of what I have discussed with students when they are writing, I use a clipboard with index cards taped to it. I tape the tops of the cards two by two to the clipboard and put them just underneath each other so that a centimeter of each card shows. I write the names of each student on a card and when I conference with them on their writing I flip to their card and jot down a few notes. This way, when I talk to the student the next time, they are accountable to what we talked about earlier.