Teaching Writing and a Huge Freebie

Hiya peeps,
It has been a loooong time since I blogged.  I sort of  fell out of love with blogging. I needed to take a step back. I had no idea that step backwards would result in a nearly 2 year absence. But I am back and “plan” to get back on the proverbial horse. 
Today I wanted to talk a little about how I teach writing. Our school wide writing system is the 
four square writing method. The idea behind using  4 square writing is to help student organize 
their writing into a meaningful and cohesive piece. The goal is to have students write a paragraph by
the time they leave kindergarten. Don’t worry this sounds much more advanced than it really is.  
The students write 1 sentence each day on a given topic and at the end of the week they 
combine their sentences to create a paragraph. On Day 1 students write about the topic and over the 
course of the next 3 days they write/draw/label a detail that relates to the topic. Then on Day 5 students
create a short sentence to sum up their writing.  Once students have written their initial paragraph
we spend the next week editing and publishing their work.  
This process can take up to 10 days to complete.  At the very beginning of the year every one’s writing is essentially the same but as students begin to understand the process their writing begins to become more individual and unique. 
The teacher usually comes up with a topic for the writing. The topics are either based on our story for
the week, special events or happenings in our classroom i.e. field trips, classroom parties, etc, or our science topic. On Monday we present the writing topic to our students. We ask students to tell what they know about the topic. We create an Anchor Chart listing everything that we can think of 
based on the topic. The chart is interactive and students draw and add to it over the course of the week. Each day students pick one of the words on the chart and use that to write about in their 4 square writing. 
At the very beginning of the year students use pictures to express their writing.  
Each day we fill in one box relating to the topic. To begin 4 square you want to use topics that students can easily relate to for example school. At the end of the week we came up with a short sentence to sum up our writing.
This would be a example of what our 4 square writing might look like in September. 
As students become more familiar with the process we begin to label our writing.

This would be an example of our writing in late October/early November. 
But as the year progresses and the students begin to move from essentially labeling to simple sentences to more complex, and detailed sentences by the end of the year. As students become better writers they are given more freedom with their writing. We move to more broader topics and  from everyone having the same 4 square writing to more individual writing. We all write about the same topic but the student’s individual writing varies. For example, our umbrella topic could be about animals but students are given freedom to write about anything they want that pertains to the topic. So one student might write about mammals, another might write about scary animals, while another might write about pets. Everyone writes about the same topic but students are given the freedom to write about what interests them. 

An example of how students combine their writings from the 4 square chart to create a paragraph.

 Here is a look at some of  my students 4 square writings. This is one of the very first writings we did as a class. Since it was the beginning of the year every one’s writing looked the same. 
Teacher Copy:
Student’s Copy:

The 4 square method is easily adaptable. We used it in conjunction with the Can, Have, Are 
graphic organizer. Our topic for the week was plants. On Monday, we wrote and talked about our topic: Plants. On Tuesday, we filled in the can column about wrote about things that plants can do. Wednesday we wrote about what plants have and on Thursday we wrote about what plants are.  This is one of the first writings that we did where students writings began to vary. Students began to use stem sentences for their writing. 
They would write 
*Plants can…
*Pants have…
*Plants are…
and they would pick one word from the anchor chart to complete their sentence. 

I wanted to give my students more opportunities to write so I began to send home the Write Away sheets for homework. I was initially very skeptical about how parents would respond to their babies writing paragraphs in kindergarten but the response was great. The littles writing grew so much!  I created these little sheets in 2012 and had many requests to make more and update them but never got around to doing so. 

 here is me

In 2016
Finally getting around to updating and posting these

Even if you don’t use 4 square I hope these would be of use to 
you. Thanks so much for sticking around
and I hope you enjoy the freebie
Peace Out Peeps
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