We used the Lucy Calkins series as one resource for Writer’s Workshop, but I found that after finishing Launching, many of my children were not quite ready for Small Moments. At this point most children recognized letters and were able to match letters and sounds. We had also done a lot of oral story telling so they were developing a sense of story, and we had done a lot of detailed drawing; I loved many ideas from the book Talking, Drawing, Writing at the beginning of the year to encourage storytelling and drawing! But the children were just gaining confidence to stretch out sounds and actually write words and many were not ready to think of something that had happened to themselves, “zoom in” and write a story about it yet. I introduced Concept books as a step in between, and my children loved them!
First I read a bunch of small board books, this is one I got from the dollar section at Target.
The important thing about these books is that the whole book deals with one idea, and on each page there is a simple illustration and one word that matches the picture.
Then I told the children that they were going to make books like these – I called them concept books and explained that a concept is an idea. The whole book was about one main idea. So they could make a little book just like that about ANYTHING they liked! After reading several books, and leaving them out for the children to read, I modeled making several books, and provided lots of little blank books for them to use.
Here is an example of a book I made to demonstrate thinking of a topic, stretching sounds, making sure the picture matches the words. These books are really 1/2 size of xerox paper, folded in half – so they are quite small.
I know they could easily have made these books with plain folded paper, but I wanted them to get used to the format of drawing in the box, and writing on the line. I did not hold them accountable for writing neatly on the line – and I was only looking for ONE WORD. It took so much pressure off this complicated process for my little ones!
Here is a link to blank books you can photocopy back to back and cut in half.
Sometimes we don’t realize how much we are asking these kids to do – think of an idea, draw a picture that tells the story, think of what you want to write, stretch out the sounds one word at a time, remember how to form all the letters … I found a lot of children could not read back their own first sentences because they couldn’t remember what they wrote – even when I could read it. These concept books just helped children gain confidence in matching the word to the picture and stretching out the sounds.
The ideas for the books are endless – but since I usually had introduced concept books by this time of year we usually made a Thankful book – just drawing one thing we were thankful for on each page and labeling it. Around the same time we talked about the difference between “sound spelling” and book spelling. With parents I always used the term phonetic spelling rather than invented or developmental spelling, because it really is based on listening for phonetic sounds.
There were some years that during Writer’s Workshop I decided to go from these concept books to All About Books. I made the books a little larger and the children wrote a short sentence on each page. For example: All About Ducks – Ducks live on a farm. Ducks say quack. Ducks like to swim.
They were still getting the idea of concentrating on one idea for the whole book, and they were getting more practice with emergent writing.