How To Build A Snowman

done kids

I love digital cameras!  Younger people probably take it for granted, but I am so delighted that I can take as many pictures as I want, pick out the best, share them with my friends and family and keep them on my computer – all for free!  I remember the days of deciding whether to buy indoor or outdoor film, paying to develop the pictures, and usually paying for double prints so I could use the pictures different ways – then excitedly opening the envelope of prints just to see that some were out of focus or didn’t capture what I wanted to save!  Yay for technology!

Pictures are a great tool for motivating children to read and write, especially if they are in the pictures.  When our family goes somewhere or does an activity, I often make a book for them to read and remember our fun.  The first thing I do is print out pictures and ask the children to put them in the right order.  Sequencing is such an important skill, they love to retell the events as they put them in the right order.  Sometimes I ask them to tell me what is going on in each picture, and I write down what they say – using their words for the book.  Owen is beginning to write on his own, in Kindergarten I would ask the children to write a sentence for each picture.

Here is a simple book I made showing the steps in making a snowman.

Build Snowman

Build Snowman2

Build Snowman3

Build Snowman4

Build Snowman5

Build Snowman6

Build Snowman7

Build Snowman8

I used this idea to introduce the idea of writing How To books in Kindergarten.  When our class did a special activity I would intentionally take lots of photographs showing the sequence of events.  Then as a whole group – or in small groups – we would sequence the pictures and write a caption for each page.  These made very popular books for our reading center.

Children love to read books about themselves too, so wben I make books for my grandchildren I usually use their names in the text.  For example, I would write “Owen helped Daddy roll a big ball of snow.”  My grandchildren read and re-read these books.   You can make books about anything you do – making cookies, watching a cement mixer, going shopping, planting flowers – just get out your camera and make memories!

The Important Book

This book was published in 1949, but I still love it!  Many of Margaret Wise Brown’s books have a very gentle, comforting message that draws young children, and they become some of their favorites!

The Important Book is a great tool to demonstrate a pattern in a book.  Each page begins with a fact about an object, then there are a couple of descriptive sentences, and then the first fact is repeated.

It is also great when you are discussing or practicing descriptive language – how to “show not tell.”  Another thing I often emphasized when we used this book was thinking about the MOST important part.

Near the end of the year I thought it was fun to make an Important Book about ourselves.  Of course you could make this book about anything!

I actually saved a formal lesson plan that I used for an observation by my principal one time, I never usually wrote up lesson plans like this unless I had to use a required format.

Important book lesson plan

This was a basic template to show the pattern:

Here is a copy to print:
basic template

Here is another sample that is more specific for the children to write about him or herself.

And the printable version:
Important Facts About me

I also made a template that gave the children more space to write:

Or if you would like to print it:

important thing template

So here is my version of this book:

The Important Thing about my blog is that I love to share my ideas.

I love thinking of teachers who take the time to read it.

I love slipping in stories about my grandchildren!

It is lots of fun to get comments from readers.

But the important thing about my blog is that I love to share my ideas!

Thanks for reading!!

All About Books

Some writing programs call this non-fiction writing, I like to call it All About Books.  The whole idea is for children to write some facts that they already know about a subject – the fun part is that they can write things they know about anything!

This is really like an extension of concept books, where the children chose a topic and wrote one word or a short phrase about the topic on each page.   In an All About Book the children would write a sentence or two on each page, telling things they know about the topic they chose.  If you have been writing lists, these lists are helpful for children to get ideas of something they know about.  You could even make a list of things the children know some things about – and then make a list of facts about each topic.  To change these lists into All About Books the children just need to write whole sentences that add some description and detail.

Like most kinds of writing it is really helpful to model All About Books in front of your class, but I think they really need to see a bunch of samples.  It doesn’t take long to make a few books that you can read to your class, or leave out for them to read on their own.  I tried to find topics that they would like, but not necessarily just copy.

Here are a couple of example books:

And another sample:

Here is the template I used for these small books, there are 2 on a page.

I ran off these pages back to back which made a booklet with a cover and 3 pages when you cut it in half and fold it.  You could make extra pages to be stapled inside.

All about books

If your children are writing more or longer sentences you could enlarge these books to 1/2 page or even a full page for each “fact” they write.  At my school copy paper was at a premium so I often made books small, but the children have to be able to write in the space you allow.

The next step in Writer’s Workshop might be How To Books.  Basically these would be similar to the All About Books, but the pages/boxes would be numbered so the children could tell how to do something in the right order, step by step.  It is also a little harder to illustrate How To Books, you might choose to just have the children write.

Here is a template for the booklets I used for Small Moment stories too – They were copied back to back and folded in half, again you could provide extra pages for children who are ready to write longer stories.

Small moment paper

Here is a copy of a chart that we discussed and referred to often – When you think you’re done …

And here is a printable version:


I also used a cute song that reinforces concepts about print in reading and writing  – sorry I can’t credit the author.

reading song

Making Lists

I always included a short unit on writing lists in Writer’s Workshop because children often see adults writing lists, they see that lists are useful and meaningful.  Lists are a little easier to write than sentences and stories, but it is hard to add a picture, which means that the children really need to be able to read their own writing.  Since lists usually stick to one topic they also help children who have a tendency to write disconnected sentences, lists give them practice concentrating on one big idea.

I like to read the book Wallace’s Lists

Another great book to read about making lists is a Max and Ruby book – Bunny Cakes.

Then we usually brainstorm different kinds of lists that the children might make – and I make a list of them to model the strategy.

Here are some ideas of lists that the children might choose to write.

We talk about how lists are different from other kinds of writing, sometimes each item is numbered, often we don’t use periods.   We also talk about how the paper we use for making a list might look different from our other writing paper.

List paper

Ideas for lists

Really writing a list is kind of like a more sophisticated approach to a concept book.  In a concept book (check out that blog post if you aren’t familiar with this idea) the children choose a topic, draw pictures and label them.  When they make a list they are basically picking a topic and writing down words or phrases – just without the pictures.  If you have children who are still really struggling with phonetic spelling they could still draw the pictures with labels instead of just writing.

A great follow up writing unit is to make All About Books next!  I’ll be sharing soon!

Responsive Writing

One of the most exciting and satisfying parts of teaching Kindergarten is watching the children go from basic alphabet recognition to actually reading and writing their own stories.  Of course there is always a big range in individual literacy development in every class, but my first priority was always to help children feel good about reading and writing.   I found so many helpful lessons and ideas in Lucy Calkins books as well as Kid Writing, but I found they didn’t always fully prepare children for the writing assessments that my district required.

In the Writer’s Workshop methods I was using the children primarily wrote about their own interests, which of course is what most great authors say that they always do!  But our district assessments provided a topic and required the children to write in response to that idea.  So, in addition to Writer’s Workshop, I began asking my children to write about specific topics – sometimes we wrote in response to a book we read – their favorite part, or a connection they made to the story.  Sometimes I asked a question and after brainstorming as a class the children wrote their answers.  Just as in writer’s workshop, drawing was an important part of this process.  I began using sentence starters, like ‘On a rainy day I like to _________’ but I found that some children re-wrote those beginning words, or only wrote one or two words, and many did not get the idea of finishing that sentence.  I changed to asking a question instead.

I found that my class was much more comfortable with the district assessments, and I also collected these writing papers into a folder for each child that really showed their growth as a writer through the year.  I think that it is always important to help children develop ideas, so we always talked and brainstormed before this type of writing.

I am sad that I didn’t save examples of my children’s writing to share with you, because I love reading things like that myself, but I do have some of the templates that we used.  For years I resisted asking young children to write on lines, but I evolved along with our expectations.  Most of the time my children drew in a box or specified area, and wrote on simple lines.  I know that some of you prefer to use double, dotted lines, or HWT type of lines.  I am sharing templates without lines or drawing boxes so you can add the type your class is used to.

This is the cover I used when I put all these writing papers into a folder at the end of the year.

This is a writing response that we used during our Rainforest Unit.

This was part of my ME unit.  It was early in the year so sometimes I did not even add lines or a drawing box.

I used this during 5 senses to talk about things we liked to taste – the clipart is a hard to recognize mouth!

I usually just added a few writing lines at the bottom of this pumpkin and the children drew in the top part.

I used this paper for a copy change of Brown Bear, Brown Bear during Halloween.  The children wrote a color word and a Halloween word, and we made a class book – i.e. orange pumpkin, yellow moon, white ghost, etc.  I was mainly reinforcing early sight words I, see, the.

This is one that I saved from when I used to use sentence starters instead of asking a question.  In more recent years we wrote about what we did on our birthdays – making a connection to a book we read about Mickey’s birthday.

Again, you could change this to “what would you wish for?”

At the holidays I liked to encourage children to think about giving, not just getting!  It’s funny but I did a lot of cut and paste to change projects because I created them on my home computer, and changed them at school – so the ones I have saved are the older versions.

During our Health Unit we read Audrey Wood’s book King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub.  I asked what they children would take in the tub.

During our Dinosaur unit we read If the Dinosaurs Came Back – by Bernard Most and brainstormed our own ideas.  Some children just wrote an idea they remembered from the story and that was okay too!

I read a book about the Tooth Fairy and we brainstormed why she took all those teeth.

This was from the early days – but the raindrop was fun!

This was a chance to review “reduce, reuse, recycle” ideas.

  I used this as another class book – I tried to have enough class books for each child to take one home at the end of the year.  Actually you could make each of these pages into a class book instead of collecting them through the year for individual children.  A class book is a gentle way to show parents how their child compares to the others in your classroom.  Sometimes we made books that we took turns taking home overnight, I always included a page in the back for parents to respond to the book or to the question the children were answering.

We used this as a literature response to The Tiny Seed.

We used this to predict what we might see on a field trip, or to remember what we liked on the farm trip.

Here are some examples of the drawing boxes and lines I added to these papers.

When there was a border around the paper, sometimes I just added the lines and the children drew in the blank space.

Here is a smaller version that fit some of the pages better.

Here are copies of the drawing boxes and lines to print:

template 1

template 2

And here are the masters:

Writing templates

Writing Tool Kit

When Kindergartners are beginning to write they need to do an amazing amount of things.

-they need to think of what they want to say

-they need to think of the individual words and be able to stretch out each word to hear the sounds

-they need to remember which letter represents each sound

-they need to remember how to form each letter (and how to hold the pencil!)

– they need to remember to leave spaces between the words

– they need to think about which sight words they know and can use

– they need to be able to read their own writing and remember what they are writing – some children can’t hold constant the specific word order throughout their sentence.

-they need to begin thinking about punctuation

Holy Moley!

It’s a wonder any 5 year old can do this at all!  But amazingly, they do!  I think it is our job to be there to provide support and scaffold them along throughout this process and most of all to celebrate their success!

When we first finished our study of letter sounds I gave each child a chart, and laminated a bunch to be left in our classroom to help them remember letter sounds.  We also had a large alphabet with these matching pictures up above our chalkboards.

The picture cues were the same ones we learned while making our Letter Sound Book, and because we reread that so many times the children were very familiar with these.

Here is a pdf file if you would like to make a copy of this chart:

Toolkit pdf

But as the children progressed with their writing, I wanted to provide more tools to help them, so I made each child a Writing Tool Kit.

It’s hard to tell, but this is a 9 x 12 piece of construction paper folded in half .


On the inside of the Toolkit folder I glued a copy of upper case and lower case letters, and punctuation that Kindergartners are most likely to use.  I always had this information posted in many places around the room, but some children have difficulty looking up at a wall, and then back down at their paper.  It also helps them to keep their focus if they don’t have to look all over for the information they need.

On the lower half of the tool kit I reduced the chart they were used to using – I found that consistently providing the same model for each letter sound really helped children who were still gaining confidence.

I also put a small chart for digraphs and chunks that we had learned.  Before the children used these toolkits they were already very familiar with all the stuff inside, and this identical information was already posted around the room – it just gave them their own personal copy.

The last part of the inside of the tool kit was a small pocket that I made by cutting a rectangle of cardstock and taping it on 3 sides.  I gave each child a SPACE MAN – they used markers to decorate a popsicle stick.  The pocket was a place to store the space man.  This can be a great tool to remind the children to leave spaces between words.  They would write a word, lay the space man down, then write the next word.  It is really kind of bothersome to keep doing it – but the kids usually love the idea of the spacemen, and just having it out and using it for a couple of words often helps them remember to leave spaces!

You can buy really cute ones already decorated like astronaut space men from Really Good Stuff – but they are too 3 dimensional to fit into this pocket.  Sometimes the kids used these as pointers when they were reading too.

On the back of the tool kit I listed the sight words my children were supposed to know by the end of the year.  Actually we only officially had 20 words, I added a few that I noticed they needed in their writing.

Here are copies of the toolkit if you are interested in printing any of them.

Inside tool kit

I gave each child a Writing Tool Kit that they kept in their writing folder, but since we did a lot of writing at other times during the day, I also made Tool Kits that I left at the writing center, and in a basket where children could borrow one any time.  All children took them home at the end of the year, but I sometimes gave one to a parent if they were trying to help their child at home.

It is so exciting when the children first realize that you can read what they write!  That is a reason to celebrate!

Concept Books

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.

Here is another example using the theme Treats.

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.

Concept books

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.