Friday, June 22, 2012

In Pictures and In Words Chapter 1-6

      This book study could not have come at a better time.  This past year was only my 2nd in Kindergarten (I've been teaching 18 years).  Writing has always been one of my favorite things to teach and writer's workshop has been a big part of that.  But writing in kindergarten is a whole different beast compared to other grades.  And this past year, writing was a challenge.  It was partly due to our adopted program "Write From the Beginning" and our lack of training on how to effectively implement it.  In my opinion from what I see from others using it in my district and what my students produce when I use it, students' writing is very controlled and contrived.  It was not individualized- everyone's writing looked very much the same.  Of course, due to lack of training, we might not be implementing it correctly.  Don't get me wrong- I am not bashing Write From the Beginning, but it definitely did not mesh with my philosophy of teaching writing. 
But the good part of it is that for Kindergarten, there is a two part rubric- a drawing section and a writing section.  This year as we gave our writing assessments and talked about the results of them, we often devalued the drawing section and focused on the writing section because we saw writing as more important- especially because in 1st grade, there is no drawing section at all on the rubric.  Anyway, long story short- along comes this book study and these two other books as well.

There was a big A-HA moment for me as I began to read these books- it can be done and I can LOVE to teach writing again and my students can LOVE writing even more than they did this year!  So, that's a little background on where I was before I read the book...

 Here are some key ideas that really spoke to me from each of the chapters. 
Chapter 1 Why Illustration Study Matters to the Development of Young Writers
I love the idea that creating picture books allow children to "try on the roles of writers and illustrators."
The discussion of "teaching out of illustrations and into words" OR "teaching into illustrations" was important for me.  I am guilty of saying to my students at a late point in the year, "The words are more important than the pictures."  So this was BIG for me- I will try to do more teaching into illustrations and less teaching out of illustrations.
Chapter 2 Building Stamina for Writing by Supporting Children's Work as Illustrators
 I absolutely loved when she was talking about the curriculum of time and she said "When children regularly fill time with work they've made for themselves they will come to understand what it means to do the creative work that writing demands."(page 22)  As opposed to that, "children who spend their school days completing work that is laid out in front of them- work they can see- are doing scooping-poop work (mundane chores) all day long!"  Wow, did I laugh out loud at that one- she talks earlier about her writing process and all the mundane chores (folding laundry, vacuuning, ironing, scooping poop) that she enjoys sinces she spends so much of her day writing.  How much "scooping poop" work do your students do each day?  I love it!  And I have to admit, when I think about it, much of my writing last year was the type that was very laid out in front of them!
The last big things that I highlighted and starred in my book was this quote, "Children can't do what they mean to be doing if they are always doing what someone else tells them to do." (page 34)
Chapter 3 Writing and Illustrating as Parallel Composing Processes
I am guilty- I hate teaching the writing process.  And, when I reflect, I realize why- I don't write that way.  I don't pre-write!  Maybe I should, but I just don't!  I write my draft, edit and revise along the way.  So I can relate to the idea of not needing to teach the writing process before beginning a writer's workshop.  I loved when she spoke of the writing process and said, "These aren't steps writers follow, they're just the names for kinds of things (sometimes lot of kinds of things) that happen along to way when writers write." (page 39)  I think if we realize that the composing process is really about showing them new ways for them to write and illustrate then we won't care so much about that darn writing process.
Chapter 4:  Teaching an Essential Habit of Mind
I loved this chapter.  I loved all the examples she gave of reading like a writer- and doing it purposefully.  I loved the idea of beginning with just noticing- paying special attention to the details of the words and pictures.  Then having that noticing progress to being "articulate" about what they notice.  That thinking about why- the choices the illustrators and authors made and the reasons why they might have made those choices- is so important.  Because from that understanding can come the new possibilities that the children will be able to see.  And think about all those possibilities!  Wow! It gets me so excited about trying this next year!
Chapter 5: Learning Qualities of Good Writing from Illustration Techniques
The big important idea in this chapter for me was the idea that if we look closely at the decisions that illustrators make in picture books we can help children understand important concepts of quality writing.  I liked the idea that illustrators make meaning with pictures and writers make meaning with words- but that they are both making meaning.  And that's where the shift in thinking needs to happen- understanding that thinking about writing and thinking about illustrations are the same.  That's where my Write from the Beginning problems came in this year.  I wasn't seeing these two processes as the same- I wasn't putting equal emphasis on the drawing AND writing- writing was always more important.  And I certainly didn't do any in-depth thinking with my students about the choices that writers and illustrators were making. 
Chapter 6: The Writing Workshop
I enjoyed reading the framework for illustration study. It really helped cement my ideas of what I need to do next year and how to begin to implement these ideas.  I have lots of work to do, and I am sure that I will stumble along the way, but I feel so much better about beginning the process of changing the way we do writing in my classroom.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!  Check our Mrs. Wills Kindergarten to read what other people are thinking.
 And check back next week for Chapter 7.


  1. Love this study and your comments and reflections are spot on for me too! Thanks for sharing! I also can't wait to delve into studying illustrations with my students. I just love the activity of setting out a bunch of picture books and post-it notes and let the students notice whatever is that they notice! Your blog is new to me and I am so glad I found it!

  2. I had a lot of A-HAs when I read this. I can't wait to get into the next section!

    Owl Things First

  3. Thank you for linking up! I have not read About the Author yet, but I have it on my list!

    Mrs. Wills Kindergarten

  4. Another long time teacher but new to Kindergarten! I loved your comments on the first six chapters. I just linked you to my blog. I am so looking forward to following you this school year!
    Carole Dawn

  5. Teaching writing in Kinder is definitely a different animal-I don't think many people really understand how challenging it can be! Lots of interesting observations.


  6. Hi Karla! I've just awarded you the One Lovely Blog Award! C'mon over and pick it up!

  7. I love your blog...Dreamlike Magic is my favorite, of course! ;) I am one of your newest followers and I am awarding you the One Lovely Blog Award. Head on over to my blog to pick it up. :)


  8. I loved reading your post and you are right.....Teaching kinders to write is a whole 'nuther animal! But we have such power to make writing something kinders really love......if we don't "teach" it out of them.....

    Can't wait to read more!
    Kindergarten Lifestyle