The child spells with the moveable alphabet their first phonetic words.
The next step - the child writes the words with the moveable alphabet (cursive or print) and then writes the same words on a chalkboard placed besides the initial work. These are the very first words written by a young three year old.
Even though a child has worked again and again with the sandpaper letters, if they tell me, "I forgot how to make a t," I send them back to trace that sandpaper letter and to make it in the sand tray. They usually return to their writing immediately with a comment like, "Oh yeah, now I remember how."
After a month or two of writing with chalkboards, and generally when a child is at least 4 years old, I introduce them to the images and the paper. The majority of the children write only one word, which is appropriate, but this child wanted to write short sentences such as her poetic statement, "A leaf falls down." When I tried to signal to her to move to a new image, she said, "No, not yet. I have more to write." This young four year old must have been waiting for this moment and it was hers to hold on to for as long as she wanted. Let me note that I did assist her in sounding out the sounds of the letters to construct the words. However, I never gave them to her or corrected her spelling. Also, when selecting an image, if a child says that they wanted a picture of a cat but there are none left I ask them to try and draw one themselves.
This writing was done by the same student. The one on the left was one of her first creative writing pieces. She titled it "Babi Trtlds." Obviously, this is "Baby Turtles." Next she wrote, "Trtl goin in th wodr." Translation: "Turtle going in the water." Four months later she was writing a story about her dog named, "Dookey." We had just had a lesson about using oo. (*Note: children often trace over their writing)
Here an older five year old was working on the first of what ultimately became a several paged story. He no longer uses a picture as now he generally illustrates his stories with his own drawings.
One of the great lessons I learned during my AMI training was a work that I often did as an adult in creative writing workshops. That is using cut out images to promote writing. For the very young child, after he has done much work with the chalk board, metal insets, sound boxes, etc., I give him a picture of a cat, dog, hat etc. I glue a selected, single picture onto a small piece of writing paper. The child then writes the word below the image.
After a child has done this work for a period of time and has been given lessons on several of the grammar materials including the phonetic object box, the phonogram box, the article and the verb, I introduce them to pictures that have similiarly spelled subjects like cat or dog but the subjects are in the midst of an action. Examples: a picture of a dog barking or a cat jumping.
As the grammar lessons: adverb, adjective, conjunction and preposition continue the images grow in complexity (and don't forgot the sight/puzzle words). This is the path outlined in my album. Often children simply start to write longer stories. I study these documents carefully looking for clues as to lessons needed to be given or re-presented to the various authors. My most common finding is the spelling wnz for once. I generally don't point out the mis-spelling to the child. I give a lesson with the sight words and they usually say, "I will be right back." Fifteen minutes later, after I have discreetly watched them retrieve a recently tucked-into-folder story and erased and corrected the word, they return and tell me they just needed to do something. I continue with the presentation or re-presentation.
For older children, I use pictures from magazines like the Smithsonian that I see as poetic scenes or animals which peak the children's interest. These I place on a table - displayed carefully for viewing and selecting - near the entrance area to our classroom. These images have already gone through my mental sorting - What story does the picture tell? Where is it? What kind of animal is that? I select ones with wonderful color and details - like trees in the background or something else happening other than the main image. When a child selects a picture I ask him to answer these questions. So if he comes up to me with one line - ex. Boy with a bike. I ask him where he thinks the boy is going to ride his bike to. What color are the boys eyes? Does he think the boy has any brothers or sisters? How old is the boy? Then I tell the child "If your photograph fell off of your paper I wouldn't know these things. The author has to tell me these things in their writing so that I can see the picture in my mind without the photo." Then I send him back to his desk to continue writing his story.
What they also LOVE!!!! is to read their stories during circle time to the other children. Sometimes a young child will sit in a chair at circle time and simply read: "Butterfly." But the other lesson here is how to read a simple word or a story. This includes articulating clearly, speaking slowly, dramatizing specific words and making subtle facial expressions to convey meaning.
Older children will read an entire page or more. And then the other students are either are asked questions about the story by the writer or ask the writer questions themselves. This also promotes a more complete written story as children are harsh critics. I remember one student asked a writer/student who had just read a story that he had written earlier that morning - "But where is he?" "You forgot to write that!" The writer said, "Oh, I forgot." The next day he wrote half a page about where he thought the person in the photo was.
Teacher Note: Cut lots of wonderful images over weekends and such and keep them in envelopes labeled - phonetic images, phonogram images, beginning story images and creative writing.This is extremely popular work in my classroom and I rotate or change the images frequently so that they are fresh and inviting. Images not selected are put back into my folders and put out in a new mix another day.