Friday, July 6, 2012

Better Sentences from Preschoolers!

This past year I started a new chapter in my life when I changed from middle school (6th-8th grade) to lower elementary (PK-3rd grade).  As part of my new role, I provided on-going, on-site weekly professional development to all the lower elementary teachers (we call this weekly meeting cluster).  My biggest challenge was definitely preschool because our leadership team decided that everyone in the district would implement the same writing strategies (PK-12th grade).  Thoughts running through my head..."okay, preschool, wow, we can do this, we can do this."

The question that I found myself asking:  What foundation does preschool need to set so the strategy can be built upon year after year?

All year we have been working on writing a better paragraph (or basic essay for third grade) in cluster.  To end the year, we were working on writing expanded sentences to add more style to our writing.  I modeled for my teachers how to write expanded sentences using Laura Candler's Sentence Go Round activity and Sunny Days in Second Grade's Basic and Better Sentences.  What they both had in common were using question words to add more details to the sentence.

My lovely preschool students are not developmentally ready to write a complete sentence, but they are ready to speak in complete sentences.  That is the track I took with my preschool teachers.  They could lay the foundation for the other elementary grades by helping their students speak using complete, detailed sentences.  It is all about the oral language in preschool.  Many students like to write how they talk.  If we could lay the foundation for better language in the early years, then their writing will improve in elementary school.

The 3/4 year old room started by breaking down a sentence written about an illustration from one of their read-aloud books.  The teacher had the students talk about what they saw happening in the picture and then summarized the answers into one sentence.  The teacher then asked the four questions:  who, what, when, and where (about the sentence).

The 4 year old teacher took a different track teaching this strategy.

The 4 year old room started with one or two words that described the picture (again from a current read-aloud book).  Then the teacher asked the question words.  From the student answers, they created one sentence orally and the teacher wrote it down.

After these short (5-10 minutes, depending on the amount of wiggles that day) mini-lessons, the teacher would use the question words to get more detailed responses from students during center time.  Instead of saying, "tell me more," the teachers would ask the question words.  Each activity was charted to create an anchor chart, so students could start associating what they hear with the written word.  We only started this the last four weeks of school, but the teachers are going to begin the year with this strategy.

Thank you for allowing  me to visit.  I have had a great time here at PreK and K Sharing!  Come visit me any time at Thinking Out Loud.  Graphics provided by The 3am Teacher.

Jana is PK-3rd grade master teacher.  This is her fifth year coaching teachers.  She has been teaching for eleven years and loves every minute of it.  You can find her at her blog and Facebook when she is not teaching.


  1. Hi, I just blogged about sentence writing :) I love your ideas!

    thanks for sharing!

    Liz at

  2. I love writing activities with preschoolers, and your ideas are wonderful, Jana! I pinned your post to the collaborative Reading and Writing Readiness Board at I'm also the newest follower at your blog! :) Deb @


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