Matthew’s best friend right now is a 1st grader who lives down the street from us. They play together everyday, and because they have uncannily similar personalities for all the differences between them, his friend LOVES to talk about everything they do in school. (When we were learning about insects, she taught ME things to teach to him.) One of the things she’s talked about a lot is journals.
For the past week, Matthew’s been writing as much as he has been drawing during his free time. I’m not talking about during our pre-school lessons either; I’m talking about choosing to sit down and write out words over choosing to build with his blocks or capture our cat under overturned laundry baskets. They say that there’s a strong link between reading and writing, but I expected that to mean that he’d be open to learning how to spell words. Probably even words above his reading level. I didn’t think it meant he’d become obsessed.
Matthew has A LOT of energy, even for a four-year-old. To see him sit still, enthralled and content, long enough to fill 10, 12, 14 pages of notebook paper with words is spellbinding. He’s been on this kick everyday for a week, so first thing Monday morning, I started researching first grade curriculum for writing. A lot of stuff about journals came up, so I gave it a whirl.
I drew a box and I made a few lines underneath. Nothing fancy. No line-dot-line handwriting grid or anything. Just a box for a picture and some lines. Just to see what he’d do with it.
-- Matthew, do you want to learn how to write today?
-- YES! I’ll go get the pencils!! (Thunders through the house. Comes back with pencils.)
-- Okay. We’re going to start doing something called JOURNALS today. And if you like it, we can keep doing them. Does that sound fun?
-- MY FRIEND DOES JOURNALS! In REAL school!!
-- I know!
-- (Big grin.)
-- Okay, so first, we’re going to think of what we did today. Then, you can pick your very FAVORITE thing that we did, and in this box, you can draw a picture of it! After that, we’ll use these lines to write a sentence, telling about the picture you drew. Does that sound fun?
-- (Jumping up and down in his seat, nodding his head like a crazy person. It sounds fun.)
-- Okay, so can you think of some of the things we did today?
-- Weeeeeee…Hm,… made bird crafts! We… read Pop Goes Another Balloon! I taught Scarlett how to, how to draw the right way on the paper. We… brought all my stuffed animals to the couch and we, we, we, we made a what-do-you-call-it? BAR, bar graph-thing about the stuff about them… like their colors and like, stuff like that. But I was worried cause I left Puppy at Granny’s house, and I was worried about him so that wasn’t my favorite. We… taked, I mean, we took a walk and played that game with the numbers on the houses. I found a BIG clover! And I went fast down the hill with my bike cause… but my training wheel got loose again and you had to fix it. But without the wrench cause we weren’t by the garage. We were too far to get it. When is Daddy coming home? Can we have pizza for dinner?? How do dinosaurs swim? Can we go swimming??
-- Great! You thought of so many things. So, what do you think was your favorite part of today? It doesn’t have to be something we did for school. It can just be breakfast time, or something you built with your legos, or a song you heard on your radio…
-- PUZZLE SANDWICH!!! You made me a cool puzzle sandwich - REMEMBER? - out of my turkey with that, that cutter thing that looks like a puzzle. Oh my gosh! That’s my favorite! That’s my favorite!
After he drew his picture, his pencil went right to the line underneath and I almost stopped him. I almost said: Wait, buddy, wait. Let’s talk about what you want to write. Maybe we can think of a sentence together… Something that won’t be too long, you know? Something nice and easy that you can try to spell yourself -- but I can help you with if you need it….
But it was too late. He was already writing, sounding the words out loud as his pencil dug into the fiber. I let him go. It didn’t matter, I reminded myself, if nothing about his letter combinations made sense at all. If not a single word was spelled right or if the sentence he tried to write had anything at all to do with the picture. This is just to see how he likes the activity; to determine if it’s worth making an everyday exercise, to make sure his mistakes don’t drive him to tears.
|He did ask me if sandwich was spelled with an m, at which point I helped |
him to hear the nd. But other than that, he thought of this and wrote
it completely on his own. Periods and all!
In the end, there were no spaces, his I’s were not capitalized (even though they usually are, even when they shouldn’t be) and his first “had” was spelled with a b.
But he wrote a complete thought. In fact, he wrote two.
“I hab a sandwich. I had sandwich at muy house.”
*Chairs are tricky to draw, he says. So are pieces of sandwich, cut into the shape of interlocking puzzle pieces apparently because he describes them as being “stupid and wrong.”
His words on the drawing, exactly?: “I was excited to write so I didn’t fix my picture. It’s supposed to be me on a chair eating my sandwich. I screwed it all up, but that’s okay. I rocked at my sentence. That’s ‘cause I’m four.”