Teaching beginning writers is a big challenge and in kindergarten, it's even more challenging because kids come to school with all different ability levels. Some students show up and they can write a full sentence and some can barely write their names. Then teachers have to somehow meet all their needs at once. Using picture writing prompts is a great way to support ALL levels of beginning writers.
Writing is hard. It's the hardest academic skill teachers ask of kindergarten students. Writing requires kids to use everything they know about letter sounds, put them together to make words. Then get those words on paper with proper spacing, punctuation, and capitalization. It's a lot. This makes teaching writing a challenge, too. Thankfully, differentiating writing assignments doesn't have to be complicated.
How can pictures help beginning writers?
If you have students who are reluctant to write, pictures help to give them ideas to connect with and motivate them to get words on paper. The pictures take the “I don't know what to write about.” excuse away and it gives them a specific topic to write about.
Adding a sentence starter makes it even easier to decide what to write about. When students only have to write a word or 2 to complete the sentence, it sets them up for success. If they are able, you can push them to write a second sentence, too. Scaffolding support is a great way to build confidence in beginning writers.
Pictures also help kids who don't enjoy drawing. They can still add their own details but the majority of the illustration work is done for them. After all, not all authors illustrate their own books.
How can sentence starters help beginning writers?
Sentence starters are great for kids who have a difficult time sounding out words or getting their words on paper. When kids are just beginning to get words on paper, giving them the first few words of a sentence can go a long way to ease their frustration. One option is to put the sentence starter on the board for them to copy, but developmentally, not all kindergarteners are able to sit at their table and copy from so far away. Another option is to give them a paper with traceable words or even to give them a paper with the sentence starter already on it so they simply have to add words to complete the sentence.
How can I support confident writers?
What about kids who are capable and confident writers? You can choose to give them a blank paper with just the topic or to give them a page with a picture prompt and let them write. I like to include a sentence writing checklist or rubric to keep them focused on mechanics a the beginning of the year and then progress to content as the year goes on. Having a checklist on every page helps students to self-check and holds them responsible for writing complete sentences.
This 5-star sentence writing checklist pack is in my TPT store. The visuals can help students to be more independent with their writing and gives kids the tools they need to write complete successfully.
Need an easy way to differentiate writing assignments?
Create monthly writing journals that all have the same cover. Inside the journal can be different for students based on their needs but everyone feels included during independent writing time. If you prep the journals at the beginning of the month, you're set for 4 weeks at a time.
Have a student working on letter formation and letter sounds? Put that in their monthly journal. Do you have kids ready to write stories independently? Their journals can have blank pages ready for stories. Kids who are in between? Give them picture writing prompts with or without sentence starters. You can try these Back to School Sentence Starters Free!
Want to try picture prompts but you don't have the time to create them? I've got you covered. This Mega Bundle has prompts for the entire school year! Each pack has 3 different levels of picture writing prompts and a blank page included with a sentence writing checklist on each page. There are cover pages to create monthly journals and 5-star sentence writing checklists, too. Click here to check it out.