katie wood ray

Amazing – five year old authors and illustrators!

Have you ever seen a five year old, of average intelligence, write her own little book out of folded construction paper? Last year was my first year teaching Kindergarten students how to be authors. I was inspired by the book Already Ready by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover. I was skeptical at first, until I saw my daughter start writing her own mini-books. She was also a Kindergarten student at the time. I now have a collection of her original works as a five year old author, from August to May. This year, I launched my Writer’s Workshop again. Here is how I began.

First, I folded and cut one piece of white construction paper into 1/4th’s and then stapled it. I had one for each child made before the lesson. Next, I started a mini-lesson and read a “mentor text” -a simple Dr. Seuss book (“I Can Read With My Eyes Shut”). I showed how the author drew pictures and wrote words to match them. I explained how the author stayed on topic and wrote about reading, and not flowers. Next, I explained to my students that they are authors and illustrators too and that they would start making their own books. I showed them the little book and told them how I was going to write a book of my own about cats, because I like cats, a lot. So, I began writing simple sentences on each little page. Page 1- “I like cats.” Page 2- “I like orange cats.” Page 3- “I like striped cats.” Page 4- “I like black cats.” Page 5- “I like little cats.” “The end.”

I asked my students to think about what they like and what they would like to write about. Amazingly, it took only seconds for them to think and tell their buddy what they wanted to write about. I heard these ideas from my students: “race-cars!” “lipstick,” and “puppies!” Finally, I gave each child a little tiny book and they began writing. I reminded them to write their title first and their name, since they were the authors. I must say, I was so amazed by their cute and simple illustrations. Most students wrote no words yet, but that is ok, as Katie Wood Ray asserts in her books. Illustrations can tell a story and this is how we encourage students to begin reading-to look at the pictures and tell what is happening. So, this is how we encourage writing, by beginning with illustrations.

After about 5-7 minutes of writing, I told the students that we would have to stop for now and continue writing tomorrow, during our Writer’s Workshop. They begged for more time, but I showed them their brand new Writer’s Workshop folders (pocket folders) where they would put their little books. My student’s were so proud of their books. The next day, I had them begin on the rug with their books and “read” their books to a buddy. I paired up each student with a buddy, to make it less chaotic and to ensure that each child had someone to “read” to. After a minute of sharing, I instructed them to go back to their tables and write some more.

In my next postings about writing little books, I will address what to do with those students who just scribble or only write their name on each page, if even that. To read more about Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover’s books about writing, follow this link: http://www.heinemann.com/shared/onlineresources/E01073/RayAlreadyFlyer.pdf

Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and KindergartenIn Pictures and In Words: Teaching the Qualities of Good Writing Through Illustration Study

Writers workshop folder label


The use of color inspired my little ones. We noticed how the illustrator chose to use black paper for her book and how it made the book for colorful and spooky! So, we decided to write our own spooky books! Many students wrote about monsters too!


Title "Dragons, Alligators and Monsters"


Jackson wrote: "I see a monster"


"The alligator"


"He has no mouth or nose"


"The end"

Ryan’s book about “Camping With Dad.”

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Since it is the beginning of the year, Kindergarten students do not yet understand the cocept of "sounding out" words to write them. Many of them are at the phonetical or pre-phonetical stage of writing, which is actually developmentally appropriate. However, I help them to "sound out" titles for their books by making a running list. This is the list that we compiled before writing in the little black spooky books.