About this episode
Welcome to POPCAST, Episode 12! Whitney La Rocca joins Jeff and Travis again to talk more about the forthcoming Patterns of Wonder, a resource for teachers of emergent writers to help them meet the needs of the varied kinds of writing that is happening in their classrooms every day.
Meet Jeff and Travis
For over thirty years, Jeff Anderson has inspired writers and teachers of grades K-8 with the power and joy of writing and grammar. He has written eight books for Stenhouse Publishers. He also writes middle-grade novels. Travis Leech is currently a middle school instructional coach in Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, TX. He has thirteen years of experience in education, including teaching middle school English Language Arts and as a gifted and talented specialist. Follow Jeff and Travis on Twitter.
Read the transcript
Travis: Welcome to POPCast.
Jeff: A Patterns of Power Podcast.
Travis: Discussing grammar in the context of the reading and writing connections.
Jeff: I'm Jeff Anderson.
Travis: And I'm Travis Leech.
Jeff: And we're today's hosts.
Travis: We are today's hosts.
Travis: For episode 12. And we are also joined by the wonderful Whitney La Rocca for another episode of the POPCast. Welcome Whitney.
Jeff: Whitney! Whitney!
Whitney: Thank you! I'm so excited to be here and talk about more of Patterns of Wonder.
Travis: So we are continuing our discussion about Patterns of Wonder. And we have our authors here, and we have the interested audience as well, to have this discussion. Whitney, we'd love to just hear... You talked to us a little bit about your work with Patterns of Wonder, some of the research that you've done, and some of the takeaways about emergent literacy. Just to share with all of the POPheads that are listening.
Whitney: Sure. So my research actually really helped me figure out how we should organize Patterns of Wonder. That was probably our biggest question of how can we make this a resource for teachers of emergent writers to where they really can meet the needs of the varied kinds of writing that is happening in their classrooms every day.
Jeff: It's one of the main differences between Patterns of Power-
Whitney: It really is. And so through my research of being in classrooms and in talking with young writers, and also just reading from the experts. My favorite experts out there, Matt Glover and Katie Wood Ray, and their book, Already Ready has always just been a turn to, go-to for me. And in looking at the standards and the guidelines and how emergent writing is organized into these different stages and there's so many different versions out there that all of that helped me figure out how can we organize it into something that's useful for teachers.
Jeff: So you took everything that was out there and culled through it and then made something that was useful in terms of organizing conventions instruction for the youngest writers.
Whitney: Absolutely. Well, and we wanted to make this super teacher friendly and just like Patterns of Power. And so we took all of these vast variances of writing and grouped them into four phases of writing. So we're calling those the Patterns of Wonder, Phases of Writing.
Jeff: Why phases?
Whitney: Yeah. I'm so glad you asked that. We're not calling them stages. They're definitely not levels. They slip and slide in and out of phases. So they're not linear. They're overlapping. We can see in one piece of writing from a student maybe two different phases, depending on what they have already learned, what they're trying out, what genre they're even trying. It's just going to depend-
Jeff: It changes.
Whitney: It does. It does. So we've grouped them into four phases for an organizational structure of the lessons. So we don't want it to be viewed as a level. We don't want it to be viewed as a stage and definitely not a rating for students.
Travis: So maybe there's some characteristics that exist within each of the phases-
Whitney: There are. Yeah.
Travis: This might be a good place to talk about those.
Travis: Should we?
Whitney: Yeah, I think we should. For sure.
Travis: I'm curious. I'd love to know-
Jeff: Lay it down, Whitney, lay it down.
Whitney: Our four phases of writing that we have grouped is the scribble writing phase, the symbol and letter writing phase, the transitional writing phase, and then the conventional writing phase. And in the Patterns of Wonder book, those are actually color coordinated. So you'll find the lessons in each phase of writing that match the color for that phase. So it's pretty exciting with all of the color.
Travis: Love that, love that color coding.
Whitney: So let's start with the scribble writing phase,
Jeff: Right? That's the first one, but not step one.
Whitney: Right. There's so many times where teachers, but a lot of times parents will say, "Oh, well, my kid's not writing yet. They're just scribbling." But that is writing. When they are scribbling on the walls at your house, or even there's a picture of my daughter when she was just two scribbling in the bathtub with her bathtub crayons, that's writing. They are producing, composing through those scribbles. And so we want them to make that connection that they're making meaning with the scribbles. And that's where we can bring in our work.
Jeff: Just the medication alert. Sorry about that. I took it already so you can calm down.
Travis: And we're back, we're back.
Whitney: So some characteristics for the scribble writing phase is they're drawing to represent writing, okay? So you might see some big circles, some scribbles. We have to rely heavily on oral language during this time. So when we talk with kids about the writing, "Oh, tell me about your writing. Tell me about your picture." And that's how we can teach in to what they are saying to make meaning from the scribbles.
Jeff: Tell us more about that phrase. I like teach in, tell me what you mean.
Whitney: Where we can build on what they're already doing. So they're already putting marks on the page to make meaning. And so when they tell us what they want it to say, we can then teach in using our focus phrase and everything that we're doing in our lessons to help them build on their oral language, to make even more meaning from those scribbles that they have.
Jeff: Because they're curious about it, right?
Whitney: They absolutely are.
Jeff: They wonder about it. They want to know.
Whitney: And by that oral rehearsal, we are rehearsing what we're eventually going to write in print. And so we can move towards that conventional writing through the oral language component.
Travis: Yeah. I love that idea. So thinking about my nieces and nephews, as they're in that stage. Instead of me trying to guess, "Ooh, is that a rocket ship? Is that a..." Instead to just flip it and say, "Tell me about... what did you create here?"
Jeff: Open ended question.
Travis: So much better, thank you.
Whitney: And what's really fun is their story, that picture might change every time they tell you about it. It might not be the same thing each time. So just be aware of that.
Jeff: That's that rehearsal again. And they're getting volume of text.
Whitney: And they're realizing that what they are putting does make meaning for others. And that's what we want. The scribble writing phase also uses a variety of lines and dots. So you might see students who are mimicking the writing that they're seeing from others. They're seeing adults use pen on paper. And so they're writing that as well, right? So you might see some lines, you might see some dots. You might even see that wavy writing where it's just waves across the paper because they're mimicking what they're seeing. They are imitating what they're seeing adults do. And so they are making meaning with their writing as well. So that-
Travis: That doctor's prescription kind of writing?
Whitney: Pretty much, right? So again, that's the scribble writing phase. The symbol and letter writing phase is when we're moving now from the scribbles into... They're beginning to learn there's these things called letters, right? And these letters they are part of writing. And so they will write some letters that they've seen or that they know, but they also make their own symbols because those are the letters as well, in their mind. That's what they're saying with their minds. So they're mock letters, is what we call them. We call those symbols, their illustrations are becoming more representational. So we can start to kind of see what those illustrations are now. Rather than just a big blob on the page, it now has a tail and some legs, right? So we can begin to see the details in those illustrations.
Jeff: So in a way the scribbles phase is like a place where they're just marking things down. And this is a phase where they start to become aware that there are other things around them, that these symbols mean something. And they're attempting to make these symbols, but they're not always traditional conventional symbols. But they could be.
Whitney: But they're moving in that direction, right? And that's the developmental stage. Moving.
Jeff: It's the cow stage. "Moo"-ving.
Whitney: You'll also see a lot of letters strings in this phase. And by letter strings, I mean just a string of letters. So a line of just letters. Random letters, but to them, they might not be completely random. There might be some letters that they know. Often we will see letters from their name in their letter strings because their name is the first word they learn to write. And so we'll often see their name within those letters strings, or we'll see those letters repeated over and over again, because that's our comfort place. That's where they go.
Jeff: Does their social security number end up in there? No?
Whitney: I have not seen that, no.
Jeff: Okay. I'm just wondering, safety of information? That's all I'm saying.
Whitney: We'll see experimenting with labeling. So they'll begin to label their pictures. Again those are usually through letter strings and ones that we can't read. We still have to ask them. So we still rely heavily on oral language here, but we also can teach into their illustrations here as well. Right? So by adding to their illustrations to add those details, as they tell us about it. So it's still making meaning.
Jeff: That's why they need to interact with the text to get the ideas of the things that they can start approximating or trying.
Whitney: So when we show and tell about people, places and things, we can put that into our illustrations as well as into our words. What people, places and things did this illustrator use in his writing, what can you do in your own? So we're teaching nouns without having to worry about using nouns in sentences that are written out, definitely not identifying the nouns.
Jeff: Yeah. Circle the noun. Circle the noun.
Whitney: Circle the noun in yellow. And then we move into the transitional writing phase. And this one is a pretty big, broad phase. I would say the majority of kindergarten classrooms that I go into, most of their year is in this phase, in the transitional writing phase.
Jeff: A little ahead, a little back. Recursive, like the writing process sort of—
Whitney: Yes. And there's so much development in writing, especially in kindergarten as they learn their letters and their sounds and that these letters and sounds go together to make words and words go together to make sentences. There's a lot that happens in kindergarten, in this transitional writing phase really kind of encapsulates all of that. So with the transitional writing phase, they're labeling their pictures sometimes just with the first sound. So they're matching those letters and sounds. So when we're labeling our house, we might put an H up there because that's bringing that concepts about print and those phonics that they're learning into their writing. Then you can tell that they're using their letter sounds to help them write using inventive spelling. So you'll see, you can actually begin to read some of their writing, but of course it's not conventionally spelled, right. It's using those sounds —
Jeff: Oftentimes phonetic.
Whitney: So I'm looking at one right now and the word is swing. This boy labeled in his playground picture. And so he put S-W-E-G. And if you think that through, he's writing the sounds that he hears.
Travis: So based on, I know these letters make these sounds, I'm going to try to chunk it together to make-
Whitney: Yes. And they'll often also copy words from around the room because that's what we teach them to do. We have our word walls, we have our posters... Things are probably labeled all over our classrooms. They're using those words and putting them into their writing as well. So those, we usually will find spelled correctly because they are copying them from the room.
Travis: Like I see dog. I know it's a dog. So I know D-O-G from where I've seen it.
Whitney: And their sight words, you'll see a lot of those high frequency words. "The," "and," you'll see those in their writing as well.
Travis: So when a kid puts computer, you're like, "Oh my gosh. Wow." —
Whitney: Right. Right. They're using their resources again to make meaning. They're finding that words make meaning for readers as well. They're also beginning to use spaces as word boundaries. So going from the letter strings or words that are all slammed together, they're now using spaces between their words or beginning to. It might not be consistent, but they do realize that there are boundaries that make these words.
Jeff: Speaking of spacing, people don't always know this. You're supposed to put one space after a period in most typing word processing programs. So Travis was in kind of a transitional stage.
Travis: Oh boy was I ever.
Jeff: Because he was putting two spaces.
Whitney: Yes. That was how we learned it in typing class.
Travis: The ruler was coming down on my hands if I-
Jeff: Space matters, space matters.
Whitney: I know we're getting close to our time here. At the convention... also in transitional writing, they're beginning to try out different capitalization and punctuation. So you're still going to see random capitalization. Most-
Jeff: We see that in middle school.
Whitney: Right? That doesn't change.
Jeff: Random acts of capitalization.
Whitney: They're starting to become more intentional with their capitalization. And then they're playing around with that punctuation. This is where you might see a period after every single word, because they've learned that there's a period that goes at the end. So they're putting it everywhere. This is that phase that you will see that in. And then of course, the last phase is the conventional writing phase, but we have to know-
Jeff: The rest of your life.
Whitney: It is. And something about that is we're always growing in conventional writing. So even the conventional writing phase, that doesn't mean everything's perfect. You're still going to have approximation.
Jeff: I'm in kindergarten and I've reached my level.
Whitney: We just have to always keep that in mind that this conventional writing phase doesn't mean that they're doing everything correctly.
Jeff: I'm still learning. I'm 56 or 55 or whatever age I am.
Whitney: But you are going to be able to read their conventional writing.
Jeff: Okay. That's the big.
Whitney: That is. And I know we're getting close on time, so I think I'm hearing the sound.
Jeff: You're hearing the sound? What sound is she hearing, Travis?
Travis: I think that's the sound... Oh, that's our music. Here we go.
Jeff: Oh, I like it. I like it.
Travis: Streaming toward the end. Can we give Stenhouse some love?
Travis: Thank you Stenhouse for sponsoring this podcast. We appreciate it. And Whitney, we appreciate you. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us.
Jeff: You're going to come back next week. We want talk some more to you. So can we talk more. At least one more.
Whitney: Yeah I was thinking maybe we could look at a Patterns of Wonder lesson.
Jeff: Yeah. Let's walk through a lesson. Okay. Come back next time. Thanks for listening. Subscribe and review.
Jeff: Subscribe and review.