I begin a short, but real conversation with the student that captures his / her attention and interest. I might link back to previous writing or familiar texts, e.g.
- Yesterday you wrote about the fireworks. Tell me more about the noise and how you felt.
- What happened to Mother Bear’s red scarf in this story?
The student must compose his / her own message (sentence) in order to relate to it. If I take over and compose the sentence myself, there is less chance that the student will be able to remember it as he /she is writing it, rereading it, and unjumbling the cut up version.
I keep the conversation going by asking for, or giving, more information (if the student is not saying much), or restricting the information (if the child keeps changing the topic, or retelling the whole book).
After the conversation, the student is invited to create the message. I might ask- “What can we write about that?” This is asking the student to think about the ideas that we talked about, and to shape this into a sentence.
If the student needs more assistance to begin composing I might suggest- Could you start: When l was… ? The wind blew…?
Early in the series of lessons, the student’s sentence is not changed. If the student needs to work on grammar issues, I use the correct use of language during the conversation with the child,
e.g. Student- The wind blowed the scarf.
Me- You’re right. The wind blew the scarf when Mother Bear went inside.
(At this stage the student is learning to match what he / she can say with the words on the page. There is no point in changing the grammar if the student does not pick up my correct version. He / she is going to ‘read’ it the way the student says it.)
In later lessons, I may suggest how a sentence might have some more ideas added, or be changed in structure, but only if the child can manage the change.
During the early lessons I have the child say the finished composition several times before writing it in order to remember it. In later lessons the child may compose, write, and then add on more information.