A Detailed Writing Workshop

Just prior to their return to the building on October 5, Kindergarteners eagerly popped into their Zoom classroom, pencils and paper in tow, ready to begin their writing lesson. A handful of students were even sporting their Chapin uniforms!

Head teacher Alana Cimillo cheerfully greeted each student as they entered. Once they were settled, she wasted no time delving into the workshop. She reminded her class to refer to their “writing hearts,” a place to house all of their creative ideas throughout the year.

“Remember, we write about what we know! Think about what’s important to you. Friends, family, animals, places, interests,” she advised. Ms. Cimillo then shared her screen to give the enthralled Kindergarteners a preview of their task.

Ms. Cimillo’s story was simple: She took her dog, Eli, for a walk. “Okay, I’m done. I have my story and my picture. It’s time to take a nap. Right, Ms. Tran?” she asked Associate teacher Kim Tran, yawning theatrically.

Ms. Tran countered, “Wait, Ms. Cimillo! You have so much more you can add!” A single sentence then emerged across the screen: ‘When you think you’re done, you’ve only just begun!’ Thus, the theme of that day’s lesson was discovered.

Ms. Tran continued to describe how you can always enhance your story – even when you think it’s finished. “You have you and Eli in your drawing,” she said, hovering her cursor over the displayed illustration. “But what else did you see on your walk? Where did you go? What can you add?”

After the demonstration, the class split into two breakout rooms to begin revising their own writing. In Ms. Cimillo’s breakout room, one student struggled with what to draw. “I have too many ideas to choose from!”

“Let’s brainstorm!” offered her teacher. “Sometimes it’s tricky when you have a lot of ideas. What is your story about?” Ms. Cimillo chatted with the student, who shared that her story was about a horseback riding lesson. Ms. Cimillo prompted her to consider anything significant she encountered that day, specifically, the horse. “What did the horse look like?” she asked. Content with this idea, the student happily began sketching.

Ms. Cimillo then checked in with each student in her break out group. Those who were not conversing stayed muted, writing diligently. As she circled the virtual room, countless ideas were shared. Topics included a treehouse fort bunkbed, a trip on an airplane to grandma’s, horseback riding in New Jersey, bike riding, playing with cousins, a trip to a house Pennsylvania and swimming class.

As the time stretched on, stories grew. The bunkbed fort now encompassed colorful details including the “peach blankets” used to create the fort. Upon further revision, the trip to Pennsylvania expanded to note the big backyard that housed animals, a swing set and a windmill.

The young scholars demonstrated knowledge, enthusiasm and creativity throughout the lesson. Ms. Cimillo animatedly praised her students, “Keep up the great work, Kindergarteners!”

Soon, Ms. Tran returned to the main session with her group, and a few classmates elected to share their work. One student raised her paper with delight to show a drawing of her family’s movie night. Her story offered great details such as the popcorn they ate and the movie of choice: Disney’s Frozen. Another excitedly shared that her story had blossomed into two pages.

“Fabulous job today, writers!” Ms. Cimillo cheered. Sadly, the writing workshop had come to an end and the students tucked their stories into a safe space. Bidding farewell, they headed off to Ms. Strong for their next adventure in Dance class.