The evolution of writing in kindergarten: The role of student-teacher conferencing

Thomas L Tobin, University of Pennsylvania


This case study of two kindergarten classes during the 1996-97 school year examined the evolution of children's writing and focused on the role of the student-teacher writing conference. These two kindergarten classes had a daily journal writing program and held student-teacher conferences every day, or every other day. Research questions included: (1) What can be learned by tracing the evolution of kindergarten children's writing when there is a program of daily writing and conferencing? (2) What can be learned by the examination of kindergarten teachers' responses to the drawing and writing of young children in a conference? (3) What can be learned by investigating and observing the effects of daily writing and conferencing on kindergartners' attitudes about themselves as writers? The methodology used was that of participant observer using ethnographic methods. Data was collected from September 1996 through June 1997. Data sources included field notes and audiotapes from classroom observations, interviews with teachers and students, and documents including students' written products. Significant findings include: (1) In these two classrooms daily journal writing and conferencing were an integral part of the kindergarten program. Routine procedures and processes that promoted writing were in place. Students progressed in their writing skill level and grew in their confidence as writers. (2) The individualized nature of writing and conferencing within these classrooms allowed each child to progress at an individual rate of comfort, while providing opportunities for teachers to stretch students to higher levels. (3) Ten distinct categories of responses that teachers used in writing conferences with their students were found. (4) Student-teacher conferences added to the teachers' knowledge of each individual student's language development and to their personal understanding of each child. (5) The encouragement and acceptance of inventive spelling helped students to apply their knowledge of sounds and letters and to rely on themselves as writers. (6) An unexpected outcome was the positive influence that a writing journal can have upon a student's ability to be reflective.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Language arts|Preschool education

Recommended Citation

Tobin, Thomas L, "The evolution of writing in kindergarten: The role of student-teacher conferencing" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9830679.