Kindergartener Reese Howard, 6, bent over her story, concentrating on the words she had written about her mother.
As she read aloud to her parents, Tiffany and Jay Howard, her mother helped her from time to time when Reese stumbled over a word.
The occasion was the annual Literacy Cafe in Margie Yurtinus' classroom at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics. Yurtinus posts monthly student writing samples during the school year so parents can see how much progress their children have made.
In August, the children were not writing. She would have them dictate their thoughts to her, and she wrote them down. That evolved, in September, to asking the children what they could do with 10 apples on top (from Dr. Suess), to get them started writing on their own. By May, students were writing their own thoughts.
In September, Reese wrote, "I can de a hastand weth the applse uop on top." In May, Reese presented a booklet to her mother, which included, "My mom is as buootflle as the pinke orange flawer blooming nex dore."
There was no prompt. It came from her.
"The spelling has improved," Tiffany Howard said. "Sentence structure has improved."
She added that Reese's later sentences contained more developed ideas.
Parents and other visitors were treated to brunch during the cafe, and student work was posted in the room and the hallway. The children practiced fiction and nonfiction writing throughout the year.
The beginning kindergarteners began simply, but progressed considerably.
"They're writing extensive pieces now," Yurtinus said.