Move Over, Hemingway. Kindergarteners Hold My Compass.




Each stroke of the marker let out a faint ‘shhh’ across the yellow chart paper. Its scent danced over the rainbow carpet, settling over the 20 criss-cross bodies sitting at my feet.

‘What do writers do?’ I asked.

Energy surged. Hands rose, arms waved, eyes pleaded – eagerness known by every early-grade teacher as both a blessing and a curse.

‘Tell stories!’

‘Teach about spiders, space, or something!’

‘Make us laugh!’

‘Make us cry.’

‘Give books to the library?’

I jotted down each.

‘Do you know the name of a writer?’

Everyone paused. A boy broke the stillness. He mentioned Dr. Seuss, soaking in the admiration of his answerless peers. After searching the classroom library, our list expanded to include Mo Willems, Bill Martin, Ezra Jack Keats, Jan Brett and others.

‘What if I told you there’s a writer at our school today?’

Eyes widened. The student picking at loose carpet threads suddenly looked up.

‘What if I told you I see a writer just a few feet from me?’

Three bodies bolted to the door.

I lowered my voice, physically and emotionally drawing them in. ‘A writer is in our classroom – at this very moment!’

Gasps. Squeals. Hands on faces in disbelief.

While relishing in their engagement, I gathered the curious chickadees searching under tables and in cabinets.

‘When I see everyone is ready, I’ll write a name on the chart. Then the writer with that name will stand up.’

20 heads nodded then alternated between watching the marker in front of them and checking the empty classroom behind. Everyone wanted to spot this writer first.


Confused, a little girl with brown curls cautiously said, ‘That’s my name.’

‘Well, I guess you better stand,’ I offered with nudging, sparkly eyes. She giggled softly, shrugged and delicately stood.

‘But she’s just a girl, not a writer!’ Josh’s lime-green sneakers were inches from my ballet flats and seemed to move out of their criss-cross containment with defiance and disappointment. I tilted my head to show I’d heard his statement. Without a word, I faced the chart.


Beaming, he stood with his two thumbs pointing back at his chest, looking back at all his classmates.




Bodies rustled and whispered. The marker added letter after letter, name after name, until all were standing.

Calm lasted only a moment. Brewing thoughts begot a chorus of cries.

‘But we’re not writers!’

‘I can’t spell my last name!’

‘We haven’t written any books.’

Nodding, I smiled. ‘Yet.’

Picking up the marker, I turned to a new piece of chart paper and placed two words in the centre:

Writers write.

Over the course of the year, we’d build our skills – using resources for spelling and punctuation, increasing writing stamina, adding details to characters and settings, giving and receiving peer feedback. But this is where we started – writing without interruption. No editing. Just doing.

After demonstrating our think-draw-write method, I handed a piece of paper to each student. Circling the room, I provided support.

Josh proudly waved his paper for me to see. An explosion of colours surrounded a four-legged creature with pointy ears. The words I LUV MI DOG were scribed with freshly sharpened pencil.

‘I’m a writer! I just didn’t know!’

I smiled at his enthusiasm, fuel for our writing journey.

While I haven’t taught kindergarten in years, I often revisit that lesson.

I’ve found it’s not aggressive battling that overcomes writer’s block or perfectionism. It’s gentleness. It’s an invitation to try … and grow in the process.

To be a writer, you just need to write.

About the Author

Amy Hadden is an educator, writer and coach. Her work weaves somatic tools, research and a gentle approach to our bodies.

Featured in Psychology Today online and other resources for parents, teachers and mental health clinicians, Amy is currently working on children’s books to celebrate, validate and support the youngest of humans.

While located in the US Midwest, partnering with coaching clients from around the world makes her giddy! Find her at



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