Here's the scoop on the coop:
I like little pencils for little hands. I give standard size pencils a snip with a pliers before I sharpen them so that they are about four or five inches long, and in proportion with a child's hand. (Jack also likes that they're the perfect size for tucking behind his ear like a carpenter.) Golf pencils also work well too.
I made this laminated, stand-up alphabet card from a page in a Handwriting Without Tears workbook. Jack likes to sing the alphabet song and follow along with his finger, or refer to this when he is stuck on how to write a letter.
Paper, paper, paper. I cut it up all shapes and sizes. Long skinny pieces for lists. Bigger pieces for signs and letters. Small pieces for little notes, traffic tickets, price tags, and receipts. Fold-over cards for thank you notes, invitations, and menus.
And don't forget envelopes. Children love the mystery and surprise of slipping their big ideas into those tiny pockets and sealing them up. Envelopes also equip them for writing letters -- a wonderful way for kids to use writing to connect with others.
Here's the answer to the big question: Where do I get those wood pieces? They are wood pieces for capital letters from Handwriting Without Tears. I first talked about them here. They are a great hands-on activity for pre-writers and emerging writers. We use them to practice letter formation, build words, and play "Letter Store."
For those of you who asked, I get the little chalkboards at the craft store for really cheap (they are usually with the pre-cut wood shapes) and we can't get enough of them. We use them for everything from little notes, to letter-writing practice, to keeping score, to taking orders, to jotting down reminders. We are definitely chalkboard crazy in this house. I always keep a jar of tiny chalk pieces and a little cloth nearby too.
Wow, that's a lot of stuff already, and we're not even halfway through the coop! Tomorrow I'll run through the rest (including sand letters, alphabet stamps, book-making tools, word rings, and the oh-so-curious Rolodex). Stay tuned...
By the way, please chime in with any questions, comments, or critiques you may have. The best part of any Writer's Workshop is that it's really a Writer's Work-in-Progress-shop. Include whatever inspires your young writer to write.
(And please share. I'm sure we'd all love to hear what everyone comes up with!)