Using Labels in Writing

In kindergarten, one of the first types of writing activities we do is labeling. Using labels in writing can be used to help expand student writing. Labels are especially helpful when introducing narrative writing. It is also a great way to practice using the phonics skills you have been teaching in your classroom.

labels in writing

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Sticky Note Labeling

You have probably seen pictures of teachers placing sticky notes all over themselves as labels. This is a fun way to engage students on the idea of labeling.

pile of notepads

Another fun way to do this is to invite your students to bring in their favorite stuffed animal. What kid does not love sharing their favorite stuffy? Give them a few sticky notes and have them label their stuffy.

stuffed animal with sticky notes on it

After their stuffed animal is labeled, they can share with a partner how they labeled their stuffed animal. Be sure you model this for them. This is a great way to encourage using complete sentences when they are sharing their labels.

Using Labels in Writing

Now that your students have had practice with labeling an object, let’s transfer that to writing. Once again, it will be important that you model each step. I complete this process over multiple days.

First, I tell my students a story about me (usually of my walking my dog). After I tell them the story, I tell them I’m going to draw a picture of my story. I draw a picture of me and my dog, but it is very basic. After I have modeled my pictures, I have my students draw a picture of something they like to do. That is all we do for day 1.

writing paper with a pictures drawn

The next day, I pull my students back together and we talk about or retell my story of me and my dog. I refer to my picture and retell it with a lot of detail.

Next, I write my story down with the following sentence, “I like to walk my dog.” This seems to be a typical sentence a kindergarten student may write. I ask my class if this sentence really tells my story. Their answer is usually NO!

We talk about how my picture shows more than I wrote down. This is when I introduce using sticky note labels in writing. I invite my students to label at least three items on their pictures. Of course, I model with mine first.

paper with sticky notes

Then I go back to the sentence I wrote and rewrite it making sure that I include each word from my labeling. My new story is:

I took my dog Milo for a walk. He chased a squirrel up a tree.

My students all agreed that my second story told my story better than the first. By this time, my class is excited to try this writing strategy themselves.

I have had great success with this strategy. My students are able to write a more detailed narrative when labeling their picture first. I do set a rule of using 3-5 sticky notes. Three is the minimum and 5 is the max. This guideline has kept my students on track!

Have you tried this strategy? Let me know if you have or if you do try it out. I would love to hear how it goes for your class.

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  1. I like this idea. When do you start this instruction? How soon after school begins?

    1. Renee Dooly says:

      Hi Jodi, when I taught first grade I started this within the first 6 weeks of school. Now that I teach kindergarten, I believe we started this in January. Hope that helps!

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