Time for some real talk… Writing is always (I mean ALWAYS!) an area of “opportunity” for my fresh faced seconds. I’ve decided that writing must be the “summer slip” for first graders. They are out of practice!
So what could I do as their teacher to help rebuild and expand on their writings? I’ve found that my students have had tremendous growth and maturity in their writing when I used just few quick tips! We’re talking five paragraph essays from 8 year old’s, peeps!
So today, I thought I’d share 5 of those tips with you!
Tip #1: MODEL! MODEL! MODEL!
Although this one is not ground breaking, I can not stress this one enough! If we want students to write, WE have to write, too. Almost every writing lesson I do, I model what I am looking for. And not just here’s what it should look/sound like model. But, actual writing it out in front of them, model!
Some things you can model for your students:
-indenting paragraphs on lined paper.
-capitalization and using the correct ending punctuation.
-using the word wall as a resource for words I am not sure how to spell. 😉
-rereading what is written out-loud to make sure it makes sense.
-how to use a brainstorm to shape a writing
-Beefing up a sentence using strong verbs and adjectives
When in doubt…?
So let’s talk discuss how this looks in my classroom. At the beginning of the year, when we’re working on a writing piece, my modeling looks much different than it will towards the end. There is a high level of scaffolding, with simple text structure and content. I expect that most of my students will copy what I am writing, so I move slowly though the process.
Most of writing magic happens on my white board, so it’s hard to share what my writings look like because I *gasp* erase them! I do though love this modeled writing from Mrs. Lemons over at Step Into Second Grade.
The colored parts of her writing are a perfect way to scaffold how you incorporate information and still make the writing flow. Colored coded text can also be aligned to a rubric (keep reading for more on that!)
As the year progresses, I still model. It just starts to mutate into less about what I am writing and more into what the students are writing. I might only write the grabber and an introduction sentence (more on those in a minute!) and then let the students fill in the supporting details. I may even swing back through at the end to brainstorm a few conclusion sentences and suggestions for zingers (Stay tuned!) As students are writing, I usually walk around and spot check each student’s piece. This includes reading a few sentences out-loud, discussing word choice, and brainstorming ideas as needed.
It’s important that you slowly let go as you model. You don’t always want to be writing a full writing piece every-time your class sits down to write. But, you also don’t want to quite cold turkey. This could result in a riot! Not that I’ve had any personal experience with this… 😉 By the end of the year, my modeled writings become something to start from and students use it as they need. I like to think of as my time to enjoy the fruit of my labor! It is a beautiful sight to see when an eight year old writes a full length expository essay with little to no help from their teacher. #teachersdream #thatcanbereallifefolks
Tip #2: Teach a Formula
Teach a formula and stick to it! Most authors follow a formula when penning their latest novels, so shouldn’t we teach an easy to remember formula, too? Writing formulas can bend and change as the needs of what we want out of student’s writing change. I’ve used several in the past.
Some I’ve used:
B, 1-2-3, E – Stands for Beginning, 3 details, and an Ending. Works great with narratives!
The Writing Robot– First, Then, Next, Last. Wonders for “How To’s”
But my favorite and the one I currently use is what I like to call:
The Awesome Writing formula– Grabber, Introduction, 3 details, closing, and a Zinger
I wish I could take credit for this ingenious formula that has changed my writing instruction forever! But, it is an adaption of the writing style taught by Melissa Forney. A few years ago we were blessed to have her conduct a PD at our school. In addition to inspiring me to become a better writing teacher, she also completely changed how I teach writing.You can check out more about her here.
Ok… Back to the formula. I love this formula because it lends itself nicely to just a one paragraph writing or a basis for a five paragraph writing. It can be stretched and modified so easily for almost any genre of writing and guarantees an almost perfect writing every time!
At the beginning of the year, I like to create this tab book foldable with my kiddos to help cement the writing formula I like for them to use.
Introduction- Tells your reader what you are writing about.
Details- Give three solid details to support your introduction. This is great because later, students can use these details to create full detailed paragraphs in a much longer piece of writing.
Conclusion-Remind your reader what you wrote
Zinger- (Side-snap!) A question, a quote, a foresight. Something that leaves your reader wondering and thinking that this was a great writing!
Once you’ve figured out your writing routine. Stick to it. Refer back to it. Use it every time you write. For a few of our writings at the beginning of the year, I like to have student color code the specific parts using matching markers. Once the writing formula becomes a routine, you’ll find students will continue to naturally use it every time they write.
Tip #3: Use a Rubric
You can read more about this activity here!
They’re such a great way to remind students what a good writing includes. Did I mention they make it easy to grade, too? 😉
Kids love this expository writing on the steps of taking care of a boo-boo! Grab this activity here!
In the beginning of the year, I create the rubric, but as the year progresses, students start to add their own input and can create their own rubrics. What a great way for students to take ownership!
Tip #4: Buddy Editing
This little tip stems from the Common Core Standard that discussing using peer editors. Now, I know what you’re thinking. My littles can barely read, let alone read each other’s writings. But I PROMISE it will be worth your while! Pinkie promise! Just stay with me on this one!
Taking the time at the beginning of the year to teach students how to “edit” a fellow student’s writing will save you hours (and I do mean hours) of editing time during your writing’s workshop.
Things to keep in mind when teaching students how to edit:
-Use pencil only! Just because you taught them how to edit, doesn’t mean they’ll do it perfectly every time. Pencil allows for those little marks to be erased or moved while you’re editing later.
-Not all editors are created equal. Just like not every student masters a concept on the first try, not everyone will be an amazing peer editor. Just remember that practice makes perfect. 🙂
and the last tip…
Tip #5: One on One Conference
So if you were to walk away from this post and only try to implement one thing I’ve shared with you today, it should be this: One-on-One Conferences. What is a one-on-one conference? Well… it is basically taking the time to sit, discuss, and edit everyone’s paper.
Want writing set for the entire year? Check out this HUGE writing bundle!
Whew… did you get it all?! LOL! So, what is one thing you hope to implement to better your little authors this year? It could be something from my tips, or another tidbit you picked up along the way!