I am sharing my passion for pencil pushing as a part of the Superb Writers’ Blogathon. In partnership with Grammarly grammar checker, this series is bringing helpful hints to aspiring superb writers all across the world wide web.
If there is one thing other than teaching reading that I love, it’s teaching my first graders how to write. I believe that having the ability to write well opens up many opportunities for my students to not only become aware of what quality writing looks like, but having fun doing so.
When the students leave my classroom at the end of May, I know that they have the skills to become “Superb Writers”. It takes a lot of time and effort but it is well worth it in the end.
During the first few weeks of school I review many basic yet important skills that first graders need to know to begin the writing process. They need to understand why the beginning of a sentence has to have a capital letter. The students also need to reread their sentence over again to see if it makes sense to them and if their reader will understand what they are trying to say. Lastly, I stress the importance of punctuation marks. We go over and over these concepts until it is time to move on to other types of writing genres.
In order for children to become strong writers they need for their teacher to model quality writing. Whenever I have the opportunity, I sit my students in our meeting area and I tell them that I need help with a particular story. I explain the criteria it needs and ask them for their input and how I should start my story. This is where we brainstorm ideas for characters, setting, plot, etcetera. I write down all their ideas on chart paper to model that this is a very important step in the writing process. I always tell the children that brainstorming is where your imagination can come to life. Once we jot down all our wonderful ideas, it’s time to put our story together. The children know that a story needs a title so I explain that it goes on the top middle line of our paper and that certain words in the title need a capital letter. The children and I work together to write the story and then we reread it together to show them that the story is free of errors and makes sense.
The goal at the end of the modeling is to have the children work independently to produce their own writing piece. I provide them with scratch paper so that they many jot down their ideas. Since they are only first graders they need lots of guidance and I am there to help them along the way. I also stress to them that they may not copy the story we came up with together, it must be their own using the skills they learned. I give them about 15-20 minutes to brainstorm on the first day. The second day they can begin to write their “sloppy copy”, I call it this because they know they will have to make corrections after we proof read their paper together. On the third day they may continue writing if they are not finished. If they are finished then they may come see me one at a time to read their first draft. I do not and this is very important, do not read their story. The student must read it to me so they can understand where they made mistakes. They need to hear themselves read their story and learn to edit their own work. If they do not catch their mistake(s) that is where I come in and make suggestions without hurting their feelings of course! When we are finished correcting their work, I hand them a very nice sheet of paper and they know they must write their final product on there using their “sloppy copy” to guide them.
I have a rubric that my students follow in order to receive a high score. It is scaled from one through four with one being the lowest. I have samples that I created of each rubric number and the children understand why it received a particular number. It isn’t a guessing game for them they know that if they produce quality over quantity it will get them a better grade in the end.
The students in my room enjoy writing and I know that I have given them the tools and skills they need to move on in the writing process for years to come.