Each Monday in First Grade, our students continue with their Weekend News. This is a special time of the week when they can share a memory they have from the weekend and they hold onto it by putting their memory into writing. This is also a time of the week where teachers put specific emphasis on handwriting, punctuation, spacing, and other mechanics they see needing attention.
At home, you can support this by talking with your child about the weekend and by planning some simple things to do together. Weekend news does not have to detail a trip to Disneyland. It can be something simple – you made pancakes together, you went to a street fair and danced to new music, you had a sleepover at Grandma’s house. But it does help to take time on Sunday evening or Monday on your walk to school to ask, “What’s a special memory from the weekend that you’d like to write about for weekend news?
Tuesday through Friday in Writing Workshop, the students will be writing Small Moment stories. These are true stories, focused on one moment (not a whole day or a whole week) that have a beginning, middle, and end. Students will gather ideas by thinking about important people and places and things they like to do, then list possible story ideas around these lists. Then students will “storyboard” their stories by drawing each part, then writing the stories themselves. All the while, students will recall what they know as writers – start each sentence with a capital letter, and end with appropriate end punctuation. Leave small spaces between your words. Use the word wall word list and using your tapping strategy to help you spell tricky words.
At home, you can support this work by telling stories from your own childhood. Children love this! In your stories, make sure to tell where you where you were, who you were with, and then give the blow-by-blow of the story, including what people said, what you did, and how you felt.
The students just wrapped up a series of fiction writing pieces – they wrote funny stories, then scary stories, and for each of these they began by gathering ideas in their Writer’s Notebook, then they planned and drafted their stories on writing paper. We will return to fiction writing in the winter – it’s a wonderful way for students to be creative, while still working on all the structural and mechanical parts of writing – composing an idea, planning out the idea, drafting and revising to convey their story in a meaningful way, and editing to make their writing readable.
Mid-November, we begin our How-to unit. In this very hands-on writing, students study procedural writing – writing that teaches the reader the steps of how to do something. We begin by exploring the genre as readers. Children read and follow the directions for making Smores Casseroles and a Thanksgiving centerpieceJ As they study and follow the how-to, they notice and talk abut what makes a how-to helpful and easy-to-follow. From this discussion, the class decides on what all of our how-tos should include…A list of materials, steps broken down, specific action or command words, tips and warnings to help the reader do a really good job, and pictures that are clearly drawn to help the reader each step of the way.
This how-to unit continues into the December months, where students continue to read and write how tos, culminating in a project where students will transfer their how-to skills to a video format, making how-to videos for all to see!
In January, we write problem solution stories. These are made-up but realistic stories about characters who have everyday problems, and who solve these problems in realistic ways – no magic, no superheroes involvedJ They’ll create a character, imagine their likes and dislikes, as well as important people in their lives (parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, neighbors, friends). Then they’ll imagine problem stories connected to these topics. Students will plan and write their stories, focusing on using dialogue appropriately (with quotation marks and tags to show who is talking), using capitalization and end punctuation, and by showing not telling their characters’ feeling. We will help students make a connection between their read aloud studies – paying attention to characters’ actions, words, and thinking – to help them write their stories.
In the spring of first grade, students begin by writing All About books on topics of personal expertise. This means they think of something they know a lot about….Babies, Soccer, Being A Good Friend, Cats, Playgrounds, etc. Then they write a book teaching all about that topic. This writing gets them used to using their “teaching” writing voice in stead of their “storytelling“ writing voice, which they will use again later in the spring when they research a topic they want to learn more about.
Then, the students spend a few weeks reading and writing poetry. Please see the classroom walls and hallways in our school for beautiful examples of their poetry!
In the end of April, students have a week to read across our nonfiction library collections and to carefully choose a topic that they want to study in depth. Then they learn develop questions about their topic, which soon become chapter titles…..”What is a Bear? Where do Bears Live? How do Bears Protect Themselves?” etc. Then, they read across many different sources to collect information about each question, and they take organized notes. Finally, they turn these notes into a well-researched Nonfiction All About Book.
At home, you can help your child by asking them what topic they are choosing to research, and then supporting their research. You might go to the library and borrow books to read together, or to the bookstore. You might look at PBS kids or National Geographic kids to see if there is a video or short movie about their topic.
We end the year with a brief but fun exploration of Fairytale Writing, which builds on the children’s first exposure to the genre of writing in Kindergarten.