6 Tips for Teaching First Grade Writing

#1- Write in front of the kids daily-
I know for many of us the thought of writing in front of the kids is terrifying!  Most of us weren’t English majors, and I think it brings back memories  of red ink when we were kids.  I, for one, am the queen of run-on sentences.  Also, I LOVE commas and exclamation marks!!! I am sure all my “Grammar” friends are cringing right now as they read this!

But here is the truth, they are 6 and 7 years old!  We have tons of writing knowledge to share with them.  When we write in front of them it provides the perfect opportunity for us to “think-aloud” and show how writers work.  I promise, they will think you are a FANTASTIC writer.  They will probably ask you how you became such a good writer.
#2- Write on chart paper-(I like the smaller size)
It is tempting to write on a dry erase board, document camera, etc.  Don’t do it!  Chart paper is perfect!  I like to gather students around my easel. There are many advantages to using chart paper.  First, it has lines so we can model correct letter formation.  Next, it is large enough for all students to see easily.  Most importantly, it preserves your work.  I have had numerous times where I wrote something on the board and erased it, only to wish I had been able to access it again later in the year. 

#3– Make copies of students work

Start keeping copies of students work (it can be a digital copy).  When a student does something really great or their writing provides an opportunity for a teaching point, ask them if you can make a copy of it to use to help you teach writing.  Keep a wide variety, and be sure to ask each student for at least one piece during the year (they will feel so proud!). The kids can learn SO much from other first graders work.  It can be a great way to show students what “voice” sounds like, it is also great for revising and editing lessons. Here are a few things to keep in mind: Remove student names, especially if you are using it for a revising or editing lesson.  Don’t use work from students of the current year, unless it is to show something really wonderful, and you have their permission to share it THIS year.
#4– Allow plenty of writing time
First graders....sometimes they are like turtles!!!  For some students it takes a while to get started and to come up with ideas.  Don’t try to “cram-in” a lesson.  Make sure you have plenty of time for them to write and accomplish something.  I like to have about 5-10 minutes for me to do the modeled writing.  Then I like at least 20 uninterrupted minutes for them to write.  Also, the students have to work the WHOLE time!  If they finish writing they can: add to the words, add to the pictures, start a new piece.  For students who don’t finish in that time, I usually have them continue to work during centers/intervention time at the end of the day.
Students try the word in the left column, I write it correctly in the right hand column.
#5-Keep detailed notes
Keep an anecdotal note sheet on a clipboard.  I like to circulate around the room while students are writing.  It allows me to check in with students who need help with ideas, help them correctly spell a word, have “mini-conferences” with students, etc.  As I rotate around, I like to take some short notes about what students are doing well, what they are struggling with, who is off-task, etc.  These notes give me powerful information I can use to assess student growth and plan for future mini-lessons.  They are SUPER helpful when completing quarterly report cards, and planning for Parent-Teacher Conferences.

I like to keep a simple form like this.  List student names along the left-hand column, then make lots of copies.  Keep notes in the right hand column about each student.  Start a new sheet each week. (Keep the old ones in a notebook to be able to reference.

#6-Provide time for students to share
First graders LOVE to share their work!  It is very time consuming, but also very motivating to students.  You do not have to have every student share in front of the entire class, or do you need to share every project.  You can have students share in small groups of three to four (I usually use their table group), partner share, or have a rotation schedule for students to share in front of the class.  One fun strategy is “Inside/Outside Circle”-Divide the class into two groups, one group makes a circle with everyone facing out, the second group forms a circle around that group, facing in.  Now you have students paired up facing each other.  Give students 3 minutes to share, then have the outside circle rotate to the left, and students have a new partner to share with.  Students can rotate 3-4 times.   

I hope this gives you some helpful tips for teaching first grade writing! I have also included a free download for you: 30 Writing Lessons for the Beginning of First Grade.  Click here to download the list and the writing notes form. 

Are you looking for more first grade writing ideas?  

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