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How To…Create An Author!

Writing is one of my favorite things to teach in first grade.  Unfortunately, it’s also one of the subjects I feel I have the least amount of time to teach.  Perhaps it is because in first grade there is so much about writing we need to get through in a matter of a year. Many Most of my first graders come to me not knowing how to write a complete sentence on their own (I’m talking, without giving them a prompt with a blank such as “I like ___________.” Sorry – that doesn’t cut it anymore.).  Therefore, we not only teach how to write a complete sentence, we teach how to put spaces between our words, how to write in all lowercase letters (and how to capitalize a sentence), how to tap out unknown words, and how to write from left to right.

I haven’t even touched content yet. Opinion pieces, narratives, explanatory, and shared research pieces are all part of the Common Core expectations.  First grade writing is….busy
That is also why first grade is so special!  We move our students from a mess of jumbled words to a finished piece of text that they are the authors of.  

How do we get there?  How do we move our kids from “writing time” to “I’m writing because I’m an author.”  These are my own “I will” statements as a teacher that I have based my writing beliefs off of. 

I will tell them they are authors – every day. 
I will provide time for them to write.
I will give them choices about what they want to write.
I will model, model, model.  
I will guide them through the writing process – not just one or two times – every time. 
I will make writing a fun “may do” activity when they finish something early. 
          (I put on my “actress hat” and show them that this is THE coolest thing to do when I have   
          even a few spare minutes. And they buy it – because they’re six and six year olds know 
          that if you say it is cool – it totally is.)
I will show off their writing so they can visually see that what they did is important.  
           Every year, I put some of the books my kids write in a pocket bookshelf and ask the 
           librarian to display it in our school library.  When my kids see their books in a real library, 
           it validates the importance of their writing and lets them know they really are authors. 
I will make them write about what we read, and read about what we write. 

Tonight, I want to share with you some of the writing projects we have going on in my room.  As many of you know, we’ve been reading gingerbread books this month!  We wrote “how-to” stories titled How To Make Sure The Gingerbread Man Does NOT Get Eaten! They were so into their books and they had so much fun “eating” each step! I provided them with blank books and eight gingerbread men that they had to cut out.  After discussing and listing transition words and other key words they would need in the book, they were able to write each page of their how-to book in a very hands-on manner.  

We also wrote explanatory pieces about how to build a snowman.  This activity came from Jamie Rector’s writing activity pack.  First, we illustrated each step.  This was where the “guiding” of the writing took place.  We worked on transition words together and labeled our illustrations so that they could later use those words in their writing pieces. 

We also talked a lot about how to make our topic sentences interesting this week. We listed a bunch of interesting topic sentences on our anchor chart and the kids got to choose one to use in their writing.  For this particular piece, I did not point out direct things they needed to edit on their final copy.  I simply said “You’re missing some capitals!” or “Hmm..some of those sentences do not make sense to me. Read it again and see if you can find them.”  They were responsible for reading it (yet again) to their writing partner and working through that process together.  After they read it multiple times to themselves and had someone read it to them, they turned it in and I gave them my “final approval” stamp. 🙂   
I try to always verbalize each student’s writing goal while I work with them on a piece.  Some are still working on the basics – handwriting, reversals, tapping out words, while others are working on writing a conclusion or adding more details.  This little boy’s goal was handwriting and he is an “on target” student – neither below nor above.  He likes to write fast and that often turns to sloppy letters.  Do you have a student like that? You know they can write neatly – they just don’t want to write neatly. To slow him down, he had to show me each sentence before he could write the next one.   I know that sounds kind of crazy…but I’m going to go ahead and say it worked! 🙂  It looks like a polished piece now.  He was so proud of it! 

I hope I gave you some little ideas and tricks for creating authors.  🙂  Writing progress does not happen overnight.  It takes months and years to develop a writer.  It’s important not to feel overwhelmed with your little ones.  A lot of their weaknesses right now are developmental and will take time.  Providing them with a lot of opportunity and keying into that inner motivation to write will put them on the upward path for success.  It will take all teachers in every grade, working together vertically to continue developing each student’s writing abilities.  My advice is to encourage one another, share with each other, and make writing in the K-1 classroom something students’ can’t wait to get to do each day! 🙂
Thanks for stopping by!
Happy Learning,

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