First graders are so capable. They are at an age where their little brains are sponges – soaking up everything and anything they can learn. Writing instruction has always been a favorite of mine. It’s incredibly challenging. I’ve never taught it the same way from year to year. I add elements, throw out lessons, change techniques, change routines…it’s a never-ending cycle of figuring out what works best for my kids. Throughout all of the change, there is one standard I’ve held onto in my classroom every year:
It started with Whole Brain Teaching. I “met” Farrah Shipley through blogging this year. She introduced me to a concept called oral writing. She probably thought she was just sharing a teaching technique with me. What she really did was transform the way I have approached writing this year with my class. She has not only transformed my thinking, my teaching, and my enthusiasm, but she has transformed 21 little first graders as well. (Farrah, although I have told you this before, I cannot thank you enough, my friend!)
We started with a sentence. Well, rewind. We started with an oral sentence. Close your eyes and think of your classroom at the carpet during a discussion. How many times do you allow a student to answer you without using a complete sentence? Chances are, if you are like most, a million times a day. This is the secret to oral writing: When our students do not consistently speak in complete sentences, it becomes immensely difficult for them to not only form their thoughts into a complete sentence but then transfer that complete thought onto paper – with correct conventions and spelling!
Speaking in complete sentences, answering a question in a complete sentence, and explaining an idea or thought in a complete sentence is a rule in our room. We call it “college talk.”
And it has worked miracles for my kids.
Here is a video from Farrah Shipley’s class. When you watch it, you can see that they are acting out their capital letters by raising their arms vertically. They are ending each sentence with a period by saying -Errrr!!! and pushing their hand out in front of them. These gestures are working in a powerful way to help students remember these important conventions:
Are they not the most adorable and amazing little kids ever?! 🙂 I just love this video!
So I raised the bar a little more.
We went on after Thanksgiving to write micro essays. A micro essay is a 5 sentence paragraph that has a topic sentence, three detail sentences, and a conclusion sentence. I created this color-coded chart for my students: