Using Writing Rubrics to Guide Your Writing Lessons

Writing is one of those subjects in lower elementary where there isn't a lot of guidance other than our writing standards.  In the classroom, I'm constantly trying to figure out the best way to improve my first graders' writing...without a real district curriculum to follow.


Thanks to the science of reading, we've learned that tying writing to reading with reading response is best practice.


But still, when I stare at my first graders' writing all I can see are more things we need to work on.  So, how do you choose what to focus on for your writing mini-lesson?  How do you decide what skill to attack first?  Or what skills are worth your time?


Let's chat about how I used our writing rubrics to guide our writing lesson topics.



Sequencing Writing Skills

I don't have a specific scope and sequence for teaching writing skills because it really just depends on my kids.  


But, in general, I start the beginning of the year working on mechanics.  We are literally writing one or two sentences over and over and mastering capitals, punctuation, spacing, handwriting, and sounding out words.


We make this anchor chart together and do a LOT of silly sentence writing!





We use our writing checklist rubrics for this part so that kids are constantly going back and "editing" to make sure their mechanics are on grade level with our checklist writing paper.


Once we have our mechanics down, we move to different types of writing and begin using our writing rubrics.  Our district tells us which order to teach writing types in, but most often we start with informative writing.


Again, there is no hard or fast rule on sequence, but I generally work on the content section of our rubric after our first few weeks of mechanics work.  Then, we work on language and sentence formation as needed.


Prioritizing Missing Writing Skills

Let's get down to the nitty gritty.  When I am planning our writing lessons, I have the rubric out for the writing genre we are working on.  


We start working on content so we can learn the characteristics of a particular writing genre.  I literally go through that checklist in the "3" or on grade level column and make sure we work through that together.  


So, the first day, I might introduce the entire structure of the paragraph.  Then, another day, we may really focus on introduction sentences or supporting facts for informative writing.   


At the beginning, I don't show the entire rubric to the kids.  I just show them the area we are working on, like content.


These mini-rubrics have the same checklists and wordings as the big rubric, but they just focus on one area so that it's less overwhelming for the kids.  When we are farther into learning a writing genre, I pull out the entire rubric so kids are familiar with it and can use it to check their own writing.


As I'm planning, I'm thinking about what most of my kids are struggling with on the rubric.  And that becomes our focus for writing that day or week.


Peer Editing

As you may have guessed, we use the small rubrics for one area to peer edit or self-check the kids' writing.  I have the kids check their own writing alone or with a peer and fill out a mini-rubric slip to attach to their writing. 


Then, I call them back a few at a time to check with them.  I fill out the same slip in a colored pen so that they (and parents) can see the difference in how the student assessed his/her writing and how I did and if we agreed or disagreed.


It is SUPER important for kids to be involved in evaluating their writing from even the first week or school.  It helps kids understand expectations, helps them look for and correct their own mistakes, and it can be a powerful tool to guide our writing lessons if we let it!


You can find the writing rubrics I use, including the checklists, writing paper, and mini-rubrics here.





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