Showing posts with label writers' workshop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writers' workshop. Show all posts

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.

As we are all navigating how to homeschool our own children at home thanks to CoVid-19, I wanted to share some of my favorite ways to practice essential K-1 literacy skills at home--with no technology needed!

Even after this pandemic is over, these are great activities and routines to keep in mind for the summer time or any time you are at home with your littles to reinforce what they are learning at school.  I've already blogged about my math suggestions, so let's talk about reading and writing today!


WHO? kinder and 1st graders or any kiddos with illegible handwriting :)

WHAT? A pencil and handwriting pages or paper

HOW?  Write a sentence in marker on handwriting paper and have your child trace it with pencil and then write it underneath.  If you want to make it even more fun, let them You can find ready made handwriting pages here.  If your child is in PreK or Kinder or really struggles with handwriting, you can get the phrases I say with kids as we write letters for free here.  This really helps their letter formation.

WHY?  Handwriting is great fine motor practice.  Also, research shows that practicing letter formation helps kids become better readers.  The act of handwriting while learning letters increases letter naming fluency, which is an indicator for reading success.

You can get more ideas for handwriting and letter formation practice here.

Sight Word Practice

WHO? Any kids who are reading or beginning to read words in a book

WHAT? sight word cards (make your own on index cards or use these premade ones), play doh, yarn, or other around the house items

HOW?  There are a ton of sight word games and practice options out there.  I've blogged about my favorite at home sight word games here including the fly swatting game, and this independent activity.

If you're looking for even more independent practice for your first or second graders, you can find tons of sight word printables here.

WHY?  While sight words should not be the only thing you use for reading practice--not even most of your reading time, it is important for kids to quickly read some words that we see a lot in books!  Having several high frequency words that kids don't have to sound out leads to reading fluency.

One Sentence Journaling

WHO? Any age!

WHAT? a notebook or download this free journaling paper here, pencil and crayons

(This is the cover we are using during the CoVid-19 Quarantine, but there are other generic cover options if you want to use this during the summer.)

HOW?  At the end of each day, write one sentence that tells about your day.  It can be a sentence about something you did, how you are feeling, or what you think about this whole quarantine situation!  Illustrate your sentence too.  Only ONE sentence.  That's the fun part (and makes it easier to get kids to do).  Just pick one important thing to remember and write and short and sweet, one sentence memory about it!

WHY?  I have been doing my own one sentence journaling for over a year now and absolutely love it!  It's a great way to look back and see what has happened over the last year and a half or so.  Quarantining to protect our community from CoVid-19 is an unusual time in our history.  Years from now, it will be special to look back and see what we were thinking about and doing during this time!

Letting kids write about what they want to write about (journaling) is great, authentic writing.  It gives them practice with sentence mechanics like capitals, spacing, punctuation and spelling.  And it's way more motivational to write about something you choose than something mom tells you to write about! :)

Pen Pals

WHO? Any age!

WHAT? pencil, paper, envelopes and stamps

HOW?  Find a friend or family member (or several) that will write to you!  Just like we did years ago, write a letter to a friend and write a letter back to someone who writes to you.  Tell them anything you'd like!  My sister-in-law had this idea and started a Facebook group for those interested to exchange addresses.

WHY?  Once again, letting kids write about what they want to write about is great, authentic writing.  It gives them practice with sentence mechanics like capitals, spacing, punctuation and spelling.  And it's super fun to write to friends and family members and get out and check the mailbox everyday while we are all practicing social distancing.
Mail, Newsletter, Home, Mailbox, Hiring

Digital Phonics

WHO? Kinders, 1st graders, and 2nd graders

WHAT? A week of digital phonics lessons.  Just click on the grade level below to get a free lesson.  Want a whole week for free?  Sign up for my email newsletter and choose the grade you need to get any entire week of phonics lessons for free.
 Kindergarten Digital Phonics Curriculum, Letter ID FREEBIE   Phonics Interactive Powerpoint: FREEBIE   2nd Grade Phonics Digital Curriculum FREEBIE

HOW?  These lessons require powerpoint and a computer.  They are intended for a teacher or parent to guide the kid(s) through them.  There are notes at the bottom of each slide that tell you exactly what to do.  It's as simple as click and learn.  No prep needed!

WHY?  Phonics or decoding skills are essential for young readers.  Primary teachers are highly trained for teaching these skills, but it can be scary for parents to understand the skills, much less teach them.  But if our schools are closed for any length of time, we must be able to continue phonics instruction for our children so they don't have decoding "gaps" in their reading when they return to school.

Decodable Readers

WHO? Kinders & 1st graders

WHAT? decodable readers... these are books where at least 90% of the words can be sounded out based on the phonics sounds your child knows.  You can use any books you may already have as long as they fit that criteria.  You can find a free set of decodables here to get you started!
HOW?  Just print the free decodables I linked above or grab your own decodables and have your child read to you.  Can't sit and listen to them read right now?  Have them record themselves reading and then they can play it later for you or an older sibling to listen to.  I have blogged about specific routines and ways to use decodables to help your kiddos.  Read the post here.

WHY?  AGAIN....decoding skills are essential for young readers.  Primary teachers are highly trained for teaching these skills, but it can be scary for parents to understand the skills, much less teach them.  But if our schools are closed for any length of time, we must be able to continue phonics instruction for our children so they don't have decoding "gaps" in their reading when they return to school.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS?  If your child gets to a tricky word that he/she can't decode, try saying... "Say the sounds" or "Blend the sounds" or "Get your mouth ready for the first sound and read all the way through the word."  If it is still super tricky, cover up all but the first sound and ask, "What does this sound say?" and then continue to reveal the next sound until they have decoded the whole word.

More Free Resources

Looking for more free printables and resources to help your K-2 kids with reading and writing with little to no prep?  Check out these FREE resources by clicking on each picture to download them.
Seusstastic Rhyme Time Matchup FREEBIE  Poetry Folder FREEBIE  Sight Word Morning Work FREEBIE
Reading Comprehension Passages and Questions FREEBIE  Homeschool Preschool Reading FREEBIE  Halloween Grammar Worksheets: FREEBIE
Language Center FREEBIE for Kindergarten  Phonics Center FREEBIE for Kindergarten  Writing Center FREEBIE for Kindergarten
Pocket Chart Center FREEBIE for Kindergarten
Last week, I blogged about writing conferences in the primary classroom.  We talked about how to set it up, what to conference about, and how to manage #allthekids.

Today, we're chatting about what to do after a conference!  You've done a great conference.  It was focused, short and meaningful for the kid... NOW WHAT???

The Power of the Post-It

At the end of each conference, I write down a specific goal based on our conference point on a sticky.  For my emerging readers, I add a visual or example, like writing CAPITALS in all caps.

We go over the point we charted about and I use a highlighter to help us find mistakes to correct.  I use highlighter because I don't want it to be erasable.  We aren't ashamed of mistakes in our classroom because we learn from them and are better people because of our mistakes! Plus, even after it's corrected, it helps mom and dad see what we worked on when the writing goes home.

Then, we stick it on the inside of his writing folder.  The kids learn that when they begin independent writing time, the first thing they do is open the folder and review their conferencing goals.    It's a reminder for them on their specific goals, and it also makes them feel like they've had their own little conference that day--even if I didn't meet with them.  Plus, this routine just pushes them to take ownership of their own writing!

Sure, I could make a cutesy printable to laminate to the inside of the folder.

But sticky notes are WAYYYYY cooler to first graders.  Believe me.

Sure, I could make pre-printed sticky notes so I wouldn't have to write the same thing every. single. day.

But you should see those sweet faces when we make a post-it note sized anchor chart all for just one kid.  It's a precious moment, ya'll.  For real.  Besides, research tells us that preprinted anchor charts have less impact than building and making it WITH kids.  The same goes for post-it sized anchor charts.

Once kids have at least one sticky note inside their folder, I can review that with them the next time.  Like this...

"Let's read over the goals you've been working on during your independent writing time."

Then, when I read over their writing, if I see the same problem again, we revisit it and rework the post-it as needed to help them remember!

Using Conference Points for Share Times

For share time in writers' workshop, I choose 1 or 2 friends from my back table to share whole group.  And I use their conference points to teach the rest of the class.

If I have a kid I had to reteach the mini-lesson to for their conference point, I will automatically share this writing.  This gives me a chance to reinforce what we already learned to day and see how it works in the context of a peer paragraph.

Then, I may or may not choose one more to share with a conference point that I conferenced a lot about that day or that week.  This gives me the opportunity to visit and revisit mechanics skills and other common issues that come up all year long!

As I'm conferencing throughout the week, I also make notes of common conference points.  Then, I use these to plan out our mini-lessons for the next week.  When peer editing becomes a weekly routine later in the year (read more here), I will use the most common conference point from that week as our mini-lesson on our peer-edit Fridays.

Hopefully, you've become as much of a believer in writing conferences as I am!  15-20 minutes each day can change your kids' writing for the better and help direct your planning to be more effective for your kids!

When I first starting teaching, I bought neon colored chart paper and just wrote on chart paper and called it a day.  We charted our information and I taped it up on my "anchor chart wall."

And then, a strange thing happened.  None of my firsties used the anchor charts. #shockface

Because all of the anchor charts looked the same!

So, as I gained more experience, I realized how important it was to make the anchor charts stand out for my early readers.  They needed more visuals, and unusual shapes, colors, or designs to help my littles find them in the room and actually use them!

I started making shaped anchor charts, adding bold visuals and using color and BAM!  My littles were using the anchor charts and I was having SOOOOO much more fun making them!

Here's a look at some of my favorite writing anchor charts!

Shaped Anchor Charts

I love making anchor charts in a shape!  It makes them super easy to find.  Plus, it gives kids an idea about what the anchor chart is teaching about without having to read a word.   I have found that even my lowest babies can at least find the correct anchor chart when they are shaped.  No, they can't read everything on there, but they work on differentiating between and finding the correct anchor chart and then ask a buddy to help them read the information they need!

This good writers chart is one of the first we make at the beginning of the year.  You can read about it more and the checklist kids use that go along with it in this blog post!

The great thing about the pencil chart is that I made it on poster board the first year and laminated it.  Then, each year, I just add our details on the chart and clean it off for the next year!  Don't want to go to even that much trouble?  I have almost all of my writing and grammar charts premade here.  Just print it and laminate and you are good to go!

This Dr. Seuss hat is always a favorite.  I just get white paper and glue red strips on it.  Then, cut draw the shape of his hat with a pencil.  Cut and outline in black dry erase marker and you are ready to chart!  Find the lesson here.

We make this chart when we introduce informational writing.  It's a great way to list out all of the things kids CAN write to teach about!  Read that lesson here.

Opinion writing is one of my favorite to introduce.  But let's be honest, that's just because we eat Oreos and those are totally my favorite store bought cookie.... #teachertruth  You can read this lesson here and find the anchor chart here.

And another one of my laminate and reuse anchor charts!  (Just don't pay attention to that ugly spot the laminator made on my cute anchor chart! #sosad  Read about how I introduce how to writing here.

Illustrated Anchor Charts

Adding illustrations to anchor charts makes them accessible to beginning readers.  And although I love a good shaped anchor chart, sometimes, a basic chart is best.  But I always, ALWAYS add visuals, drawings, or labels with my chart to make it easier to understand and read.

***PRO TIP: Make the anchor chart skeleton before the lesson.  During the lesson, fill in the words with the kids and maybe some quick sketching of visuals.  Then, after the lesson, go back and take the time to "pretty up" the visuals to make them interesting to read.  Then, when you review the chart, the kids will be so excited to see how it looks finished!

This is one of our first charts we make together to set up our routines for Writers' Workshop.

Here's another example of a chart that is enhanced with illustrations.  I gave examples of each of these strategies to help illustrate.  This is one of the many writing charts that you can find pre-made templates for you to just fill in with your kids here.

This narrative writing chart could've easily been a shaped chart.  And I probably would make it that way the next time I do this one.  In fact, I think this one would be great to cut out each piece of the burger, laminate and add the parts of writing to it.  Then, add velcro to the chart and pieces and literally "build" the stories together with kids!

Anchor Charts With A Bold Design

When it's not easy to make a shaped anchor chart, I try to use a bold design with my anchor chart.  Anything that will make it stand out and be easy to find, understand, and use.

This anchor chart is used all. the. time. in my room.  And I think part of it is because of the bold design.  It's fun and engaging and more visual than text so it's non-threatening to read.  Find the lesson for this chart here.

A list of verb tenses on an anchor chart is a waste of paper.  Young kids will just get lost.  But adding words to arrows that symbolize their verb tense helps primary students engage and understand the content better!  Find the resource to teach this lesson here and the anchor chart template here.

Find the lesson plan for this order word lesson here and the pre-made template here.

Foil for an anchor chart?  1000% YES!  I get SOOOO many giggles when I whip out the foil to use as an anchor chart!  For this one shown in the picture, I just printed out the "rolls" on yellow paper, cut them out and glued the pieces to the foil.  Then, we were ready to brainstorm synonyms together.

Another simple tip: it helps to use as many colors as possible when you are listing or brainstorming words, phrases or facts.  It helps the kids read the words more easily because the same color isn't all running together.  And also, when they ask, "Which one says, 'screamed'?" A friend can just answer, "It's green."  That makes it easy for the kid to find the word on their own!

The synonym chart along with almost all of the others in this post are available as pre-made templates to print and fill out with your kids.  Find the bundle of grammar, opinion, narrative, and informative anchor charts here.

Conferencing with kids during writers' workshop can be overwhelming in the primary classroom...

How am I going to have time to get to #allthekids?

Can little kids really write independently while I try to conference?  And for how long?

What do I even conference about?  How do I choose what's most important to talk about that day?

All these burning questions and more go through the minds of new and sometimes even experienced teachers.  I'll be honest, after 10 years in the classroom, I sometimes had to remind myself that it was OK that I was conferencing about the same 4 or 5 things every. single. day.

Here's a peek into my routines for conferencing during writers' workshop.  We talk about how I decide who to conference with each day, how I choose which point to conference on and how I manage the how class during conferencing time.

Setting Up Writers' Workshop for Successful Conferences

On the second day of school, we write about what they want to learn in first grade.  Really, this is just a pre-assessment for me.  You can use any prompt at the beginning of the year.  I collect the papers and sort them into four stacks:
1) Super low (below basic) writers,
2) low (basic) writers,
3) proficient writers and
4) advanced writers.

This is not a formal's just a quick, gut reaction on where each kid is at the beginning of the year before they get much help from me.

Once I have my piles, I divide each pile into 4 groups {pink, orange, green and 1...I usually have a yellow group instead of a 1 group, but I could not find any of these silly stickers that had four colors this particular year!!!!  GRRR!  So, I had to settle for a "1" group! :)

Anyways...I give each colored dot a friend from my lowest stack until I'm out of lows....then I pass out the proficient stacks to each dot....then the advanced ones.  This gives me 4, heterogenous groups to work with.  Each group has 6 friends in it.

My groups aren't on anything fancy....just the ol' handwritten index card with dots.  But it works!!  Monday-Thursday I conference with one of these colored dot groups.  Fridays I can conference with an additional group, a different group {like more intervention for my lows} or it just leaves it open to not conference and do some whole group writing activities.  I've used this system for most of my 10 years teaching and I love it!

I should also mention that pink dots aren't always on Mondays.  Sometimes, our weeks are cRaZy! #truthtime So the most important thing to me is to make sure I meet with everyone as equally as possible.  That means if I met with my orange dots the last time we conferenced, then I meet with green dots matter what day it is!

Why heterogenous groups?  Mainly, it's a time thing.  If I conferenced with all of my low writers one day, it would take for. ever. to finish our conferences because they need so much from me.  If I conferenced with all of my highs one day, I'd be done in 5 seconds.  So, I mix it up so that I use up just the write amount of time conferencing!

Managing the Whole Class During Writing Conferences

Writing conferences happen during independent writing in writers' workshop.  That means we've had a quick mini-lesson as a whole group and they've been sent to their seats to write independently and practice the skill we learned about in our mini-lesson.

When, I release kids from the carpet/mini-lesson, I always release my conferencing group first.  This gives them time to get their writing folder and meet me at my back table.  I'll say, "Pink dots, go get your things and meet me at the back table."  Then, I dismiss my independent writers.

As a set up note... at the beginning of the year, after I organize my kids into writing groups, I revisit my seating chart.  Usually by the end of the first week (or first day, sometimes!) there needs to be a few adjustments in our seating chart.  When I do those first adjustments, I *try* to make sure each group of four desks has one person from each colored dot.  No, it's not always perfect.  But I try.

The reason I try to do this is so that when I'm conferencing, I never have a "full" table of independent writers.  There is always at least one person missing from the group table.  This is just a management trick I use to keep the talking quietened!

My conference kids start writing independently at my back table.  They do not wait on me.  Once, I've released everyone, I turn on classical music.  This is our writing music.  My rule is, "If you can't hear the music, you are too loud."  This does a really good job of helping kids manage their voice levels!  Once the music is on and my independent writers are settled, I head to my back table to begin conferences.

How long is too long to write independently?
My experience in first grade is that independent writing time will vary depending on  your group of kids and the time of year.

In general, I start with 15-20 minutes of writing time at the beginning of the year.  And I slowly increase that to 30-40 minutes at the end of the year, depending on how independent the group is.

How Do I Know What To Conference About?

Once I'm ready to conference, I just dig in and get started.  It doesn't really matter who you start with...I've changed that up over the years and haven't found that any way is better for me.

The first thing I do is look at our mini-lesson skill.  Let's say, for example, we are learning about opinion writing and we spent our mini-lesson modeling and working on our introductory opinion sentence.  When I start a conference, I read through the student's story so far and look to see if he has a good introductory sentence.  If not, I revisit the mini-lesson with that student and help her write a strong intro.

For my lower babies, this may not be something I even look at.  Depending on how low they are, I may even have already given them an intro sentence to copy before I start conferencing.

After I take care of this mini-lesson skill, I refer to the writing rubric we've been working on.  So for this writing sample below, the opinion intro is there.  The self-check shows that she thinks she did all 6 mechanics skills correctly.  I notice that she doesn't have a good handle on capitals or periods.

But there are more mistakes with capitals.  So that is my conference point for the day.  I will do a quick mini-lesson or reminder about capitals.  It might sound like this....

"Your opinion intro is great!  But I notice a few mistakes with capitals.  Where do we use capitals in first grade?"  (first of the sentence, the word I, and names)

"And where do we NOT use capitals?"  (in the middle of words)

"Let's look slowly together at your writing and see if we can find the 3 mistakes that I see."

Then, I will have the student run her finger under each word very slowly.  If she passes a capital mistake, I'll stop her and we will chat on that.  If she doesn't find any capitals, then I will help by circling all of the capital mistakes and have her go back and fix those.  Then after I have conferenced with another person, I'll go back and check to see that the mistakes have been fixed.

This conference would be about 2 minutes or less.  But in order to do my conferences effectively, I have to know my writing standards and rubrics like the back of my hand!

I use these rubrics during my mini-lessons because they are kid friendly and many are for self-assessing.  They help the kids and me learn what I expect for each type of writing.

Then, once I know the rubric well, I can mentally go through the rubric to find the most important point of conferencing.

And that's almost it!  If I finish all 6 conferences before our independent time is over (which happens more towards the end of the year), then I walk around and conference with my low babies to check in on them!

So, we've conferenced, now what??  Next week, I'll blog about how I follow up with kids after conferences, help them remember their conference points, and use conferences for share time and planning mini-lessons!
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