Sunday, February 16, 2014

Prove It: Bringing 21st Century Thinking and Writing Skills to the Primary Classroom

Hi all!  It's Tamra and Sarah again from First Grade Buddies!  We wanted to share with you a bit about how we have been bringing critical thinking skills into our 1st grade classrooms.  Our BIG focus this year has been having kiddos using writing to share their thoughts, prove their understanding, and support their ideas.  Our kiddos had generally been able to do this orally, but needed to be trained to do it in a written format.  We want to share a few resources we've created to help us "train" our kiddos to evidence based writing skills.
Our first resource is our Reading Passages with Written Responses Requiring Text Evidence.  We LOVE using these in small groups during guided reading time.  Our kiddos LOVE using highlighters while we work on them!  As part of new Running Records we do this year, our kiddos are required to complete 2 written response comprehension questions.  These reading passages have been a great tool to help our kiddos get used to form of writing.  
We start by reading through the passage together as a group.  The passages are not leveled, so we give support based on the needs of each group we meet with.  After reading the passage, we look at the comprehension question.  We think about what information we will need to answer the question.  Then, we go back to the passage and highlight all of the information that will help us with our answer: names, phrases, key words.  When we make it back down to the question, kiddos can more easily respond to the answer by using the parts they highlighted in the passage.  And 2 bonuses: the kiddos can spell correctly because they are looking back the highlighted words and they get practice to the strategy to look back in the passage for information - a great strategy loved by the upper grades!
We created 3 sets of passages to help our kiddos gain independence.  The passages start with lots of  guidance, then we lessen the guidance, and finally, kiddos respond to the prompt independently.  Click the pic to see it in our TpT store!

You can also grab a FREEBIE sample of 3 passages with each type of scaffolded responses.

We use about one passage a week in our guided reading groups.  However, we also practice written comprehension questions with our guided reading books too!
  We took the question stems from our Running Record books and made them into general prompts that could be used for any book.  
Here are our kiddos working on a response prompt!  The primary composition journals are GREAT for our reading groups!!  They have a picture top and nice primary writing lines at the bottom.  They work so well for doing written comprehension.
Another resource we have just created for the classroom are our Prove Yourself! prompts.
Sadly, we don't have any kiddos work samples for this new tool because we've had 3 snow days this week!  We did get to use some time before the snow came to work in the classroom and get the journals ready.
We're using some spiral bound notebooks we've had since stocking up in the summer (knew they would finally come in handy).  Glued in the front of the notebook are sample responses kiddos can use as a "frame" to respond with a complete thought where they share their idea and give proof, or support their thoughts.  We've got a FREEBIE sample from this resource too!
At home, we use our homework routines to help parents continue to support their kiddos with these thinking skills.  We want parents to have an idea of what thinking skills their kiddos are expected to demonstrate in the classroom.  This is our Homework packet:

Here is a FREEBIE sample of the differentiated reading passages and the comprehension page!

We use our Family Message Journals to continue to encourage writing at home.  In the beginning of the year during our Curriculum Night, we explained to parents how their kiddos should be responding to the prompts.  We helped parents to understand that we don't want just a simple response, like : "I want to be a teacher."  Rather, we would like more evidence...why do they want to be a teacher?  Here is a great kiddo sample.
As part of the journals, we tell parents they have to respond to the same prompt on the back of the page.  It is a great way for kiddos to see their parents writing too!

What do you do in your classroom to encourage kiddos to show evidence of 21st Century thinking skills?


  1. The Prove Yourself packet looks like it will really help, I have added it to my wish list and can't wait to see more about it in the coming weeks. After the snow that is.
    Frampton's FUNdamentals

  2. What a great post! I teach 2nd grade and would LOVE to have your "Homework Shape Up". Are you thinking of making a 2nd grade version? Thanks so much for sharing!
    Second Grade is Out of This World!