Monday, October 19, 2015

Helping students WRITE OUT OF THIS WORLD

Hello!! I am Melanie from Momma with a Teaching Mission. I am a 1st grade teacher in Maryland and I love my job!!
So today we are gonna talk about it---that dreaded subject that everyone (me included) doesn't like to teach. Writing. :( Many teachers that I talk to either have a niche to teach math or reading, not too many favor teaching writing. Ok so I've learned to love it, but it has taken a good 2 1/2 years.  Let me first say that my group of students are low. Our classes are grouped by ability this year and I am just teaching literacy. So I teach reading, writing, and our phonics program to two different groups of kids---our lowest level (a class size of 13 very needy kids) and our right below average (a class size of 19).

I think it is super important to first instill a love for writing in your students. The first 3 to 4 weeks was spent building a love for writing. We generated ideas and I did 5-7 minute mini-lessons, but the majority of our writers workshop time was spent with them writing and building their writing stamina. We always closed out a lesson sharing a couple pieces.

Then it was time to move onto teaching 'how to' writing, or common core standard W.1.2 (Writing informative pieces). As many of you know, students come to us on all different kinds of levels. And I know you are probably sick to your stomach with the word 'differentiation', but I will tell you that that has really made the difference for my students.

I mean really, how can we give all students one tool and expect the same result from each one. They are all different, coming to us from different paths and backgrounds. That is ABSOLUTELY LUDICROUS to expect one organizer or one way to work for ALL of our students! So here's what has worked for me!

Modeling with relevant topics. Yes. That's right. That is me in the bathroom with a how to writing that we created as a class, for the bathroom. Now I should have included pictures for each step, but...I thought they got the point! But I'm sure you also get the point--modeling writing with your students is great and I do it daily--but what's better is relevant topics that they know about and can help you write about!
Let the students help write the story. Whatever it is you are writing about, use their exact words, OR even better, let them come up and write it in their own words and own spelling. It doesn't have to be perfect, as long as they are doing their best!
Offer technology (when it's available). My school got macbook carts this year and are to be used to enhance our lessons (not just as a center). So I have been trying to mindfully find ways to integrate technology with my young friends when appropriate. So with teaching how-to writing, I found this website,, students can read books written by other students (or there is an option for it to read to the students), and they can even create books (we haven't made it that far!) But offering technology helps to get those easily distracted students more engaged in the activity.
With some of my students, they get so caught up in the pictures, so I have pre-made pictures and they have to write the words to go along with the pictures. Of course, I let them color the pictures after the writing is complete, but it does help them to concentrate on the words before pictures.
With some of my kids, they know the steps of what they want to write, but they get distracted with sequencing them in order. I took a simple how to as how to make a pizza and put it into task cards for the kids to organize into steps and then put it into words in their writing.
Paper choice! As simple as it sounds, I let the kids pick what kind of paper they want to use. Many of them will use the same kind over and over again, while other students go back and forth with different kinds of writing paper.

When you see that you're losing them, recognize it! And take a brain break!! You wouldn't believe how long a 2 1/2 hour literacy block can seem until you teach 1st graders in the afternoon without a break! A 3 minute dance or gonoodle break can go extremely far!!

And don't give up! If you find what you are doing isn't working, that's OK!! Try something else. You will see what works for you and your students. Not everything will work every year, and that's ok!!

The resources in the images above can be found by clicking on link here: How to Writing How to Make a Pizza or you can visit my TPT store: Momma with a Teaching Mission

Best of luck to you! Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments, you can find that over at my blog!


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