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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Diggin' into Writing Instruction

I’m happy to be back this week linking up with Laura from Where the Magic Happens. I took a couple weeks off to get through the last week of school and to enjoy my first week of summer holidays. Now that I’m in to the swing of holidays I can get down to work. I’m also sitting at my parent’s cottage watching my little girls sleep and listening to the sounds of water hitting the shore, so I have some time to think and reflect.

Today I’m digging into writing instruction. It always amazes me how fast firsties progress in writing. Many students come into grade 1 writing random letters or even scibble writing and leave at the end of the year able to write their own story with a beginning, middle and an end, a research report, letters and personal recounts. I think it's part of the reason why I love teaching first grade, they are little sponges and just soak it all up!

I have been super fortunate to work with a fantastic group of teachers for the last four years. Our focus for the past couple of years have been on writing instruction. 

We begin every year with Personal Recount. This unit works really well with Lucy Calkins, although it is not specifically designed to be used with it.

We then move into letter writing. We have so much fun with letter writing. This year we had a visitor in our classroom named Flakey (think Elf of a Shelf) Each night Flakey would get into some kind of trouble but he would also write us a letter and we would write back. Sometimes it was shared experience other times it was interactive writing. The students had lot of practice writing letters, to friends, family members, friends in the school and even our pen pals from another school.

After letter writing, we start Procedural Writing which is my absolute favourite. It is soooooo much fun. Funny though it's the only unit that I haven't created yet. We write procedures for all kinds of things. The kids favourite is writing how to blow a bubble. They love breaking the no chewing gum in school rule.

We then start retelling stories. Which isn't really writing but a written retell has a lot of writing in it. We start Retell after Procedural Writing because the students have learned the sequence words (First, then, next...) and how to break things into steps. It makes writing a retell much easier.

We usually use fairy tales for our retell unit. When we are done we read a variety of fractured fairy tales, and then from there the students write their own fractured fairy tales. Some of the Gingerbread stories my students have written are hilarious.

We usually end the year with research and non fiction writing. This is another fun unit. Near Cambridge, Ontario we have an attraction called "African Lion Safari" which we go to at the end of the school year. So the students research African animals and then they create their own non fiction books.

Throughout the year the students also participate in free choice writing centres. Students can choose what centre or activities they want to complete. I found that my students were much more engaged and interested in writing when given the opportunity to choose.

Although I love how we have set up our writing instruction. we are going to try teaching to the traits next year instead of focusing on the forms. I'll let you know how it goes.

Don't forget to hop back over to Laura's page and continue on the blog hop.

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  1. I'm thinking of focusing more on the traits this year too. I have those fantastic Trait Crates! I love the texts chosen for each trait. Have fun at the cottage!
    Grade 4 Buzz