Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Elementary School Topic: First-Grade Writing Instruction

10-second review: Young writers don’t learn to write simply by being required to write. They need instruction in how to write.

Title: “An Effective Framework for Primary-Grade Guided Writing Instruction.” SA Gibson. Reading Teacher (December 2008/January 2009), pp. 324-334. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Summary/Quote: “Young writers need instruction. They do not improve their writing skills simply because teachers require them to write.” p. 324.

Suggests 20-minute writing segments consisting of four steps: 1. Finding something to write about. 2. Teacher’s modeling a particular writing skill. 3. Time to write individually with teacher intervention as they write their drafts. 4. Sharing what they wrote.

Here’s an example of cards used to “cue” the writing process: 1. Pick one little interesting idea about your topic to write about. 2. Think of a good first sentence. 3. Think about the details your readers want to know. 4. Tell more about your ideas. 5. Add an ending sentence that helps your readers to understand your ideas.

Comment: Assumes first-grade students can read those instructions.

Addendum. I’m going to suggest a method for practicing first-grade writing. Take four or five 8 ½ x 11” sheets of paper. Fold them in half so that they are in the shape of a pamphlet. Staple along the crease.

Students write stories similar to picture books. The bottom half of each page tells the story based on either real or imaginary experiences. The upper half of each page is for pictures to illustrate the text on each page. Of course, the first page is the cover or title page.

When time allows, each student meets with the teacher to go over spelling and punctuation. At first the teacher makes the corrections, using an eraser. As the students become better at correcting spelling and punctuation, they do it themselves.

Hang the books around the room where students—and parents—can read them. The results are sometimes outstanding. The books are cute and interesting and the students are proud of what they have written.

Thanks to Barbara A. Stopper for the idea. RayS.

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