When you step inside room 409, you become a participant in a learning community where young minds are busy creating, sharing, and problem solving.  You will see a teacher who is guiding, questioning and encouraging.  She is observing, documenting, and researching to provide the best instruction to grow these young learners.  The teacher you see in this classroom is Me!  I teach all subjects- reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and all aspects of being part of a learning community to seventeen six year olds.  It is a heterogeneous group.  There are nine boys and eight girls.  Seventy-five percent of my students are White and twenty-five percent are Hispanic or of mixed race.  More than half of my students come from disadvantaged homes. All of my students are “readers” but the level of proficiency varies from mid-kindergarten level through second grade.  All of my students are beginning writers but they have grown tremendously since the beginning of the year!  I am so proud of their progress.

If you were to visit during a writing discussion, you would hear children sharing stories about their lives.  You would hear their peers asking questions to clarify details of the experience.   You would then see children eager to get those details down on paper. Later, you would be able to hear students share what they have written.  More peers would comment on the writing and then editing of writing could occur.  This process has evolved over time in our classroom community.  Shared writing has grown into a respectful discussion that is profitable to all members.

Now that my first graders are able to take ownership of a piece of writing, I would like to provide feedback through conferencing on a regular basis.  One of my goals for the year is to help my students grow as writers by teaching them to revise and edit their work.  This past semester, in my classes from ASU, I was fortunate to study quality writing instruction and learn more able writing conferences.  I realize that my students have put forth a great deal of effort to produce writing.  I know that my comments will make a profound effect on how they see themselves as writers, therefore I want to give my students the time they deserve and the best possible feedback.

We do have challenges when trying to achieve our goal.  My students and I have limited time for writing together and even less time for conferencing.  If you strolled through room 409 in the morning you would see students engaged in phonics instruction though the Letterland program.  If you lingered you would see students working their way through Daily Five rotations devoted to all types of literacy development.  Students would work through an independent writing station during Daily Five but this would not be a time for writing instruction or conferencing.

Our first graders have a packed busy day.  Most of our day is already allocated by our school wide schedule.  If you continued with us you would enjoy lunch, enrichment classes, intervention time, and a large math block.  All of this skill development is important but with the current schedule I’m struggling as a teacher to find quality time with each student.

I would like to build on my skills as a writing teacher and develop a writing workshop time in my classroom.  My wish is that if you came into our classroom you would see a mini-lesson, a time for students to write independently, and a time for students to share.  In addition, you would see me having quality writing conferences with students.  I’m excited to start reading this new book by Lucy Calkins, Amanda Hartman and Zoe White.  I can’t wait to see if I can develop “The Art of Conferring with Young Writers”!



8 thoughts on “Strolling Through First Grade

  1. What a vivid picture of what happens in your classroom on a daily basis! It’s good to hear that sharing is such a central part of your writing instruction now. The skills and strategies that children are learning as they respond to each other’s writing offer a strong foundation for developing generative student-teacher writing conferences this semester. I’m excited to check back in on your writers this semester to see how they’ve grow and how first graders can learn to be highly engaged in the revision process.


  2. I feel your pain Michelle. Time is the enemy! In my first-grade classroom, we are busy from the moment the first bell rings to the end of the day. I too am struggling to find quality time to spend with my students and give them the teaching to support their writing. I was reluctant to make my goal this semester to commit to a full writer’s workshop at least twice a week. I have thought and thought about how I’m going to pull it off with our current schedule. We spend so much time devoted to reading and math, but writing cannot be ignored or shortchanged. I know in my heart Writer’s Workshop is what my students need. They need time to experience writing and writing instruction from me. You and I may need to have a discussion with our principal to see how we can make our goals doable.


  3. Michelle your words in the first paragraph drew me right into your classroom. I felt like I was sitting front row watching you teach, I could envision your students attentively listening and learning. I am excited to see how your classroom shifts and changes over the course of this semester with conferring and writers workshop. I see great achievements coming from room 409!


  4. You know I’m a Trekkie and so have to share one of my favorite Star Trek quotes: “Time is the fire in which we burn.” I don’t think you’ll find a single teacher who thinks there is enough time in the day to teach everything we think we need to teach. I must admit that I do not know enough about Daily Five to understand your comment, “Students would work through an independent writing station during Daily Five but this would not be a time for writing instruction or conferencing.” What are the students doing during this time? Are you working with another group? I had such a clear vision of what was going on in your classroom until I read this part.

    This is an example of why I like to visit other classrooms during my planning time. I firmly believe that the more I know about the whats and hows and whys of what the students are being taught in the lower grades, the better prepared I can be to meet my students where they are in their learning paths.


    1. Roxanne, during Daily Five the students are rotating through literacy stations or centers. One of the “stations” they visit is called “Work on Writing”. In this center students can choose what they want to work on in writing. They can make a book (become the author and illustrator), they can write a poem, (using scaffolds), write a story (using picture prompts if they choose), make a card, etc. There are supplies available of students to use: blank books, cards, pictures, word lists, story paper,etc. The only rules are that 1) you have to work the whole time, 2) you must produce or be working on a piece of writing, 3) you cannot disturb others in the classroom community.

      While the students are rotating through the centers, I am working with groups of students in guided reading. All of the students in the class come to work with me sometime everyday during Daily Five.

      I want to build in time for true writing instruction and conferencing. The writing we do in Guiding Reading is written comprehension responses, not narratives, opinions, etc.


  5. I love the importance you have placed on teaching your students how to communicate with each other. Your classroom sounds like a place where students respect each others thought and ideas. In today’s society especially, it is of the uttermost importance that we foster students abilities to collaborate in respectful ways. Teaching six year olds to ask questions and discuss others thoughts is more than a pre-writing technique it is a life skill that will be valued throughout each student’s life.


  6. I agree with our day being so structured! We don’t always have the time to do as much with writing in our classroom as we would like to do. Your description of your daily activities highlights that. It is so important that we make the most out of the time that we do have together to teach writing. Your idea of a mini lesson, independent writing time, and sharing time is the model that I have set up in my classroom, we just don’t always have time to do it each day. Sometimes, we have to skip “share” time which I think is so important. Children love to share what they have done and my goal is to make sure that I take the time to do it each day with my students.


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