When things go wrong, go to plan B

I had high hopes of launching writer’s workshop in my first-grade classroom this semester, but I am now on to plan B. Someone told me I was a real teacher working with real kids and I might need to just take one small step instead of one giant leap. I took my small step this week by having writing conferences with some of my students. I will share one interaction that took place.

Pete chose to write about his favorite thing about winter using a writing prompt sheet I downloaded for free at http://www.thisreadingmama.com. I know! Writing prompts are a big no-no in writer’s workshop, but I just put it there in case they needed it. When he came over to me, I noticed the only period he had was at the very end, so we worked on conventions. I had him to point and reread what he wrote. I asked him to listen and stop his finger where he thought a period might need to be. His finger just kept on going until he got to the end of his writing. So I pointed and read stopping at appropriate places. We had a discussion about the need for a period at the end of a thought and he added the periods (total of 3) to his writing.

I then noticed he had left out a comma and quotation marks when he spoke in the writing. I had him go get his book box. I selected one that had dialogue and asked him if he had ever noticed when someone spoke in the book, there was a comma after said followed by quotation marks. He told me he had noticed them, but forgot what they were for. Pete added the comma and quotation marks to his writing. The comma may have been a stretch to teach to a first-grader, but I felt he definitely needed to know about quotation marks.

I also noticed that he did not capitalize the first letter of his snowman’s name. He smiled and told me he just forgot. After he fixed that, his writing was perfect. He wrote the entire piece by himself spelling every word after the prompt correctly. As you can see in the picture, he is a perfectionist.  I taught Pete last year in kindergarten. I know I taught him how to use a period and capitalize names. I wonder since I am not present during their writing time, if this is a side effect. I dare say it is. 

Although I did not have to correct any spelling mistakes, I wonder how other teachers feel about correcting spelling on their students’ finished writing. Is writing the correct spelling above or below the misspelled word a good thing or a bad thing?




EVERYONE Has a Story to Share


Within my individualized reading plan, I am reading, Talking, Drawing, Writing Lessons for our Youngest Writers by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe. I have been reading about how to get children ready to write by using stories. Using stories encourages children to feel that their own thoughts are important and they can actually own their stories. As well as the fact that everyone has their own words to share. Some children may be reluctant to share; but with modeling and positive and safe communication, with each other, detailed stories can emerge. We all have stories and so we should learn to share them.

Being quite far in the year, I know that most of of students are already writing a sentence on their own. They may still need support with spelling, reminders of spacing and are writing simple structured 3-6 word sentences. Ex: I see the blue cat. or Six hens hop. They complete most of their writing in a journal, at the writing center and on sentence strips during guided reading. I want to encourage them that they can write more and do not have to be perfect to write. I want them to just share their thoughts on paper with a picture and words. I plan on giving my students an additional drawing and writing journal for creating and crafting written stories based on their oral stories. Writing individual stories and class stories is a goal of mine for teaching writing.

With all of this in mind I wanted to read some stories that my students are familiar with that could lead to them practicing the skill of retelling. So I decided to use different versions of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, ending with Jan Brett’s version, since we love her. I began last Friday and finished up reading the different versions of Goldilocks on Wednesday. The versions we read are listed below:


I also used a version from a LaidLaw basal reader titled, The Three Bears.

After each story we practiced retelling and as we read another we practiced comparing them to each other. It created some great conversations and the actions on the bears and Goldilocks and what they would have done in similar situations. I also had many stories shared of students not listening to their parents, walking in the woods, dressing for winter weather and eating soup. These stories were what I was hoping for. I shared a story each day to add another layer of storytelling, that was not related to the Goldilocks books.

On the last day I shared a story about being read to by my mother. I shared that I can still picture her reading a book to me. It was Pinocchio and it was an old copy that she was reading.  I shared that I can still see the pictures from the  big Golden book she read. I talked about how the pages wore torn and bend and I didn’t care, just because my mom was reading it.




This of course led into them wanting to tell me about the books that they like to be read to with at home. I let them know that we would be sharing stories and working on writing them down, like we are a author like Jan Brett or Joy Cowley (we love her too).

I began to talk to a couple of students yesterday about a story that they would like to write about as their first story in their new drawing and writing journal. I made some notes, so that I can remember what they (informally) conferenced with me about. I tried to retell back to students as they orally told me about stories from home. I tried to help them keep the story in order. I only made it through three students. I was not able to get to any story telling today. On Monday, with these three students I will begin modeling how to create detailed information for one part of their personal story, based on their retelling. I will model this with a story of my own in my own drawing and writing journal.