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?




Sharing Writing -The First Grade Way!

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Most people will agree that writing is meant to be heard and shared.  Sharing motivates and drives my young writers to do their best.   I like to have a set writing and sharing time in first grade but this year our schedule does not allow for much whole group writing instruction.  I have to carve out little bits of time each day.  Our sharing time is usually after or during snack.  I am teaching my students what good writers do and what good listeners do.  It is just as important to be a good listener as it is to be a good writer.  I give my students feedback after they share a piece of writing and I model for the students how they could give their classmates feedback.

We have practiced making “I noticed statements”.  A child might say, “I noticed that you used the word magenta instead of just pink.” A child might also say what they “liked” about a classmates writing.  Someone might say, “I really like your drawing of the zoo and I like how you described the zebras.” But the most helpful comments that I have taught my students to make are “I wonder comments”.  A student might say, “I wonder what the characters are going to do now.”  Many first graders do not add details to their writing and their classmates many times will ask questions about the writing that will spark the author to add more detail.  Of course, first graders don’t always use the words “I wonder” or “I notice”.  They may instead say, “I have a question about your story”.
Or they might say, “I think it would be great if you told us what happened next or tell us what the character looks like.”  This kind of dialogue encourages editing and revision.


As a teacher, my goal is to become skilled at guiding my students to produce quality writing while still valuing every piece a child does no matter what writing stage they might be in.  This is tough because the children in my class are developing as writers at different speeds just as children are developing as a reader at different rates.  I think if we are not careful we send the message to kids that their writing is not good enough or not as good as someone else.  I am researching how other writing educator’s conference with children.  I want to continue to give quality feedback to students and to model how they can cheer each other on to better writing.

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Some of my writers are writing two or three sentences about a topic and some of my writers are writing a whole page.


If I was a super hero I would Save the World!!!

…..and some of my writers are just drawing pictures with a caption or one sentence.

I love first grade!



Susan Davis’ K-1 Writers

My classroom is made up of 15 funny, sweet, and energetic students!  I have 9 First graders and 6 Kindergarteners.  For the first time in my teaching career I have more girls than boys.  This year I have 11 girls in my class and only 4 boys!  My classroom is a mix of ages, abilities, and backgrounds.  I have 6 Hispanic students in my classroom, all of which speak English, but it can be hard at times to communicate with families as I am not fluent in Spanish at all!

This year, more than ever, my students have been motivated to write.  They are not all writing a lot right now, and sometimes I have trouble reading it, but they are all trying.  I have never really looked at myself as a writer, but I took a class last semester at ASU that helped me to see myself more as a writer.  Through this class, I was required to do a lot of writing and to involve my students in lesson plans that involved getting them to write more.  I told my students that I was in school and learning how to be a better writer, I even showed them my writing notebook.  I believe that letting students know that I write daily, and that I too am going to school to learn how to write better encouraged them to try harder.  They thought that it is amazing that I’m in school too!  Through classes at ASU, I have also been reminded of just how important it is to model writing each day.  Some days we, as teachers, are pressed to get everything in and can skip this very important step.

I teach writing by modeling whole group, explaining my reasoning, and allowing students to have input.  Students then work independently as my assistant and I roam around the room and check in on them.  Writing is also doing in my small reading groups.  I have students write about the books that we are reading.  First graders practice writing prompts, and Kindergarten students write about their favorite part of the book, what happened in the book, etc.  We also have Daily 5 each day.  During Daily 5, students have a chance to write about anything they would like.  Some students take this time to write stories, letters to friends, make a card, anything their little minds can imagine.

This semester, I want to be able to continue encouraging my students to view writing as fun and to see themselves as writers.  I want them to learn that they are a writer, no matter the level that they are writing at.  I also want to know more about writers workshops.  When I was student teaching, I used writers workshop but was learning as I went.  I liked using it and want to know more.  I want to use the suggestions in our reading to encourage and support my students with their writing.  I will use the readings to help me set my classroom up as a positive environment that promotes writing!