We have been working on personal narratives for what seems like ***f..o..r...e...v...e...r*** in first grade. We use personal narrative to teach a whole host of writing lessons because personal narratives are familiar to first graders and first graders LOVE to talk about themselves! This week, in light of fall weather, pumpkin spice lattes, and leaves changing, my personal narrative mentor text was about a special trip to the pumpkin patch that I took when I was 6, aka a first grader. My students love hearing stories about when I was in first grade because I just don't think they believe sometimes that their teacher was their age once too! Anyway, I used my own writing as our mentor text all week. Each day we "grew" my writing. Over the course of the week I taught 5 different lessons, and my students helped write, rewrite, add, take away, and grow my writing. I love how we learned from each other and how I could see our writing together transfer to their own writing.
Monday-A Complete Sentence
On Monday, I started writing my Pumpkin Patch story from my plan. My students have seen me write from my plan a million times, so the focus on the lesson needed to be something new and exciting. I have noticed through writing conferences that my students are struggling with knowing what makes a complete sentence, a pretty tough task for first graders. I decided that this could be our focus today: a complete sentence has a somebody doing something. I know that complete sentences can have more, but this was a great, simple place to start. As I was writing my story, we would stop after every sentence and check for a somebody and a something. Three sentences in, I decided that I wanted to intentionally write an incomplete sentence so that my students could correct the sentence. They immediately knew I didn't have a somebody and added the we written in red. I stopped our lesson here for the day and charged them with the task of rereading their writing for somebody and something in every sentence. This was also our share out focus at the end of writing.
Tuesday- Using Our Spelling Strategies
One of the hardest parts of first grade writing is that students get bogged down with spelling. They are still learning important phonics patterns, vowel/consonant relationships, and even many sight words. Every week I try to model how to use my spelling resources to help me as a writer. My goal is for my students to be able to problem solve independently, do their best work with the strategies they do have, and not be slowed down in their writing by spelling. We started the lesson by rereading our writing yesterday. I think explained to my students the I needed to finish my work and started to write "We go to the". I then stopped and asked them to help me stretch out pumpkin patch. As we worked together to hear the sounds, my students easily identifies pump. Next, we have been learning about the ck blend and we could hear the /k/ in pumpkin. They decided that the /k/ could be a ck, so I ran with it and completed the word with in- pumpckin. Then we worked on patch. They were able to hear all of the letters in patch except for the t- pach. We underlined the words to remember for later, and their task of the day was to remember to stretch out words and try to hear all the sounds.
Wednesday-Being More Specific
By Wednesday we had completed my writing. We decided to reread it together. Then I challenged my students to decide if there was anything they were wondering, questions they had, or things that I just was not very specific about. They brainstormed with a partner and decided that I could add more details, more sentences, and found placed where some things just didn't make sense. As we started to add to our very first sentence "When I was 6 my grandpa went on our field trip to the pumpckin pact" we realized that I needed more space to add complete sentences, so we got out scissors and glue and began to cut apart and glue together our writing. My students at first were shocked that I would "destroy" my writing. However, by the end they were pleased with how much we improved our writing by adding details. Our lesson ended with one students asking, "can we do this?" Lucky for him, that was their task for the day.
First graders love transition words, and they love using them in counting order- first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth... For our lesson on Thursday, I wanted to introduce to my students to other transition words they could use in their writing. To start, we read "If You Give A Cat a Cupcake" and listened for the transition words. We made list as we went, and then added to the list some of our own ideas. I intentionally left fourth, fifth, and sixth off. After creating our list, we went back into my writing and decided where I could use transition words. We concluded that I needed a transition word when whatever was happening changed. For example, after talking about going on a field trip, I described the lunch I packed for my grandpa, I needed a transition word here. When we got down to the end, my students were very tempted to use third, but I explained that as a writer, I liked the word finally here. Their challenge for the day was to add transition words to their writing and to go back and try to add words to previous writing.
Friday- Cleaning it All Up
Friday was our day to "clean up" our writing. We checked our writing for capitals and periods. We have the kids mark the capitals and periods in their writing using a red light/green light systems. Periods help us stop and are marked red. Capitals tell us to go and are marked green. After every red light, you have a green light. We also checked back into our student dictionary to verify the spelling of pumpkin. During this time, I also reminded the students that "ck" for /k/ was a great guess, but we have also since learned that "ck" is only at the end of words. Their goal was to clean up their writing and be ready to share in small groups.
I am throughly pleased with all the mileage we got out of one piece of writing. I love how my students were engaged everyday in a new way to tweak and improve their own writing by writing along side me. Moving ahead, we are almost done with this piece. We have one last lesson on creating a quality illustration to match our writing.