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Creating Strong Writers in the Primary Classroom

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What do writers write

Creating strong writers all starts with you as the facilitator. Explicitly modeling and thinking aloud day in and day out is essential to build upon your young writers skills. One way to start off strong is to discuss what Writers write. Each year I create an anchor chart with my kiddos to show them that Writers write anything they wish!

Here’s a super cute one from Cara at  The First Grade Parade.

I hang mine above our writing center for a quick reference in case they are in a writing slump and aren’t sure what kind of piece to start. I also bring in examples of thank you notes, emails, lists, letters etc. so they see authentic writing from our chart in the classroom.

Conferring grid

Another way to build strong writers within your classroom is to ensure that your teaching is purposeful and intentional. This is why I always, ALWAYS, always have my conferring grid handy.

There are so many variations to conferring grids out there. I suggest finding one that works best for you, so it’ll be beneficial for your students.

I have mine attached to a clipboard. It lasts me a week and I sit with each kid at least once. When the week is done, I store it in my Writers Workshop Monitoring Notebook so I can see the progression of my students throughout the year and have all of my data in one safe, easy to find spot!

The past two years I’ve had the SPED cluster, with a few Dyslexic kiddos, so tracking data becomes THAT much more essential. It can be hard to keep track of items needed for ARD’s, IEP’s, RTI meetings etc. if you don’t stay organized. (More on how I organize my readers and writers monitoring notebook in next weeks post.)

For your FREE copy of this editable conferring grid click HERE! 🙂

Small Moments Anchor Chart

We teach Lucy Calkin’s small moments (personal narratives) until the cows come home at my school. The writing portion of our State Standardized test as well as the SAT usually gives students a personal narrative prompt, so starting this writing style young is very beneficial for students!

Back to small moments – – Each year I find it essential to show my students how to narrow their writing topics down to one event that lasts for just a few short moments. Zooming in on tiny topics makes it easier for students to add details that are actually on topic. It also helps students stretch their moment out so they can write it down across several booklet pages (More about the importance of booklets later).

I use these anchor charts to introduce what a small moment is. This is a bundled set. It comes 1 per page or 2 a page if you want your students to add this to their writers notebooks. Get your bundle HERE so your students can reference it as needed.

Incorporating Reading During Writers Workshop

Ralph Tells a Story is my absolute favorite picture book to use when launching Writers Workshop and teaching small moments. I love how Ralph realizes that writers can write about ANYTHING that happens to them. I love how little things like writing partners are used in the book and that the students use booklets, not just single sheets of paper! I could go on and on about this story. If you don’t have a copy of this text yet, I strongly suggest you get it!
A Moment in Time is a story about a family and different moments in their daily life. This is another strong picture book that will introduce your students to what a solid small moment looks like.

How do you narrow your topic into a small moment?

It all begins by introducing a lesson on what a list is and teaching your students how to create lists in their Writer’s Notebooks. Guys, in my classroom, we create lists about everything… and so should you! Times you were hurt (these are my favvv because they bring out strong emotion), times you were surprised, happy times, times you were scared, times you were mad etc. These lists become vital in choosing pieces to write about when it’s time to begin a new story.

When the time comes, your students will go into their Writer’s Notebooks and choose one moment off their lists (unless they have a better one that comes to mind). All topics on your student’s lists are moments where something BIG has happened to them so they can stretch it out across their booklets. Now the writing begins!

The Writing Process

Every good fiction book follows a pattern, so it makes perfect since that every good writing piece would follow a specific pattern as well. I call this the writing process.

Step 1:

Think of a topic (choose from your list). If you’ve made it this far in the post, your students are already past step 1 and they’re ready for step 2.

Step 2:

Picture the story in your mind. Ask yourself “What happened? Then what? How did it end? Who was there? What did they say? Where were you at?” Make a movie in your mind so when the time comes, you’ll know exactly how you’ll want your story to go!

Step 3:

Touch and say your story across your pages. You should literally have your children do this. They need to become story tellers and hearing themselves tell their story is so helpful in this process. Then have them say it again across their fingers so they can get more familiar with the flow. Finally have them say it one last time to a partner, who will maybe catch a detail being left out!

Step 4:

Sketch your illustrations! That’s right. Before you write, your young authors must draw! So many people who’s students struggle to produce strong writing mention that they have their students write first and THEN sketch! But no no no, that’s completely backwards! Trust me!
Sketching first is so developmentally appropriate it’s not even funny. First off, it keeps your students on topic. Second, if they forget what they wanted to say (which they will) they can always check their strong sketches and see what they forgot. (Click HERE for a post on Drawing VS Sketching)

Step 5:

Write your words down. Who would have thought that the FIFTH step in the writing process is when you actually get to write? HA! Once your students learn this simple writing process, you can begin to cater your instruction around what you want them to include into their writing in order for it to be a strong piece.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy? Great! Now get going. Writers write. 🙂

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One Comment

  1. There is no link to your section about drawing vs. sketching. Any chance you have access to that resource to share still? Thanks!

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