Children in first grade love to write!
This was my discovery last week when nearly the entire class chose to work on writing (among other choices of reading, listening to reading, or working with words out of clay and other fun materials).
Thus far my experiences with first grade writing could be described as: hesitant, uncertain, worried, and ill equipped. (And those are my emotions – so I have to wonder how the children are feeling!)
So what’s changed? How do feelings of uneasiness change into confidence and excitement? Three things: Choice, guidance, and environment. The morning literacy time in our room provides children with choice for when and how they read and write. Certainly, writing and reading must happen every morning, but each child chooses when during the morning he/she writes. They also have choice into how and what they’re writing. Beginning writers are writing with pictures and fewer sentences. More experiences writers are writing with paragraphs and fewer pictures. The element of choice allows for all writing capabilities in the classroom.
A few weeks ago, one child was particularly taken with an early reader book, The Three Pigs. It’s a pattern book, and very appropriate for this emergent reader. The way that he was reading it intrigued me. “‘Let me in,’ said the pig. ‘No,’ said the wolf. The wolf ran down the road.” He was having a wonderful time playing with the text by swapping the role of the big bad wolf with the three pigs; now there were three wolves and a big bad pig! As I listened to him play with this reading, I had an idea: “Why don’t you write a new version of this story by you?” I guided. He loved the idea, and immediately set to work!
Instead of writing in his writer’s notebook, I folded and stapled two sheets of blank paper into a mini book. On a couple of sticky notes we drew a quick story map to help him keep track of his progress over many days. This is the flexible environment that we created: allowing writing to occur in many forms on a variety of media.
This young writer soon asked to share some of his beginning work. I was delighted! He shared how he had read The Three Pigs, the story map that we created together, and the first page of his new story. After that, it wasn’t long until many more versions if this story became the writing topics of the other writers in the classroom. Some made mini books by folding and stapling paper. Some wrote about other stories. Some made their own story maps. And some didn’t write stories, but are writing book reviews that tell about their favourite parts of books they’ve read.
I can’t wait to see how their writing evolves in the weeks ahead!