— soapbox superstar/Flickr
— soapbox superstar/Flickr
By GreatSchools Staff
First graders should have the opportunity to write every day. Young writers divvy up their time in class, writing alone, in small groups, and with the class as a whole. They often learn by working on creative projects and by writing short stories, letters, poems, and songs.
Students should learn the reasons why people write, which include sharing facts, making arguments, and telling stories. Teachers sometimes use hands-on activities to demonstrate the various types of writing. For example, students might try their hand at creating a pattern book with repeated words and phrases, modeling their work on a book they’ve read in class. (A good example of a pattern book is Laura Joffe Numeroff’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.) Finally, as a lesson in nonfiction, teachers might ask a student to write about their experiences on a recent field trip.
First graders should keep a journal, making entries several times a week, since journal writing helps children build writing skills and develop ideas for stories. Journals also encourage inspiration, so kids should be allowed to write about anything that interests them.
Nicola Salvatico, a former national Teacher of the Year, stresses the effectiveness of journals: “Journal writing allows children to take risks where they don’t need to worry about spelling [or] punctuation.” Students can become better writers by making connections between what they write and their daily lives, focusing on the things they find most interesting.
Students should learn about the mechanics of writing, which means spelling and punctuation, and teachers will focus on writing techniques and strategies, like how to use descriptive words and correct punctuation. Kids should learn how to write using the following steps:
These steps often help kids organize their thoughts. Beyond reading widely at home, by discussing their ideas with partners during the prewriting stage, students can improve their focus, hone the content and details in their stories, and begin to understand the writing process as a whole.
As Salvatico explains (emphatically), “By taking ownership of their topics, the student’s voice begins to emerge, and writing for the reader becomes the focus. Authors are born!”
For reference, take a look at these examples of first graders’ writing from Federal Way Public Schools in Washington State.
Over the course of the year, students should gain increasing control of their penmanship. Teachers should help students to hold their pencils, form proper strokes, and write upper- and lowercase letters. Many first graders will use handwriting workbooks to practice writing.
As in kindergarten, first graders often write words the way they sound, using what’s known as invented or inventive spelling. For example, students might spell the word have by writing “hav.” When children use invented spelling, they’re demonstrating their knowledge of the sounds letters make, and research shows that letting children use invented spelling allows them to focus on communication. Later, as they learn the rules of spelling, they’ll begin to make the transition to conventional spelling.
Typically, first graders take home weekly spelling lists they’ll be tested on. Many times these lists include word families or groups of words with common features or patterns — for example, at, cat, hat, and fat are a family of words that share the at sound and letter combination. Students can start to learn new words by reading stories that highlight them.
By the end of first grade, kids should be able to spell:
Over the course of the year, students should gain more and more control over their penmanship. Teachers should help students to hold their pencils, form proper strokes, and write upper- and lowercase letters. And many first graders use handwriting workbooks to practice writing.
Updated May 2010