This week I taught a few lessons about writing to my students. I have been observing the students and taking anecdotal notes on their writing and I noticed that when we write about reading, some studies tend to copy word for word from the text. I believe that the students copied from the text because they feared being “wrong” if they wrote their own words. So this week, my collaborating teacher and I focused on modeling good writing to the students and explicitly showing and telling them to write their own words and not copy from the text.
I led two lessons about writing: one in which the students helped me find the main idea of two texts and then we wrote sentences about the text and another in which we discussed the concept for “free writing” and how that should look. I believe that these lessons are important to teach because the students need to be able to put their thoughts onto paper without copying from the text. By writing their own words on the paper, I can see if the students truly understand a concept based on how they answered a question or wrote about what they read. This lesson is also important because first and second grade has a big focus on writing as the students learn to read at higher DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) and Lexile levels.
For my first lesson, I performed a read aloud of an article that we have been focusing on from the Journey’s text. This article is called What is a Pal,? which is written and photographed by Nina Crews. (This article can be found on page 15 in the link above and continues on until page 24). I read the story out loud as the students followed along while reading silently in their heads. When I finished the read aloud, I modeled how I would write about the text.
These are pages 18 and 19 from the article What is a Pal?.
I made a drawing of the page and wrote two sentences about the pages. One sentence was word for word from the text and the other was my own summary about the content in the pages. I had the students decide which sentence was a better version of writing about reading. I made sure to emphasize that when we write about what we have read that we need to use the words we came up with inside our brains, not the words already on the page.
I also modeled labeling my pictures for the students. I emphasized labeling pictures because they add details that help the reader understand what is going on in the picture. By adding the names, the reader can see who each person is because otherwise the reader would have no idea what the picture is about or if it related to the sentence below.
Then I had the students help me label a drawing to show the importance of adding details to your writing and picture.
When I first started, the picture was just of two figures who had a jump rope and basketball. I asked the student who the one figure was and they could not tell me. Then I wrote in that she was a girl and I asked them what her name was and they still could not answer. I told them that without the labels/details, a reader does not understand what you have shown him or her. So I continued to add details to the picture to help the students understand what was going on. I added a picture of a bicycle and then asked the students where I should put the label. At first I wrote it in the bottom left corner and asked them if this was correct. I emphasized that labels must be written right next to a picture and that drawing an arrow or making a connecting line from the label to the picture helps the reader understand what the drawing represents.
After I finished my drawing, I wrote a sentence about the picture and showed the students how my labels helped me write the sentence. I wrote “Pat and Ron are pals that are playing basketball, jump rope and riding a bike.” I circled all of the labels from my picture and showed them that 7 of my words came from the picture. By making this connection between the picture, labels, and sentences, I showed my students how they should structure their writing.
After I did this activity, I read Chuck’s Truck by Peggy Perry Anderson. During this read aloud, I stopped and performed a few think alouds to show the students how to make connections and think about what they have read. When I finished, I modeled writing about the reading and had the students help me label the picture.
I drew the picture quickly to model that the students should make a “quick pic(ture)” to match their writing so they do not waste time. Then I had the students help me label the picture. I tried to draw the chicken and duck to look very similar to each other because I wanted the students to have to guess which was which. The students disagreed about which was which; one told me that based on the way I drew the feet that the duck was on the right and chicken was on the left. I did this because I wanted to have my students experience the confusion of looking at an unlabeled picture so they can understand the importance of labeling their pictures. I think that this really helped the students see that the drawings were so similar that it was very hard to see the differences and tell what they were. Although it might not seem to matter in my picture, it can be difficult to sometimes read what a student has written or drawn so the labels really help the teacher/reader understand. Labeling also helps students practice their writing as well as indirectly teach them about making a diagram, which they will see when they study informational texts.
I wrote a sentence to match my drawing to yet again model how to write about reading to the students. I circled the labels that were in my sentence again to further emphasize how a picture not only helps the reader understand, but helps the writer figure out his or her thoughts. I had the students help me write the sentence based on the main idea of the story so we could work on that skill as well.
This lesson plan helped me connect to the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAPs) through FEAP 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level of rigor.” The standards that match this lesson are:
- 1.RI.1.2 “Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.” LAFS.1.RL.1.2 “Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.”
- 1.RL.1.3 “Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.”
- 1.SL.2.5 “Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.”
I accomplished these standards by modeling writing about the main idea of the story Chuck’s Truck by writing the main idea and events of the story and drawing a picture with the main characters that was properly labeled to foster understanding. I was able to accomplish FEAP 2E: “Models clear, acceptable oral and written communication skills” by modeling the writing for my students. By modeling of writing about reading using two texts—one informational article and one story—I was able to accomplish FEAP 3B: “Deepen and enrich students’ understanding through content area literacy strategies, verbalization of thought, and application of the subject matter.” In order to know that this lesson was necessary to teach the students, I had to perform FEAP 3C “Identify gaps in students’ subject matter knowledge” because I determined that the students needed help when writing about reading, which I was able to provide through my modeling.
A few days later, I taught another lesson in which I modeled writing to the students. I taught the students about “free writing.” “Free writing” is a student friendly term for writing a small paragraph/story any idea of concept that he or she desires. I showed the students that they can free write about any concept and then I modeled free writing for them so they would understand how to do so in the future. I did this after the lesson mentioned about because I wanted the students to learn how to write using their own words first so this concept would be easier for them to do. By doing this, I was able to accomplish FEAP 1B: “Sequences lessons and concepts to ensure coherence and required prior knowledge.”
When I introduced the idea of free writing to the students, we worked together to create and anchor chart of ideas that they can write about. I wanted my students to learn that they can write about anything because I want my students to be interested in and passionate about writing because I know that when a student is interested, he or she is more likely to be engaged and produce better quality work.
I had the students generate ideas and they I did my best to group ideas based on common themes. For example, the students mentioned movies like “The Lego Movie” and “Frozen” so instead of writing all of the movies down, I simply wrote “movies.” I tried to make sure that all of the ideas were relevant to the students so I had them come up with as many ideas as possible and I only included a few of my own ideas. I also wanted to make sure that the ideas that I wrote down were things that they either have done or could have done easily. For example, one student mentioned going to Disney World. I know that this is a fun place and that young children love that theme park but since some of my students may not have experienced this, I decided to write down the broad term “Disney” which can include television shows, movies, toys, etc. that would be more relevant to the students. By creating this anchor chart, I met FEAP 3E: “Relate and integrate the subject matter with other disciplines and life experiences.”
After we made that anchor chart, I modeled how I would free write to the students. I decided to use the idea of going to the “pool” and “swimming.” (Please note that the names used in the pictures are not the names of any students in my classroom, they are names of people that I know in my personal life. By not including any other information about them, I am still protecting their privacy and rights.)
I showed the students how my writing constantly matched my drawing and that all of my sentences made sense in that order. I again showed them that labeling the people in the picture was important because although they were correct that the girl in the middle is me, without a label, they could not be sure. I also added in the “pool noodle” to my drawing to show students that you can go back and add more detail to your drawing and story.
This lesson allowed me to meet FEAP 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level of rigor.” The standard that matched this lesson is LAFS.1.SL.2.5 “Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.”
It is important that students understand how to put their own words down onto paper. I modeled two different writing activities—writing about reading and free writing—to show students how they can put their own words onto paper. I taught these lessons because I noticed that some students copied from the text instead of writing with their own words. I will assess this lesson with my collaborating teacher as we read their future writings and take anecdotal notes about what we observe during writing.
- Baumann, J. F., Chard , D. J., Cooks, J., Cooper, J. D., Gersten, R., Lipson, M., Rivera, M., & Templeton, S. (2011). Journeys. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved from https://www-k6.thinkcentral.com/content/hsp/reading/journeys/na/gr1/ese_9780547360287_/volume1/launch.html
- Florida educator accomplished practices. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.stjohns.k12.fl.us/depts/staff/Florida Educator Accomplished Practices.pdf