Tag Archives: first grade

Primed for Summer Writing

Weirdly enough, this school year ended with 2 minimum days–on a Monday and Tuesday. With the class party dealt with on Friday, what do you plan for those last days of school with first graders?

Inspired by a post I saw on Two Writing Teachers, we began our last two days of school by creating a character–a puppet of sorts–to feature in our writing and to prime the pump for some possible summer writing.

Yesterday morning armed with cardstock, construction paper, scissors, glue, markers, and colored pencils we began creating our characters. Students knew I would make an egret. (They know I love egrets and often feature them in my writing) I demonstrated one way to put a character together…and also started talking through a story featuring the character that was brewing in my head. And then they were off…

As they crafted and created they were also having conversations about their characters. They talked about where the characters lived, their special features and coloring. All the perfect pre-writing you always wish for (and sometimes doesn’t happen). I love this time in the school year when students are comfortable and confident, allowing the creative juices to flow. Once completed, we left the character puppets to dry on the counter.

Today we began with our sketch pads, setting our characters in their places, giving them action and a problem to solve. And again, as students sketched and colored they also talked about their stories.

At this point students were eager to write. We talked about adding dialogue and thoughts, sound words, and setting. And on this very last day of first grade, these students wrote and wrote. They loved that they were filling the page (or more) with their writing. They were excited to read their stories out loud and they were willing to add even more details.

The added bonus is that they also created a list of other stories featuring this character that they may write in the next hours or days or weeks. They left with their notebooks and sketchbooks and their character in hand…and their brains primed and ready for some summer writing (I hope)! I leave the school year knowing that my students left on this last day of first grade as writers, knowing they can put their stories on the page for themselves and others to enjoy.

Would I have students write on the last day of school again…the answer is a resounding YES! It was a wonderful way to spend our last days together, immersed in this community of writers developed over the course of the school year. There were so many things that were hard about this year of teaching, which makes me even happier that these last two days were a joy…for me and for them. They and I left the school year wanting more…that wonderful bittersweet feeling of being happy and sad all at the same time.

Tulips and Poetry: SOL22 Day 29

As March comes to an end, National Poetry Month is right around the corner. To get a bit of a head start–especially since we begin our Spring Break next week–I decided we needed to immerse ourselves in some poetry this week.

Poetry is nothing new in our class. We study a poem each week and then illustrate it, creating an anthology of poems we’ve worked with during the school year. We’ve written some poems of our own here and there. But the time is right for a deeper dive.

Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer is a perfect book to get started. The first graders loved that the poem Daniel wrote was a compilation of the answers from all the animals that answered Daniel’s question, “What is poetry?” And it set the perfect stage for our own Poetry Is… brainstorm. After a start yesterday, we took this idea further today, stretching out ideas and embellishing them with vivid description. Here’s a few examples:

  • Poetry is a glass of warm hot chocolate on a cold, snowy winter day.
  • Poetry is a grasshopper jumping and hopping and bouncing all around the fields.
  • Poetry is a coconut with the flavor inside and the outside is so hard and thick like a layer of armor.
  • Poetry is a slippery fish, as beautiful as a butterfly.
  • Poetry is the sound of my dad snoring.

And somehow, in my mind, poetry and flowers are a perfect pairing. I had purchased some tulips and daffodils from Trader Joes over the weekend, knowing I wanted students to have a close up look at these symbols of spring (that are not commonly found growing around here). Yesterday students used a black oil pastel on watercolor paper to do a directed drawing of tulips in a vase. Today, we used liquid watercolor to create vibrant paintings of these beautiful spring flowers. The results are stunning!

Watercolor paintings drying on the classroom floor.

I plan to matte them along with the “Poetry Is…” writing. And I think I may have each student contribute one line to create a class Poetry Is poem for a poster to hang on our door! After all, National Poetry Month is right around the corner!

Word-le-ing Around

Like so many others on social media (at least my feeds), I have been participating in the Wordle craze. I like that I can only play once a day, that it is limited to 6 guesses, that the words are all 5 letters long and that the whole world is playing this one word each day. There is something about limitations that funnels my focus, and while my first guesses often seem fruitless, somehow I usually pull it out by guess 4 or 5.

The first graders in my classroom have been playing a math game called digit place. In this game, I think of a 2-digit number and students make guesses to determine what it is. With each guess I indicate whether there are correct digits and whether they are in the correct place. For example, if my number is 12 and students guess the number 27 I would put a 1 in the digit column to represent a correct digit (the 2) and a 0 in the place column to show that it is not in the correct place. Subsequent guesses narrow down the possibilities leading students to a correct response. At first there were lots of random guesses, but the class is becoming strategic and quite successful. (I’ve had third graders who played this game with much less strategy and success!).

We’ve been focusing on 4-letter words ending with a silent e in the last week, building word ladders and noticing how this e causes the other vowel to be a long vowel. Students are building their skills and getting better at changing just a single letter to make another word that fits the rules of this ladder. Today, I found myself thinking about Wordle, digit place, and word ladders…and decided to try my own version of Wordle–first grade style.

So…I introduced this new game to my students. I drew 4 lines to represent the 4 letters in the word I was thinking of. I grabbed a black, blue, and green white-board marker announcing that letters in black were not in the word, blue meant the letter was correct but in the wrong place, and green meant the letter was correct and in the right place. I wasn’t sure how this game would work out–or if it would even make sense to my students. But…it was great! Students loved this process–and caught right on. I could hear them telling each other whether a guess was a good one (“…we already know there is not an “s” or “h” in the word…) and the game definitely caught their attention. We played several rounds today…and I remembered to take a photo of the last one.

My social media involvement was put to good use in the classroom today. I love having a new engaging, educational, and no prep game in my back pocket for those few minutes that need filling from time to time. Wordle for first graders–and we don’t even need the internet!

First Days of First Grade

It’s still August, we’re deep into summer and yet school started on Tuesday. Now my days are filled with first graders. I love their unfiltered questions, their earnest effort, and unbridled joy. After a few years of not teaching these young ones, it’s refreshing to be reminded that these learners are eager to make things, to say things, and to play, play, play!

Tuesday was loooooooong. That first day back after summer’s break requires stamina that has dimmed since June. And on the first day of school in first grade, teachers are busy! Just remembering my new schedule took a crazy amount of effort!

But there was also lots of room for fun (which also doubled as formative assessment for me). I braved the paint (on day one!) and students watercolored their self portraits. Collaborative tower building revealed gaps between students who already knew how to work smoothly with others and those who clearly wanted all the control of the build. For some groups, collaboration meant building separately and then looking for ways to combine the small builds into something larger.

Waterlogue 1.4.5 (128) Preset Style = Bold Lightness = Auto-Exposure Size = Large Border = No Border

One of my favorite activities was inspired by author and artist Debbie Ohi. She has a series of illustrations created emerging from broken crayons. As part of our morning message yesterday, I asked each student what they could imagine coming out of a broken crayon. I heard about dragons, strawberries, flamingos and more.

We studied Valerie Worth’s poem, Crayons, noticing her use of the words grubby and stubs. We talked about how crayons work even if they are broken. And each student drew an illustration to accompany the poem.

But the true magic happened when each student selected a crayon, broke it, and created an image emerging from the broken crayon. After drawing, each 6-year old carefully glued their crayon pieces to their creation and carried their art over to a counter to dry. Then it was time to write.

I led with the assumption that they could all write. I reminded them that if they weren’t sure how to spell a word, they should write the sounds they hear when they say it. And they were off. I asked for a sentence about their crayon art. Some stayed safe, writing a simple sentence like, I made a cat. Others included more elaboration and showed confidence as writers. But all successfully used their imaginations and created something wonderful.

After school ended, I typed up their sentences and created a display for parents to browse when they come to school for Back to School Night next week. I hope they enjoy their children’s early first grade work as much as I do!