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How to Get Your First Graders Writing

written by: Krima Olive Molina • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 2/8/2012

Getting first graders to write about their favorite topics is usually an easy task for the teacher. However, what's more challenging is how to teach revising, editing, and writing these first grade outputs. Here are activities you can do with your students during writing sessions.

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    "My Special Tools"

    During your mini-lesson on revising and editing, gather everyone on the reading rug and present to them, through a cartolina chart, a sample passage that you wrote. Then, tell the students that you need their help--they are to suggest more interesting words that you may want to add in your passage.

    If they have a suggestion, they should raise their hand and approach you. They will then be given the adding tool made of cut-out cardboard. They are to insert this symbol where they want to add a word, after which they will then write the word/s that they want to contribute. Affirm each student as they make use of this symbol, and ensure that almost everyone is called up front.

    Do the same procedure for deleting words that they feel are not important in the passage. Make them use the deleting tool in accomplishing this task.

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    Pair Conference

    Tell your students how important it is for a classmate of theirs to read their work and make suggestions on how to make their work better. Give your first graders the opportunity to conference by pairing them up, assigning who is Partner A and B in each pair, and giving them a set of "Walkie-Talkie" stringed plastic cups. Organize their arrangement such that all A's are lined against one wall and all B's are lined against the opposite wall. Then, they are to set up their stringed plastic cups which will act as Walkie-Talkies. First, Partner A will whisper to their Walkie-Talkie the passage that s/he wrote. Partner B listens, and when A is done, Partner B will whisper on his/her Walkie-Talkie (1) his/her favorite part of the passage and (2) his suggestion on what words to add to his passage. They will switch roles after ten minutes.

    The purpose of letting students read aloud and listen to passages are:

    1. Comprehension using listening is much more developed than comprehension by reading.

    2. Sight decoding is enhanced in reading aloud.

    3. Listening to a passage is more effective for students to identify word choice and fluency (even though at their stage, these two concepts may just translate to "Maybe you want to use the word ______. It sounds more cool.")

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    Author's Chair

    Another way of conferencing is the Peer Conference via the Author's Chair. While the Author's Chair is used more to showcase works of students, you can also use this opportunity for the students to give praise to and suggest more revisions for the writer so that his/her writing would improve.

    Gather everyone to the reading corner and call on a volunteer to sit in the Author's Chair. After s/he reads his/her work, the teacher will model how to give feedback by telling the author what s/he liked most about the passage and what she suggests on making the passage better. Before the activity, make sure that you review to the class the write way to phrase a suggestion: It would be better if ______________________ rather than I don't like the part where _____________________. After your turn, call on your students to also give their feedback to the author currently on the Author's Chair.

    After the Pair Conference and the Author's Chair, you can then give time for students to improve on their work based on others' suggestions. Remind them to use the adding and deleting symbols in their revising and editing activities.

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    Revising, editing and writing in first grade is more meaningful for students when they see how their work impacts their classmates. They get to feel that writing is also a community effort and that they need each other in order to improve as writers.