Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Grade Writing

For as long as I have been studying education I have been baffled by teaching writing. For each grade level that I have taught I have wondered where to begin and what the students' writing should look like. I have tried several approaches and it has been the topic of most of my questions to fellow teachers. Still I felt like there were pieces missing and that although I was trying hard there were gaps. I have never taught Fourth grade so I have never felt the Florida Writes stress that so many educators and administrators are concerned with. However, knowing that one day my students would face this I want to make sure that they would do well by laying a solid writing foundation. This has been my concern and goal, but until this year I was just unsure of what to do.
This year my school is using a curriculum called CRAFTPLUS. I love it! CRAFTPLUS teaches target skills that will turn the students in to great writers and will allow them to be creatively free. The teacher's guide is so easy to read and understand. It does not make you jump from one page or book to another. All of the information is right there in a thin book (that is important when you have so much to do). The pacing guide is more like lesson plans laid out for you. In fact I don't even see a need in writing my own lesson plans because they do such a great job of laying it out. With this curriculum comes a pacing guide (lesson plans) for every day of the school year. WOW! Each week the focus changes and my favorite part is how well it scaffolds the information. After a three day weekend my students were able to tell me about everything we learned last week, even the ones who struggle to focus. Last week was all about verbs and this week they are learning about descriptive attributes. We had so much fun describing our Leo the Lion puppet. Isn't it a beautiful thing when students are jumping out of their seats wanting to contribute to the lesson?
Another reason I really like CRAFTPLUS is that the lessons cause the students to use higher order thinking. For example, last week they were writing sentences using verbs. I gave them pictures from a magazine and they had to write three sentences (I added a little bit to the lesson). Each sentence had to include a verb that matched the picture. Not every picture showed an big action, some verbs were as simple as smiling, or holding. Its easy to come up with running or kicking but they had to think deeper to come up with three verbs for one picture. The sentences were complete and orderly and they all had verbs. Even those students who are not yet strong in writing complete sentences did a great job. It was magical. This year I am loving my writing class!
Oh and by the way, the curriculum is complete but you can easily add your own teaching style and favorite writing activities. I love feeling like I know what I am doing and that I am doing it well. Watch out for those 4s, 5s, and 6s on our end of year writing assessment!

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