Writing in kindergarten and first grade is often the stepchild of the three subject areas: reading, writing and math. So you could call writing the Cinderella subject. And here’s why. Most of the instructional time and money is spent on reading and math, and sometimes hardly any at all on writing. Writing gets the leftovers. BUT … for kindergartners and first graders to be confident and successful writers, they need to write daily. So we’re going to talk about some writing activities for kindergarten and first grade that allows your kindergartners or first graders to draw, color and then write about their drawing.
I did some, what I call, “home learning” with my grandson during the pandemic. He’s in kindergarten and his school provided some distance learning and some printables, but there was no writing components. So I created these kindergarten and first grade writing activities using the writing method that I used at school with my students.
Many students, and teachers, are reluctant to write because they think they can’t. And honestly, it’s not my favorite part of teaching, but I know it’s important and I love to see the growth that students make after they’ve been writing daily. And if you do it correctly, and stick with it daily, you will have some reluctant writers become students who love to write!
Getting that reluctant, or early writer, to become the lover of writing is going to take two things: scaffolding and encouragement.
Scaffolding is merely building on what you’ve already learned. Here, we’re talking about writing skills, and you can best do this through modeling. I’ll talk about modeling and show examples later.
Encouraging your students to write ALL THE TIME using all the resources that they have on hand (environmental print, Word Walls, etc.) and encouraging their efforts once they do write is imperative. You have to encourage all their efforts and gently challenge them to strive for even more success. The more you love their writing, the more they’ll love their writing and the more effort they’ll put into it.
My grandson, Gunner, was not a reluctant writer, but writing wasn’t something he was happy about doing either. Gunner’s like most students, he wants to please you and not disappoint, so he’s going to try his best to do what you ask of him. So as a teacher, you just need to provide the scaffolding and the encouragement and watch them bloom!
I created the Kindergarten and First Grade Writing Activities with two versions of writing lines … wide lines for kindergarten and narrow for first grade. However, I know from watching Gunner write, he has very good penmanship and well developed fine motor skills. He can easily write on the narrow lined paper, so I chose to use that with him even though he’s in kindergarten.
After deciding which size lines needed, the next thing we did was go over the words in the box. These are words that might possibly be used in writing a story about the picture. I read the words to him and if needed, we discussed what the word meant. Then we read the words together. Then he read the words to me. The reading level of these words is beyond kindergarten or first grade level, so the student only needs to know them well enough to remember them in case they want to use them in their writing. Asking for help in reading them is encouraged or you might put reading aids up in your classroom. For example, write the words on your board and draw simple pictures beside them if possible as reminders. *Gunner did very well remembering the words with very little assistance.
Then you talk about the picture together. What’s going on in the picture? What could be added? You keep asking questions until the student has enough information to be able to draw some additional items completing the picture. It might be just something as simple as adding in some background, but it gives the student more ownership of the drawing. And the more they’re invested in the drawing, the more they’ll be willing to write about it.
Once they’re finished drawing, then they color.
Now is the time for modeling … where you’re going to starting building or scaffolding those writing skills. You can have your students flip their papers over so they’re not tempted to write on them or put their pencils away, because during this time they will not be writing on their paper. You will be writing on the board (modeling).
Ahead of time you will need to plan a 1-4 sentence “story” about the picture to have in mind as a back up plan. One sentence for beginning writers and four or more sentences for more advanced writers. You’ll need to decide where your student(s) need to begin. Some students may need only one sentence where others might need four. This would be a great time to break your students up into groups or centers, but it’s not necessary. Just remember to encourage your students where they are and if they’re putting forth their best efforts. One sentence can be awesome!
When modeling you will ask students for input, but you will need a back up “story” to keep on track in case things go awry. Don’t feel like you have to use the suggestions of students. Listen and then use your best judgement. Keep it simple. Students tend to get complicated quickly.
How to Model
Discuss: What’s our story going to be about? We need to write about the picture. What’s the first sentence going to be?
Begin by asking a student for the first sentence. Write that sentence on the board asking for input from students to spell words including when to use capital letters, spacing and punctuation. Continue with next sentence, etc. etc. If you don’t have some prior idea of how this should look ahead of time, this can turn into a hot mess. The students’ story does not have to reflect yours at all, but you do need a back up story in case things do get crazy. Sometimes they just need a little guidance and sometimes they need more.
*reminder – they can use the words in the box in their writing if they choose or not. You will probably want to use them in your story or remind them they are there if they’re having problems coming up with sentences for their story.
After you’ve finished the story on the board, point to the words and read the story to them. Then point to the words and read the story with the students. Last, point to the words and have them read it to you. Pointing to the words just keeps them all together while choral reading.
Now, before you erase the story forever and ever, ask them if they’ve got it or if they have questions. Now’s the time. They’re going to be asked to write on their own, but not write this story. They’re going to write their own story. They’re going to use what they learned from this story to write their story. No questions … erase the board!
The students will then flip their papers over or get out their pencils and write their own stories on their papers. Remind them to use their best handwriting, space between words, begin their sentences with capital letters, etc. Then watch them in their writing for times when you need to redirect. Don’t pounce on every error, but do look for things here and there. Remind students to start sentences with capital letters and maybe point out where someone didn’t … GENTLY and QUIETLY. The point is to help and not to embarrass. You want to encourage and not to shut down. Watch for someone who forgot to end a sentence with a period and gently and quietly remind them. Watch for someone who misspelled a word and say, “I like how you tried spelling this word, but when we see this word in a book it’s spelled like this.” And tell them how to spell it correctly.
Once students begin to finish writing, the next part of the lesson begins. You sit with each student and read their writing to them discussing corrections that need to be made like capital letters, spacing, spelling, etc. Don’t negate the student’s work by hacking it up … be gentle. These are young learners. Teach them about using editing marks for capital letters and punctuation and write the correct spelling underneath their words. Lastly, have them read their story back to you and if you choose, they can then rewrite it correctly on another sheet of paper as a final copy. Or, you can have them put the final copy on the page with the picture. How you proceed with this depends on where your students are in the writing process and how much stamina they have? Too much writing, editing and rewriting will shut some students down, but will be just right for others. You have to know your students. So it’s better to start easier rather than too challenging.
**If you have students, that even though you’ve erased the original story, they remember it and rewrite it on their paper … don’t worry about it. That just means they’re insecure in their writing, but hopefully they’ve learned about using capital letters, spacing, punctuation, spelling and complete sentences. You can praise them on their efforts and gently encourage them to next time write their own story. Ask them what they could have written and then help them to maybe add to what they have or write something else on the back of their paper.
You need to find that baseline to work from first. Then you keep gently challenging your students to improve their writing by introducing more and more higher level skills. Moving from simply capitalizing the beginning of a sentence to capitalizing the word I and names and days of the week, etc. This is where your “back up story” comes into play because you can make this happen. If you depended only on using a story provided by students, this opportunity might not come into play. So you need to know what skills you want to work on and how you’re going to incorporate them into the story if needed. You can’t leave everything to chance or you might not see a forward progression in your students’ writing at an acceptable pace.
Pacing is the key here. You have to move at a pace that works well for your students. Enough to gently challenge, but not enough to shut them down. And trying to incorporate too many new skills too quickly will do that. Being too harsh, expecting too much or not modeling and scaffolding your instruction will also do that. Remember, young and tender learners.
Holepunching the writing activities and adding them to individual student binders would be a great way to create Student Writing Binders. The Writing Binders would show a forward progression in each student’s writing … like a portfolio. They could also be used in Centers. Students could use the binders to go back and read their stories individually, or to each other, or even to work on rewriting and maybe adding to stories they’d written in the past.
If you’d like to use the Kindergarten and First Grade Writing Activities that I created with your class, you can purchase them by clicking the link below. The pack contains 15 pages with 2 different line types (wide and narrow) for each page.
Other Writing Activities you might be interested in …
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Whether you purchase my Kindergarten and First Grade Writing Activities or create your own; use picture prompts, story prompts or free write … just please allow time for your students to write each day. Just like in Cinderella, you can be the Fairy Godmother and wave your magic wand and make Writing be something magical!
Bippity! Boppity! Boo!
I can’t wait to see what you do!