It's a process. Day 1 of 5

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SWBAT collaborate in writing step by step directions for writing an informational paragraph.

Big Idea

Recipes are important, even if you add a little of your own spice.


5 minutes

This is a five day instructional cycle that I use for teaching and reviewing writing genre. The cycle is:

  • Day 1 Modeled Writing (by teacher);
  • Day 2 Brainstorming and graphic organizer (teacher and students)
  • Day 3 Interactive or shared writing (teacher and students)
  • Day 4 Independent writing and conferences
  • Day 5 Conferences and publishing

It doesn't teach writing conventions; I teach those in separate lessons determined by the lessons in our textbook adoption and by my students needs (which I determine based on their writing samples). I have allotted 30 minutes a day to writing instruction, and my students also write independently every day during small groups time. Most weeks I follow the five day cycle, but I stop and teach conventions and style as needed.

Mastering Standard W.1.2 requires a lot from first graders. They need to learn English conventions; be able to name a topic; supply facts about the topic; and provide a sense of closure. Naming a topic and coming up with a closing sentence requires abstract thinking, which is hard for first graders. I like the five day cycle because it provides direct instruction, spiral review, independent practice, and assessment opportunities.  

I began by showing the class three informational books and three stories we had read. I asked them to identify the informational ones and to tell me what they remembered about the characteristics of informational texts. Then I read the title and first lines of the non-fiction books and briefly talked about main idea and opening sentences (we had previously done some work on opening sentences, main idea and informational writing). Finally I told them that we would write and informational paragraph on how to write an informational paragraph (some actually got the joke!). 


Modeled writing

15 minutes

During this part of the lesson I write on chart paper as I think aloud about my writing. The idea is to show kids what is going through your mind as you are composing the piece. When they are writing, you will be able to refer to these "think alouds" to help them along in their compositions, until they have internalized the process. To keep the students engaged, I ask them for ideas, for suggestions on how to modify a sentence, for adjectives and synonyms (these questions help you review grammar or vocabulary lessons recently taught). I also pick two or three students to be my monitors: their job is to make sure they catch mistakes so that we can fix them together (I always make sure to make a couple of obvious ones, and often they catch unintentional ones). 

I wanted to use writing the "How to write an informational paragraph" together as an opportunity to touch upon W.1.7 (Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of "how-to" books on a given topic and use them to write a sequence of instructions"). At the time I taught this lesson, they had collaborated on a 'how-to" book, and written directions for a craft, but I wanted to refresh their memory. I like "echoing" lessons, concepts and/or standards through the year and across curricular areas. It serves as review for proficient students, and often catalyzes the learning of basic students. 


5 minutes

When I finished the chart, we read it together. When they went to recess, I posted it on the wall and we re-read it later. I reminded them that they could get up to read it if they got stuck during their independent work. I find that if you read these posted resources often, soon you can point to them when a student is forgetting something, and the silent clue is enough to get him or her going.