In order to prepare our students for the rigorous writing they will face in first grade, it is important that we, as Kindergarten teachers, provide our kids with as many aspects of writing to draw from as possible. Often, we ask students to find the main idea in the story- this helps when re-telling. Since we already know how to do this, why not apply this idea to writing? Find the main idea and introduce your writing with that idea; just like with a book, it helps with re-telling!
This is a whole group lesson, so all of my students are seated on the carpet in front of me. It is our writing block, and I will be introducing a new idea. I will teach this lesson around the mid-point of the year, after students have had a lot of experience with re-telling and finding the main idea.
"Today, we are going to learn the first step in making our writing wonderful! When we write, it is important that we get to the point quickly; we need to draw our reader in with our first sentence. With that being said, we had better make sure that our first sentence is a great one then, right?" (Students will agree or nod their heads.)
"The way to begin a story with a great first sentence is to learn how to create a topic sentence. A topic sentence tells me what my whole portion of writing is going to be about. My topic sentence is like the main idea of the story; it is the main idea of my writing. It is important because it gives my reader information about what they can look forward to finding while they are reading! Let me show you what I mean."
"Let's pretend that I want to write about what I have learned about clouds." (wait time) "hmm... Maybe my topic sentence could be, I have learned a lot about clouds." (wait time) "Now, does that sound sort of exciting?" (wait time) "It sounds exciting and it tells me what to look forward to in my writing- it tells me you will find information about clouds!
"Alright, let's try to come up with another topic sentence. Let's pretend that I want to tell you about all of the things I ate for lunch today." (wait time) "What do you think a good topic sentence might be for that?" (wait time) "Please share with a friend."
As students share, I walk around to listen and help where needed.
"I love what I heard some of you saying." (I will call on a student I am confident will give a great example.) "______, can you tell us what you think a good topic sentence might say?" (Student will answer- provide wait time) "Yes! I had some good food for lunch, is a great topic sentence!"
"Let's try to come up with one more topic sentence. Let's pretend that you want to tell me all about the animals that we could find on a trip to the zoo." (wait time) "What do you think a good topic sentence might be for that?" (wait time) "Please share with a friend."
As students share, I walk around to listen and help where needed.
"I love what I heard some of you saying." (I will call on a student I am confident will give a great example.) "______, can you tell us what you think a good topic sentence might say?" (Student will answer- provide wait time) "Wow! I love that! You can see many animals at the zoo, is a great topic sentence!"
I like to refer to my topic sentence anchor chart when teaching this lesson- it gives students something concrete to connect to and it also provides them a reference for later!
For this writing unit, we focused on the topic of insects. I LOVE teaching about insects each spring, and I think this topic lends itself to solid and interesting informational writing. At the point that this lesson will take place, I will have already shared with my students a few books about insects, which will provide the background knowledge needed for the following to occur successfully.
"Now that you guys have had some practice creating your topic sentence, which is the main idea of your writing, I want you to go show me what you know! Please go back to your seat and write a topic sentence for me."
"We are going to be talking about insects.... So, think about that and go write me a topic sentence about insects!"
(When students do this, I am merely making sure they understand what a topic sentence consists of. When writing a piece for presentation, I will provide more guidance on topic sentences. )
"You guys did a great job showing me that you are going to be able to write topic sentences! Congratulations! From now on, I will work with you to create some great, engaging topic sentences when we are working with our informational writing!"
Next, as a group, we will come up with the topic sentence: Insects are interesting creatures.
To challenge students to come up with their own ideas, I ask them to change the word interesting to another, more juicy adjective. By doing this, students will have a strong topic sentence, but they will have also helped make their writing more personal with their own vocabulary.
Finally, for assessing purposes (since this is an introductory activity), I merely assess whether or not students are able to grasp the idea... and write something that seems like a main idea for their writing. I look for two things: 1- did they re-state the main idea, and 2- does their idea make sense as an introductory sentence? If students could not successfully show these two skills, I can pull them for re-teaching.
If students are having difficulty with this step, I like to refer them to the topic sentence examples that we have on the wall. I think it is important to provide students with a model in case they get stuck!
I think it is crucial that I make sure students have really grasped this skill before we move on! In order for students to be successful, I expect to hear and see that they know what a topic sentence should include. I am listening and looking for students to summarize the main idea and re-state it in their own words. Here is an example of a students who with a good (beginning) topic sentence, who I feel like mastered this lesson.
Once students can successfully write a generic topic sentence, they will be ready to move on and make their topic sentences interesting and more informative! If students needed help with the introductory lessons, I make sure to provide them with support where needed. I think it is important to have really helped students from the initial lesson because, when we are creating topic sentences during regular practice, I will move on and assess students' ability to add to their main topic sentence and justify their statement. From this point, students will be able to use a graphic organizer to transfer their information over into a good (beginner) topic sentence.
Usually, as a class, the students and I create a topic sentence together.
Then, individually, students add their own special adjectives and things to make the topic sentence stronger and/or justify their statement. I think it is important that I allow my students to use their ideas, along with my help, to create solid, guiding topic sentences.
To build students' writing abilities, I like to make sure that they work together, with me, to create fabulous topic sentences that really and truly introduce their piece of orthography. Although the words, "topic sentences," are not explicitly included within a specific Kindergarten standard, a good topic sentence is needed as a foundation for solid writing and helps support and uphold the needs of the W.K.2 standard. After all, if we want our students to be able to name what they are talking about, then supply information, we might as well teach them a GREAT way to really name what they are writing about in detail! Also, by doing this successfully, we are truly preparing our students to go to first grade ready to write!
This lesson needs to be an extremely solid one. After all, I feel that students really need to know how to form topic sentences because that is what leads the creation of supporting ideas and details.