I begin this lesson by showing the lesson image on the Promethean board. I talk to my students about how much we all wish we could have this much snow to play in to relate a feeling I know my students all have about the holiday season. During the guided practice we will connect again to this theme and write about what the students did over the Holiday Break. The partner work section allows students to work together to evaluate each other's work. The student reflection and partner work section also allow the students to participate in evaluation which is a higher order thinking activity.
This lesson is done in small groups except for the independent writing time in the partner work section. The groups do remain consistent even though there are transitions during the lesson. I move the class every twenty minutes because that is about the attention span of most first graders. The groups are heterogeneous in ability and based oral reading fluency scores on DIBELS. Mixed ability groups allow students to engage in higher order thinking activities as they explain things to their peers and prove their reasoning. I label one person the peanut and one the jelly, because it helps me organize their conversations and group roles. I might ask the peanut butter partner to explain something to the jelly partner, if I notice that the peanut butter partner is not participating.
At first, I try to activate my students thinking by telling them My Story about what I did over the holiday break. I find that students make a connection to me by hearing my stories, and I always enjoy listening to my teachers talk about themselves. Then I ask the students to tell their partner a little about their break. Tell them what you did over the break. This is setting the students up to be able to write their paragraph in about the holiday break. When they are talking I listen to make sure everyone understands what we are taking about. If I hear anyone us an words like first, next, last, later, then I try to bring it up because they are learning to use these words in this lesson.
Next, I explain that today we will write a paragraph about what happened over the break, and then you will be able to write a paragraph about your break. Then you will evaluate your partners work and make changes to your work. Some people will share their work at the end.
Then I explain that there is some criteria about what each paragraph should contain. We have used this rubric before, but I still go over it. The students put a 1 in the blank if the person does each part. For the guided practice we will use the rubric to check our work when we are finished. So, now I ask the students to restate the lesson objective, I can write a story about myself using the words first, next, and last The students say this three times. They echo it, tell a friend, and then say it with me. This seems to help the students comprehend the purpose of the lesson.
Now the class moves to the desks which are arranged in small groups to work on the guided practice section of the lesson. The first thing I ask the students to do is discuss what a topic sentence should contain, which allows me to assess what they really know about a topic sentence. Depending on what they say I may go over it again. The next thing is for the students to create a topic sentence for a story about what they did over the holiday break. This engages all of the students. After their discussion, I ask several students to share their ideas about the topic sentence. Instead of saying correct or incorrect, I ask other students to agree or disagree and tell me why. If they seem lost, I just add support and tell them what I am thinking. I am thinking a nice topic sentence is: "Over the holiday break I had a lot of fun." Then I ask if they want to go with my suggestion, and everyone has to vote with thumbs up or down.
Then we move on to determining what each of the sentences should say. We will have three sentences. The first will start with the word, "first," but I don't tell the class this. I ask the to discuss what the next sentence should say, and what word it should begin with. So, I have given a hint. Hopefully, somebody will share that the sentence should begin with first, because it is telling about the first thing that happened in the story. After one student shares, other agree or disagree, and we come up with a sentence. I model writing and write the sentence on the board narrating why I am using a capital, spacing, and explaining the punctuation. Usually I teach grammar in context instead of doing separate grammar lessons.
Next we follow the same procedures to get the third sentence. I ask the class to discuss with their peanut butter jelly partner what the next sentence might say and remember to begin it with a word showing the order of events. The third sentence should begin with the word, then, and elaborate on something that happened. For example, then we went to my Granny's house and stayed all night.
Moving on to the fourth sentence, I share that this sentence should also show the reader the time that it occurred. Students discuss what this sentence should say. Due to time constraints and the fact that we have had a great deal of discussion I share a few conversations I heard and ask a volunteer to share what we should write. If everyone agrees with thumbs up, I add that sentence to our paragraph. But, if some one disagrees I ask them to explain why and explain the correct answer.
Last the students discuss what a closing sentence should do or sound like. Again, I am assessing how much they have retained from prior lessons. Depending on what they say I may have to do a lot of explaining. I basically say it should sum up the previous sentences. After they discuss a closing sentence for our paragraph, I add the closing sentence to the board (Guided Practice Work). I do reread the paragraph and use the Rubric to explicitly show the evidence of each component.
Next the class is ready for a transition to the center tables where their materials are already set up. The students write the story of their holiday break for ten minutes, and then share it with their partner (Partner Work). There is a video (Student Work) of a student reading his work in the resource section. After the partners give each other feedback (Student Evaluation), the students take about seven or eight minutes to make correction or finish their paragraph.
During this time I walk around and help students. Sometimes students struggle getting started and I might ask them to tell me about their holiday break. Once they start talking they are able to begin writing.
This is the time in the lesson that we specifically focus on speaking and listening. I try to be proactive in preparing my students for this portion of the lesson. Speaking and listening can be a little difficult to first graders. Some things I tell the students are to talk loud when speaking, listen, look at the speaker, think, be still, and hold your paper still.
As each student presents, the others are supposed to be evaluating their work so they can give them verbal feedback on what the student can do to improve their work. We usually only have time for two or three students to present and then get an evaluation. It takes some modeling, but after a few lessons the students get the hang of it and evaluation becomes a natural thing.
Last, the student tell each other one thing they learned from today's lesson. The idea here is for me to listen close so I can check their conversations for understanding. Then I share some things I heard. To encourage conversation I ask volunteers to add to what I said.
To wrap up the lesson, I say the lesson goal because it helps students remember the skills we practiced. I can write a narrative piece using the words first, next, and last.