I don’t know how it is for you, but getting my students to want to write, especially at the beginning of the year, can be quite a daunting task. During the months of September and October we spend a lot of time learning about writing and its process. We work on penmanship and moving from inventive spelling to the use of phonics skills to help them spell correctly. By the time November and December roll around, my students are a lot more excited about writing because they begin to understand it better.
During the month of December we usually start our letter writing unit. In order to get my students a lot more engaged in their learning and excited about writing the letters, I decided on letters to the North Pole. Instead of just having them write letters, I took it a step further and had the students go through the entire process of writing. Because the writing was to someone in the North Pole, they were a lot more open to the idea of writing and actually excited about it. #teacherwin
In my class we discuss and learn the process of writing by looking at the six traits of writing. For this unit, we looked at organization because students were learning the format of a letter. The use of songs helps kids to remember information. With this song, we not only sang it, but the students also moved to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. The movement got them excited all while learning! Click the picture to get the song poster and also gain access to my free resource library.
We also take the time to learn how to address an envelope. It is important for students to learn life skills such as how to address an envelope so that it gets delivered properly.
Vocabulary acquisition is extremely important. If like me, you have many ELLs in your classroom, then you understand the importance of both conversational and academic language building. Front loading and giving students access to varying tiers of vocabulary will allow for students to have some schema before new information is presented. In the unit we worked on, I included vocabulary cards to ensure that students had access to related words. We discussed each word before hand and built understanding so that students could be able to use the words in context.
The Writing Process
The writing process really ties everything together. My favorite part of the process is that students are a lot more aware and can go back and revise and edit to improve their writing. It allows for students to have a lot more ownership of the ideas they put on paper and ensuring that their voice comes through. We used the posters often to remind us of the process we were going through.
I have students that can produce work at varying levels. I had two differentiated graphic organizers. Some of my students can generate plenty of ideas while others need more time and support. One of the organizers had space for 4 supporting details while the other one had space for 2 supporting details.
Draft, Revising & Editing
Once my students organized their ideas on the graphic organizer, we moved on to write the draft. In keeping with differentiation, I created one draft that was labeled with the parts of a letter and one that wasn’t. Some of my students needed the extra support to be reminded what each section of the letter was for. I made drafts that had primary lines for my students that are still working on letter formation and need the template of the lines and one with regular lines for the students that have become independent in that area.
The revising and editing process are by far my favorite (Insert giddy teacher emoji)! Students are able to use the rubric that is within the draft to self-assess. My students looked at each criteria and colored in the ornament or the bow to show that they had looked through their writing and checked for each of these things. In the primary grades, students aren’t always able to fully self-assess and make all the changes necessary. I made sure that I sat with each one of them and provided them with verbal and written feedback.
Once their writing was revised and edited, my students wrote up their final drafts using the differentiated templates. The final drafts each had a picture of the person in the North Pole that they were writing to. I created templates with and without labels and templates with primary and regular lines. Differentiation truly is key. So many of our students come to us with varying levels of knowledge and expertise and it is extremely important for us to meet them at their needs and support them in the areas they need support in .
A Complete Writing Unit
Students are engaged in writing when they write about things that interest them. With all the scripted prompts I always give them, it makes me really happy to be able to provide them with a well thought out unit that is common core aligned while also having some fun. During this season it can be hard to get students to focus in class. This unit had my students focused and engaged for two weeks during the month of December. Can we say #teacherwin again? All of the resources in this blog post can be found in my shop. The unit includes all of the items I detailed. It was truly a hit with my students and I am confident it will be a hit with yours.