Writing routines begin in the primary grades, and why not begin with consistent language? The Six Writing Traits offer that to us. They help our students spot the traits in material they read, know what to work on with their own writing, and direct us as teachers on what to teach our students. They include writing ideas, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, organization, and writing conventions. So what should writing look like in the primary grades? Today, we will explore this topic.
Most of my students are struggling readers and writers, so writing can be very frustrating. They struggle to come up with writing ideas and getting ideas on paper is another slow process. Scaffolding their learning is very important, so shared writing experiences work well, especially with K/1. Shared writing means we compose the paragraph together and share the pen. We discuss how we want the sentences to read, and I have the students tell me how to spell some of the words (we segment words by stretching them out by sound/syllable and tap each phoneme if needed). Shared writing allows the teacher to model spacing on the page too which is important as the students take over (I follow the I do, we do, you do model). As we are working on a shared writing piece, it’s the perfect time to talk about word choice, building ideas through discussion, sentence fluency, and voice. In fact, all of the traits. Students can visually see what we are talking about as we write and revise together.
Another writing technique I use often with K-2 is the framed paragraph. These work well to reinforce comprehension too if the teacher would like students to respond after reading. With framed paragraphs, the teacher begins sentences and leaves the ending off. Students complete the writing by adding the ending details. I usually start with a topic sentence and have my students add in the details. Framed paragraphs are not typically used in the writing process, but they work very well in response to reading or as journal prompts. Again, we model organization and sentence fluency with frames. Later, with revision, a framed paragraph can be revised for voice and word choice too.
The Reading-Writing Connection
Tying literature to writing is very important for providing students with models of the Six Traits. Great literature shows students how to think as writers, gives them ideas, shows them how to structure a story or informational paragraph, provides them with vivid vocabulary (we should always point that out as we read to our students), and so much more. I love using read alouds for primary and upper elementary to introduce writing assignments. Great literature gets the creative juices flowing, and as a post reading activity, teachers can use strategies such as ABC Brainstorm or a Word Splash to get students thinking about their own writing. These group anchor charts can provide students with a word bank too which alleviates the stress students feel with thinking of words to use and spelling them (and we can introduce new vocabulary this way). I think the best way to make writing fun is to choose your books first and draw from the books, writing prompts. As you select books, analyze them yourself for the Six Traits. Will you focus on the idea, organization, voice, sentence fluency, word choice, or the writing conventions? Most importantly, be sure to use a mix of fiction and nonfiction. (We tend to gravitate to fiction, but most reading students do for learning is nonfiction, so writing factual paragraphs helps students better understand nonfiction as readers).
The Writing Fix: A Must Use Website
One of the best websites I have found for writing is The Writing Fix. If you have not visited this site, zip on over today. Here’s the link to 12 lesson plans using great literature for the primary grades with step by step lesson plans. Each plan, whether you care for the book or not, will give you an idea of how you might structure a primary writing experience. After you’ve checked out these plans, you might pull your favorite books and use the sample plan as a template for your own ideas.
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
- I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMullen
- About Frogs! by Gail Gibbons
- The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
- Mrs. Wishy-Washy by Joy Crowley
- Raindrop Plop! by Wendy Lewison
- Is Your Mama a Lama by Deborah Guarino
- Dogs Don’t Wear Sneakers by Laura Numeroff
- If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
- Potluck by Anna Shelby
- The Deep Blue Sea by Audrey Wood
- If you Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff