Monday, January 27, 2014

The Many Adventures of Winter {Differentiated Writing}

I've been putting off writing this blog post because I wanted my first graders to finish this writing project but, well, I feel like we are never going back to school. It's looking like a six day weekend for me! Today marks snow day number 6 and tomorrow will be number 7. I am all for snow days but my first graders still need to learn! We need to be back in school! I think this is my first time in 25 years (that's how old I am, not how many years I've been teaching) that I've ever complained about snow days! Haha

Anyways, before our extended weekend I have had my first graders working on writing about their favorite winter activities. Below I am going to do a recap of what we have accomplished so far. I would say they will need another day or two to finish up their published pieces to share during shared writing.

Day 1:
To begin, I read the book the Snowy Day. I'm sure everyone has heard about this book. It is definitely a favorite. After reading the Snowy Day, our class brainstormed a list of some of our favorite winter activities. I wanted my students to really get excited about this writing assignment so I "played" up how much fun winter is. Actually, I really do enjoy winter. Did you know I snowboard? Well, I haven't in two years, but I do plan on it next winter. Last winter I was pregnant and this winter has just been WAY TO COLD! Ok back to school stuff...

Here is the list of winter activities my class came up with.

After we made a group list I had my little friends go back to their seats to write their own list. I told them they were more than welcome to use ideas from our class list, but I encouraged them to challenge themselves to come up with some of their own favorite activities.

Here are some of the lists that my first graders came up with.


Day 2:
I began our second day by reading another winter themed book that had a little girl and her dog walking around outside doing some of their favorite activities.

***We do formula writing at our school as of right now. I try and mix it with some the writing workshop framework. I just have my students pre-pre-write their original ideas onto the formula wheel before going at their pre-writing.***

I modeled to my students how I would choose what activities I would write about. On the large class list I circled the number of my three favorite activities. Then on the formula wheel I told my class that the topic of our piece was about winter. So in the circle I wrote winter. Then on the three spokes I wrote each of my three favorite winter activities. After that quick mini lesson on how to choose your ideas from a list, I had my little friends go back to their seats to circle their favorite activities and then begin to fill out their formula wheel.

Day 3:
Next came a very explicit lesson on how to write a topic sentence. (Many of our lessons are embedded in first grade, but I felt this skill needed to be taught explicitly.) My students are now required to write a topic sentence completely on their own. Well, I couldn't just throw them into it so I did a mini lesson on what a topic sentence is.

Here is the anchor chart I made to introduce a topic sentence.

I began by following the mini lesson from my Many Adventures of Winter pack. As the lesson progressed, I modeled the first sentence for my class, then they came up with the last two sentences. I was really impressed with what they came up with because usually they give good examples of summary sentences instead. It is really hard for them to differentiate between the two in the beginning.

Here are the topic sentences we all came up with.
I then proceed to do the mini lesson on summary sentences. My plan was to wait but they really seemed into it and they still had some stamina so we went at it.

Here are the summary sentences they came up with. Again, I modeled the first one and they came up with the last two.

Day 4:
Day four was the day they actually began the writing process. We have been using my writing process clip chart to monitor where each student is in the writing process. They have adjusted to it pretty well and are moving their clips completely on their own now.

Our writing process clip chart (on the right). This is the only picture I could find. There are no clips because this picture of from the summer when I was setting up my room.
You can get my writing process chart here.

I grouped all of my students into differentiated writing groups before day four. That way when it was time for writing I knew exactly which paper to give to what student.

I forgot to take pictures of their work. I was busy meeting with my friends for a writing conference.

AND, that's all I have. We haven't been back to school since Wednesday and it is now Monday, and we won't be back tomorrow either.

If you are interested in trying out this differentiated writing activity you can grab it here or click the picture below. The mini lessons, the winter activities list, and the formula wheel are all included in the pack. Also included (but not pictured) are the actual differentiated writing papers. You can click on the preview to see the differentiated writing papers for all the steps of the writing process.

Happy Teaching,