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first grade writers

Language Arts | Writing 


We have the Lucy Calkins Units of Study. We have been going through these and working really hard! However, after break, my students are only writing one sentence...maybe two...and seemed to have lost everything I've taught them! Is this normal for firsties? Is there something that you do to encourage elaboration? Do you have them write at home for homework?
Any advice?


Senior Member
4 square

Google it. It expects 5 sentences minimum and is a great paragraph organizer for first graders. It will work well with Lucy Caulkins. There's a great you-tube video I show my first graders in the fall when we begin this. If I find it, I will attach it!


Senior Member
Found it!

My kids enjoy this because it's from their perspective. For some reason I can't upload it. Google Mr. Alba's First Grade Class Four Square.


Full Member

They are writing 1-2 sentence in how much time? I would say that is a little alarming at this point in the year. Most of my first graders can fill at least 2 half-lined pages (like the paper Lucy includes on the CD) in one 20-30 min session. The good news is, there are lots of things you can do to increase writing output! Here are some tips that work for me:

- I blow up a student sample from the CD and put it on an anchor chart after the first week of every new unit. We label the things that the writer does (Write facts, label pictures, punctuation, etc). This shows them what their books should look like, and is motivating for them. You can also use a student sample if you really want to make one kid's day!

- I also sometimes give kids a post-it with 6-8 empty boxes. Each box stands for one finished book, and they fill in the box when they finish a book. This encourages them to write lots of books in a unit, instead of lingering on one piece for 2 weeks.

- Do you use a date stamp? These changed my Writers Workshop dramatically! I got the idea from No More I'm Done (which is amazing, if you haven't read it). Each day at the start of writing time, I stamp the spot on their paper where they are starting to write. Then at the end of the day, it is easy for them to see how many lines they are writing each day. It is motivating for a lot of kids to set goals like, "I wrote 3 lines today. I'm going to try to write 4 tomorrow!" It is also good to keep them moving along. If you're like me, sometimes you meet with a kid and say, "You've been working on this same book for HOW long?" The date stamp stops that from happening because you're checking in every day.

- Also from No More I'm Done, we do the "Golden 5," which means that the first 5 minutes of WW is silent. This helps them get started right away.

- If they're talking too much at tables/desks, let them move around the room with clipboards. Also had a HUGE impact on my WW! If their stamina is really low, break independent writing into 2 smaller chunks. Try doing Independent Writing for 15 min, then Partner Time for 5 min, Then 10 more minutes of Independent Writing. If storytelling/thinking of ideas is their problem, schedule Partner Time before Independent Writing time. During this time, they can meet with their partner and plan/storytell their piece. This gives lots of kids energy and enthusiasm to get some work done!

- We switched from pencils to pens. This sounds crazy but it also helps kids write more because, first, pens are easier to write with, and second, they don't spend minutes upon minutes erasing. We cross out with a single line and move on.

- Insert as many motivating factors as you can to make writing exciting! Plan for Author's Celebrations at the end of each unit where the students will have a real audience to read their writing to. Tell the students about this early on, so they are actively working towards something. I made "fact stickers" out of address labels so students could put a sticker every time they wrote a fact in their All About book. Like magic- pages filled up!

- Lastly, if they are trying really hard, engaged, and motivated, but still not producing, it seems like they need lots of intensive help. I would consider small group Shared Writing and Interactive Writing to give them lots of Guided Practice.

Wow, this was long. Hope this helped and good luck! They are definitely capable, but it's hard work. Let us know how it goes!


New Member
Hi All,
ACRTeach, could you elaborate on the "fact stickers" that you use in your kids All About Books? What do you mean they put a sticker in their book every time the wrote a fact? Do they put a blank sticker on the page next to the fact??
I love all your ideas! I have "No More I'm Done" and I'm going to reread it!!
thanks so much!


Full Member

For All About books, we learned to write different types of facts- describing facts (what something looks like), action facts (what something does), and word facts (vocabulary words with definitions). I gave each type of fact a symbol (an eye for describing facts, a running stick figure for action facts, and a little dictionary for word facts) and made a chart of it. I pasted clip art into the label templates in Word, printed them out, and gave each table a bunch of stickers. When they used a describing fact, they put a eye sticker down, etc. I got this idea from Kristi Mraz from the blog Chartchums. It was fun and you can adapt it for any genre (talk, feeling, and action stickers for Small Moments, for example!)