Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

3 Guided Writing Strategies for First-Graders

By Dr. Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Guest Blogger

Are you looking for ways to help students use their background knowledge and reading skills to improve writing? In today's post, I'll share three guided writing strategies from Kid Writing in the 21st Century that you can easily use to help first-graders develop writing skills as they read nonfiction guided reading leveled books.

Stretching Through Words

In order for students to spell a word with this strategy, they will need to stretch a word by naming each letter, recognizing their sounds in a word, connecting the sounds, and forming each letter. You can find more details about this strategy on pages 31 and 32 in Kid Writing in the 21st Century . To practice this strategy with an informational text that has a simple sentence structure, I would recommend Where Does It Live?

Where Does It Live? is a leveled book that contains great illustrations to help students improve vocabulary about shelters of several living things. The names of five animals and their shelters are words in the book that students can practice stretching. After the book has been read, invite students to name some homes that were shared in the book and then use the following steps using pages 10 and 11 as an example:

  1. Model the strategy of stretching through words so that students can do the same: Say the word ___ and stretch it like I am going to stretch it.
  2. Have children stretch the sound of hive by asking them to predict the first letter. Accept any correct letter name and write each of your student's suggestion on the board as you stretch the sound. Be sure to give positive feedback to those who attempt to respond. Follow the same procedure with the i and v .
  3. Since the e is silent, you can write the last letter in the word. Then invite children to read the word and to write it in their journals.

The Magic Line

To help students move ahead when they get they have difficulty writing words from the text, you can have them use magic lines as a placeholder when they are not sure of the letters in a particular word. As you read a sentence, have students write the letters in each word that they hear so that you can check to see which words students need to have repeated. For each word that they cannot write each letter, have them draw a magic line. Pages 33 through 35 in Kid Writing in the 21st Century reveals more helpful details about this strategy.

You can help kids use magic lines for writing practice with the level F book Wool for My Sweater . This nonfiction book for kids is also useful in a lesson plan for science. As you model the process for this writing activity, remind students to write what they think they hear. Have them write as many letters in each word that they hear in each sentence; then explain that if they cannot write the letters in each word they hear, they should draw a line for the word. Don't forget to give praise to students who are making efforts to complete the task.

A sentence in a student's journal may look like this after reading a sentence on page 4 of Wool for My Sweater : IT LCS LC ___. The original sentence is "It looks like fur." To help kids practice spelling fur , you can also model for kids the strategy of stretching the word.

Kid Crowns

To help kids practice writing high-frequency words, you will find pages 35 through 37 extremely valuable. To motivate kids to practice writing high-frequency words, you can bring caps or crowns for children to wear that are labeled with a high-frequency word. Then you can say:

I have an idea to help you spell tricky words in the text. I made a crown that [a name of student] is going to wear today. If you need help spelling a word, look for the person wearing the crown with that word. Then go over to that person so that they can help you spell it.

You can add a new sight word or word chunk on the crown when you want to help kids practice new words or affixes. Be sure to rotate turns among students who wear the crown so that each child feels empowered by helping their peers. Incredible Ants is a fun nonfiction book that shows kids how ants survive. If you want to use the text in this book to help kids practice writing with kid crowns, you can create a crown that is labeled with -nt . The child wearing the crown can then help other students write words such as ant and different .

Using writing as a tool to build content-area literacy for first-graders will be extremely advantageous in your classroom. You can explore more helpful tips to help striving readers develop strong writing skills within  Kid Writing in the 21st Century .

Be sure to visit our blog soon for more support that you can easily implement in your lesson plans for elementary grades!

Dr. Geraldine Haggard is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. She spent thirty-seven years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. If you like what you read here, you can enjoy more from Dr. Haggard elsewhere on our blog .