Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Improve Writing Skills with Books by Joy Cowley [K-1]

By Debbie Moeller, Author, Guest Blogger

Teaching elementary writing skills is difficult. Students may struggle with composing. They may become frustrated and dissatisfied with what they produce. Keep in mind that a child’s writing should mirror the level of text complexity they are currently reading. You should expect their sentences to look like sentences in books they read. Using leveled guided reading books as mentor texts can provide a model and framework for a child’s writing. In this blog, I’ll share easy writing activities to accompany fun narrative texts that will inspire your budding writers.

My students  love  reading books by Joy Cowley. Her humorous stories about Mrs. Wishy-Washy always bring smiles. There are some fun leveled readers within the Joy Cowley Early Birds  series that are great springboards to teach writing strategies.

Writing with Joy Cowley Books

Wishy-Washy Card

In this level E book, the animals want to show Mrs. Wishy-Washy she’s special, which is why they make her a card.
Making a card.
Students produce simple sentence structure with five to six words in length.
Copies of Wishy-Washy Card , white boards, dry erase markers, pencils, computer paper, construction paper, markers or crayons, and glue.
Read Wishy-Washy Card  with the students during a guided reading lesson. Discuss when people may send or receive cards: birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc. Tell students that they will make a card for someone special to them. Ask students to think about what makes this person special. Model an example by saying, "My mom bakes cookies for me." Let them share ideas. Help with composing if needed.
Have students rehearse their sentence(s) aloud, then write them on the white board. This is their “sloppy copy.” Do one to two sentences as time allows. Now it’s time for the “neat sheet.” Students copy their sentence(s) to the computer paper. Glue the computer paper to the construction paper. Fold and decorate. Write a title on the front, such as “You Are Special.”


Wishy-Washy Letter

In this level F book, the animals help Mrs. Wishy-Washy by putting a stamp on her letter.
Writing a letter. You could use this in a variety of ways. Examples include a "thank-you" letter to a school helper, a letter to Santa, or Valentine’s Day card.
Students will produce three to four simple sentences with five to eight words in length.
Copies of  Wishy-Washy Letter , white boards, dry erase markers, pencils, copies of a letter template (there are several free ones available online), envelopes, and inkpad.
Day 1: Read  Wishy-Washy Letter with the students during guided reading time. Tell students they will write a letter. Explain the format of a letter. Brainstorm a list of school helpers, such as the librarian. Students choose a helper and share what he or she does for them. Model for students by saying, "Thank you for helping me find good books." Have students compose one sentence on their sloppy copy and then the template.
Day 2: Do one to three additional sentences. Give each student an envelope. They put their name in the upper left and the recipient in the center. For the stamp, each student presses their thumb on the inkpad and places their “stamp” in the upper right corner of the envelope.

The New Pen

In this level I book, the new pen meets a grumpy computer and decides to play a funny trick for fun. Using this hilarious title will engage students while utilizing their creative writing skills. There are many titles with memorable characters like this that can be found throughout the Joy Cowley Collection Orange Set .
Retelling with a twist.
Students produce complex sentences to retell the story using sequence words.
Copies of  The New Pen , pencils, paper, markers, or crayons.
Day 1: Read  The New Pen with the students during guided reading instruction. Discuss how the pen made the computer laugh. Brainstorm other words the pen could have typed on the computer. Create a word bank on the board for students to refer to. Tell students they are going to write sentences that help with retelling the story using first , next , then , and last . Add those words to the word bank. Model for students by saying, "First, Pen met Pencil, Crayons and Computer." Encourage them to compose a new sentence about the computer using next .
Day 2: For  then and last , let students make up their own endings. They can choose a new word for Pen to type into computer and tell how Computer reacts. Then have them illustrate their endings.

Other Books to Improve Writing

I Can Write

This level B book is from the Kaleidoscope Collection , which contains a wide variety of narrative and informational text types that encourage students to explore science and social studies themes. This title provides sight word practice that will be repeated in the writing activity, which provides a great opportunity to improve vocabulary while writing and reading. Your students will feel empowered by their writing proficiency by the end of the activity.
Making a book.
Students will produce simple sentences using sight words  I and can .
Copies of I Can Write , white boards, dry erase markers, pencils.
Read  I Can Write with the students during guided reading. Ask students what they can do well at home or at school, and discuss ways that we use writing in everyday life. Have students practice writing I and can while you write on the white board. Help students with hearing sounds in words and recording them. Model writing a sentence using  I and can  emphasizing space between words. Students practice writing a sentence on the white board. Make a booklet of “I can . . . ” sentences with three to four pages for each student. Try to import pictures of students doing that activity, if possible.

Mentor texts are a great way to demonstrate the relationship between words students are reading and writing. There are many fun titles in the Joy Cowley Collection  and in the  Kaleidoscope Collection  that lend themselves to a variety of ways to improve writing.

Kid Writing in the 21st Century: A Systemic Approach to Phonics, Spelling, and Writing Workshop

Are you looking for more guidance on how to get started with sample schedules, targeted mini-lessons, genre and content writing, reproducibles, and formative assessments?  Kid Writing in the 21st Century  is a symphony in three voices that will help you implement a wide range of tools to develop deeper thinkers and better writers. Whether you're looking for effective tips for English Language Learners, or helping kids make connections across the curriculum, this book offers a wealth of opportunities to make writing more engaging.

If you're looking for more lesson ideas and teaching tips, be sure to visit this blog often!