Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teach First-Graders About Supporting Arguments with Evidence

By Laureen S, First-Grade Teacher, Guest Blogger

A colleague and I recently had a discussion about when we should expect our students to gather evidence from the text, think about what they already know, and use the information to write. I quickly replied, “My first-graders start doing that on the first day of school!” In today's post, I will share a writing idea along with a couple of free downloads to help you create an engaging lesson for your young writers about supporting their writing with evidence.

Before thinking about evidence-based writing instruction, it is important for your students to understand the expectation. What better way to do that than through leveled books and oral language? There is a wide range of oral language resources that are perfect for this. The At School set uses vocabulary and school activities that students are already familiar with to give them the confidence to engage in discussions.

Activating Prior Knowledge to Infer

Along with the set, I would introduce a Making Inferences anchor chart like the one pictured here. Throughout the reading ask students what the text and pictures are telling them and what they already know so they can practice making inferences.

An informational text that's perfect for reading, a discussion, and a follow-up writing activity that gets students inferring is Four Seasons from the Kaleidoscope Collection . Each page of the book has a photo of children taking part in an outdoor activity related to the season.

Here is some teacher talk that you could use to incorporate these resources: Let’s look at page 6. The text says, “Fall is a season. The air is cool.” What do you know about the weather in the fall where you live? This will help activate students' prior knowledge about winter.

Promote Oral Language Development to Introduce Writing Activities 

Now refer back to the anchor chart and explicitly engage students in a discussion by saying the following: This is what the text tells us. This is what you already know. Let’s put that together and infer the answer to: “How should you dress for the fall season?”

With my first-graders, I would then do a modeled writing about fall, such as The season of fall can be cool, so I think I would need to wear my pants, sweater, and hat. Other sentences may include: I think . . . I infer . . . probably . . . I predict . . . maybe . . . This modeled writing will help lay the foundation and confidence for students to complete a writing activity independently.

At this time I would ask my students to talk with a partner to answer the following question: What can you infer about the clothing you would need to wear in each of the four seasons? Remind them to use the book for context clues in the text and photos in addition to their background knowledge. This is one of several oral language activities will create the bridge into a writing activity that takes only a few minutes to prepare and will target a variety of learners.

Addressing Different Styles of Learning 

Daily writing is non-negotiable in my classroom, and I believe it is the teacher’s responsibility to keep writing fun and engaging. One type of writing I choose often is an interactive writing page that can be used on its own or glued into an interactive notebook.

The flaps on an interactive page should be visually appealing to visual learners, have flaps for the kinesthetic learners, and have space for pictures for our spatial learners. Use the free download here to get your students writing. Instructions for assembly are included in the download!

To complete this activity, have students draw a picture of themselves dressed for the season on the front of each flap and use evidence from the text and background knowledge to write on the inside. I have included two choices of writing lines for you to differentiate for your young writers.

Be sure to visit this blog often for more ways to engage students while they practice reading and writing skills. You can find writing strategies and ideas in Kid Writing in the 21st Century which will get your early writers writing!


Laureen is a first-grade teacher in Canada. She has been teaching kindergarten and grade one for more than twenty years. Laureen loves to make learning fun and you can find her at her blog, Teach With Laughter . You can also visit her TPT page here .