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Looking at Writing

First Grade: Writing Sample 1

First graders write many times a day to express their ideas and interests — they are writing with a purpose, through, stories, letters, and lists. They can print clearly and leave spaces between words. Children in first grade are able to write simple but complete sentences, and they are beginning to understand when to use capital letters, commas, and periods. In their writing, you’ll see a combination of invented and correct spelling (especially words from a word wall or vocabulary list). First graders also begin to use “story language” in their own writing, for example, incorporating phrases such as “once upon a time” and “happily ever after.”

"Rule number one is to write every day because writing's like everything else you do. The more you do it, the better you're going to get at it. " — Christopher Paul Curtis

Context of writing

A first grade girl wrote this story. After reading William Steig's Amos and Boris, students were prompted to write a story with an unlikely friendship between two animal characters. This is an unfinished piece; the author added more to the story after this sample was gathered.

What is this child able to do as a writer?

  • She has ideas for a story — a setting of Hawaii, several characters, and a problem ('Jay got lost in Hweh').
  • The student has written the story in a chronological sequence that makes sense. She is starting to create a stand-alone text that expresses a clear message without relying on a picture.
  • The clear spacing between words demonstrates a solid concept of word.
  • Spelling is correct for most words that can be phonetically sounded out.

Move your cursor over each red bubble image marker for observations about this child’s writing.

[Click the sample to view the full size image. See transcript]

Transcript: 

Jay and Taylor were at Hawaii. Jay got lost in Hawaii. And then the cat came along. And then the cat and guinea pig met in Hawaii. And then the guinea pig ____.

What does this child need to learn next?

This story's ending doesn't fit with the rest of the story. The author could use a story map graphic organizer to plan her story first so that she has a sense of how the story will develop before she writes.

In addition to the story map, whole- or small-group lessons on story structure and prewriting brainstorming can help this young writer think about each part of the story, making sure it all makes sense.

The author tries to use transitional words ("In thein" for And then) to signal sequence but she relies on the same transitional words over and over again. She may need a list of other transition words to choose from. A transition word chart (1MB PDF) could be developed during a mini-lesson or conference where the class looks at other texts to see other words authors use to show sequence. Once created, the chart could then be reproduced in a smaller version so that the students could keep the ideas they generated in their own writing folder.

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." — Garrison Keillor