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Looking at Writing

First Grade: Writing Sample 5

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.”

"Read, because that's the way you learn how the language works. That's the way you learn about emotion, on paper. That's how you find out how stories are fastened, by reading and reading and reading. " — Katherine Paterson

Context of writing

A first grade boy 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.

What is this child able to do as a writer?

  • This child has generated ideas for characters, several settings, and several problems for his story.
  • He uses descriptive language and creative ideas to add to the story ('but CJ was CPR certified')
  • He has a good sequence to his story. His sentences flow to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • He uses a variety of sentence beginnings ('Once upon a time...,' 'On his trip...,' and "Then Shack...'")

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: 

Once upon a time there was a snake named Venom and there was a hampster named CJ and they lived in LA. CJ was bored of the city s CJ went to New Orleans. On his trip he found a wolf but Venom bit the wolf. Then CJ was scared and went back to LA and they became friends and played on the LA Lakers and they won 7 games in a row. But in one game Shaq stepped on Venom. But CJ was CPR certified. Then Shaq apologized and signed Venom's scales. Then they moved to Chicago and played on the Bulls and met MJ. Venom was good at long range and CJ was good at dunking. Then they set a record for the NBA animals.

What does this child need to learn next?

This student is not using any punctuation in his writing. He may be so excited to get all of his information on the page when he writes that he can't think about using mechanics at the same time. He should be encouraged to re-read his writing aloud to himself or someone else. He could be taught to listen for natural pauses in his words which would signal the ends of sentences.

The writer's story jumps around a bit. Working through a story sequence chart (15K PDF) or story map may help the author keep track of the settings and the transitions in his writing.

He also seems to experiment with capital letters for proper nouns. He may be guided to look for the names of his characters and cities and make sure he starts all of them with capital letter

"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain