Looking at Writing

First Grade: Writing Sample 4

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 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.

What is this child able to do as a writer?

  • This child has generated ideas for characters and a problem for her story.
  • She uses some descriptive language: 'It was a masing!'
  • She has a clear separation between words and uses ending punctuation at the end of some of her sentences.
  • Spelling shows command of several sight words (got, lost, look, they, happy)

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]


Buffalo got lost. He tried to find a posse (really!). She looked and looked. Then she saw a cat. The cat helped her. But the cat said it is able to stomp. The dog helped. Then they got back home. They were so so happy. But when they got home no one was there because they were looking and looking. Then they came back home so so happy!!!!!! Then they were happy. They they wre so so so so so…happy happy happy…!!!!! They couldn't believe it. It was amazing!!! They were so surprised!!!! They were so so so so so so so… Happy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What does this child need to learn next?

This student seems to be trying to fill two pages with extra words and punctuation marks rather than write an effective ending to her story. She could benefit from a mini-lesson looking at mentor texts that show different ways that authors end their stories. The class could keep a chart with ideas of how to end a story. A common technique used by many authors is to state how the characters feel at the end of the story. This child may see that she has used that type of ending also (They were so happy. They couldn't believe it. It was amazing. They were so surprised.) She may also notice that authors do not fill pages with 'so so so so' or exclamation points. Re-reading her story aloud to a friend or teacher may also make the child realize that all of her repeated words and exclamation points distract from the story rather than add to it.

This writer would also benefit from more exposure to sight words including 'but, came, so, were.'

"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio