Reading 101: A Guide for Parents

Writing Activities for Your First Grader

Writing allows children to express their thoughts, creativity, and uniqueness. It is a fundamental way in which children learn to think critically, organize and communicate ideas, and make thinking visible and permanent. And learning to write well helps children to be better readers!

Overview

Writing with purpose, style, and structure

First graders write many times a day to express their ideas and interests — they are writing with a purpose, through stories, letters, and lists. Children at this age can read their own writing and should be encouraged to read aloud!

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.

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.”

Be a writing role model

Make sure your child sees you writing. She will learn about writing by watching you write. Talk with her about your writing so that she begins to understand why writing is important and the many ways it can be used.

Stay positive!

Kids who are worried about spelling every word correctly will often stick to a small group of words they can spell, or may avoid writing altogether.

Struggling with handwriting?

Handwriting involves more than just making letters on a page — it requires strong fine motor and visual-motor skills. Here are six multisensory techniques to try if your child is struggling with writing.

Does spelling count?

With first graders, you’ll see a combination of invented and correct spelling (especially words from a word wall or vocabulary list). Early attempts at spelling are not the random swings they sometimes appear. Children's "invented spelling" gives us a window into what they understand about written language. A good teacher will be able to tell the difference between the misspellings that indicate normal literacy development and those that suggest a possible learning disability. If you have questions, talk to your child's teacher or reading specialist.

Invented spelling: your child’s first writing

This video is from Home Reading Helper, a resource for parents to elevate children’s reading at home provided by Read Charlotte. Find more video, parent activities, printables, and other resources at Home Reading Helper.

What does first grade writing look like?

Try these writing ideas at home

List maker

Ask your child to help you make a grocery list or a "to-do" list for weekend chores. Your child can dictate the list as you write, to model the process. Then switch roles, and ask your child to write the list as you dictate.

Family letters

Help your child write letters to relatives and friends. These may include thank you notes or just a special note to say hello. Be sure to send your child a letter or card once in awhile too so that she is reminded of how special it is to get a letter in the mail. And consider finding a pen pal for your child.

Family stories

Ask your child to draw a picture of a family activity and then write a sentence about it below the picture. Encourage your child to say the sentence and write letters to match the sounds in each word. Then have your child read what she wrote. Display the story on the refrigerator or a bulletin board — and celebrate the work!

Reader's theater

Encourage your child to read her stories out loud. Listen carefully with patience, and give positive feedback about her ideas and her writing!

Bookmaker

Turn your child's writing into books! Paste her drawings and writings on pieces of construction paper. For each book, make a cover out of heavier paper or cardboard, and add special art, a title, and her name as author. Punch holes in the pages and cover, and bind the book together with yarn or ribbon.

Field notes

Encourage your child to take notes on trips or outings, and to describe what she saw, using all of her senses. This could include a description of a walk outside, a ride in a car or a bus, or other events that lend themselves to note taking.

Message board

Hang a family message board in the kitchen and leave notes there for your child. Encourage your child to write a message back and post it to the board.

Label it

Young children love to name things! Ask your child to write out labels for the rooms and objects in your house. Don't worry about invented spellings! Help your child safely tape them up for temporary display. See a real-life example in this blog post, Using but confusing, with laundry.

Make practice fun!

Give your child opportunities to practice writing by helping her sign birthday cards and make lists. As your child gets older, write together — have your child help you with the writing you do, including writing letters, shopping lists, and messages.

Young reporter

Encourage your child to take notes on trips or outings, and to describe what she saw. This could include a description of nature walks, a boat ride, a car trip, or other events that lend themselves to note-taking.

Writing to remember

If your child likes a particular song, suggest that she learn the words by writing them down. Also encourage copying favorite poems or quotations from books and plays.

Reader's theater

Encourage your child to read her stories out loud. Listen carefully without interrupting, and give her positive feedback about her ideas and her writing!

Play a game with pictures

Photos and images are great story sparkers. Do a web search and find a few interesting images. Or cut out pictures from magazines. The pictures can be realistic, such as a photo of students on a playground. Or they can be fantastical images, such as a superhero flying in space. Glue a couple images into a notebook. Then ask your child to write about one of them. You can prompt her, asking her to include what she sees, what the people are thinking, what will happen next—or just let her imagination run free.

Make an “I can” book

As your child learns to write, she’ll also be learning other new skills. Making an “I Can” book will let her practice writing skills and keep track of her other accomplishments. Staple together a bunch of blank sheets of paper to make a book. As your child reaches a new milestone, such as learning to tie her shoes or hit a baseball, she can draw a picture on a new page of the book. Younger kids can then write, “I can tie my shoes.” Older kids can write a few sentences about what they’ve accomplished.

Create a family scrapbook

A family scrapbook is a great way to save memories and jump-start your child’s writing. Use an inexpensive photo album to keep souvenirs of things you do together. This can include photos, ticket stubs, and found objects, like pretty leaves. Your child can begin by writing the date and a line about where you were and what you did. Then, you can work together to write a more detailed summary. Don’t forget to include funny or even annoying moments!

Foster a love of writing with your first grader

This video is from Home Reading Helper, a resource for parents to elevate children’s reading at home provided by Read Charlotte. Find more video, parent activities, printables, and other resources at Home Reading Helper.

Write, revise, and edit

"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person ..." —

Carl Sagan