by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady
I will share several writing strategies via this series of posts on Writing. Part 1 was a focus on the continuum and word-writing strategies. Part 2 focused on the importance of letter formation and handwriting (printing) with a way to incorporate it with concepts of print, phonics, and composing sentences. In this part, I would like to focus on a modeling / shared writing strategy I call “Class News.” I utilized this strategy with KG-3rd grade classes and will share some pictures and ideas with you. I also wrote an article about this that appeared many years ago in the Oklahoma Reader, a publication by the OK Reading Association.
What is it? I called students together each day for math talk time. After this, we held a class news session. Writing the date was part of the routine (but it doesn’t have to be). Students took turns sharing news of importance to them – and sometimes some other news about the day was added. For younger students it was a definite time to emphasize a variety of concepts of print:
- Directionality and return sweep (going to the next line from left to right)
- Spacing within and between words (see part 2 reference to “spaghetti and meatballs”)
- Letter formation – tall letters vs. short letters vs. below the line letters
- Use of capitals and punctuation
- Noticing the difference between letters, words, and sentences
- The opportunity to think aloud about letter sounds and sight words
After a sentence was orally agreed on, I wrote parts of it and solicited help from students for parts I felt they could be successful with. This often varied depending on what I wanted to emphasize. At first it was beginning letters or ending letters. Then I would try leaving out the vowels for students to work on. Gradually, different word parts or whole words were left for students to complete (usually with a different colored marker). All the while I was right next to them guiding them.
I also kept a few learning aids handy (alphabet chart with pictures, letter formation chart, vowel pairs chart, etc.) so we could reference them when needed. I have linked some FREE mini charts at the end of this post. Example: A student is finishing the word “toad” and is thinking of the correct vowel pair, so I show my vowel pairs chart and point to the word “boat” and say, “Do you see a word / picture that has the same middle sound as the word toad?” . . . child finds boat to see the letters oa. I also kept a small white board (or clip board) handy. For example, if the child came to write the sight word “have” on the chart, I might ask them to write it on the white board or clipboard first to check their thinking – that way all the kinks were worked out and the news chart stayed in a non-smudged condition. I also used the whiteboard to make sound boxes for a student to work out the sounds (like for a cvc word).
Here are some examples. Now, I didn’t think at the time to save my actual news charts for situations like this, so I recreated some samples. This first one would be an example from KG. All of it is teacher’s writing at first – but I am talking as I am writing and getting children to orally help with needed sounds.
As students get more experienced, the expectations are raised. I am sure you can read this without even seeing it all filled in. But just in case: “Today is Monday. It is November 12, 2007. Anna has a new kitten. We will go to the library at 2:00.” Students helped with words we used on a daily basis, sight words (is, go, day) and beginning and ending sounds in chosen words.
Size of the writing transitions to one line in late first and 2nd / 3rd grades. Number of sentences increase and complexity of missing letters and punctuation correlates to what I want them to work on (syllables, sight words, suffixes, blends, vowel teams, word chunks, quotations, commas, etc.).
Now the chart below is an actual news chart from my 3rd grade class. Two students had a turn each day. As each student dictated their sentence(s), I wrote (red writing in Anthony’s sentence and brown in Ignacio’s sentence). In 3rd grade we didn’t have as much time to sit and watch students fill in the missing parts, so the group that these students were part of (4-6 students) used spare time they had throughout the day to complete it. Then at the end of the day we gathered together to read the finished product. Through this particular process, students discover quickly they could read the news even with all of the blanks because they were practicing using beginning letters, context clues, and parts of speech to figure it out. One of my favorite things to tell them was, “See how well you can read that without even seeing all of the letters! Just imagine when you have all of the letters present what an even better reader you will be!”
Below is a news writing experience I had recently with a first grade class I visited. I had been emphasizing letter formation and spacing with them, so I wrote the letters at the top as they related which ones were short, tall, and below the line. Then we used chart paper with dotted and solid lines to practice this. You’ll notice this was not news about a student, but news the class wanted to share. This is another option. The orange is my writing, the purple is the students.
I had shared my writing strategies card with the students (see below – also FREE for you). After orally deciding the first sentence, I wrote the word “Our” by telling how I thought of the word out that I knew. The word school was on the word wall. Then because will and get were predictable cvc words, I drew a sound box for each on the board and called on students to write those on the news. For 2 syllable words, I modeled how to clap those out and spell each part utilizing similar words as a guide (teeter: tee-“like bee” and ter – “like her”; totter: tot – “like hot” and ter – same as teeter). Due to time, I did not ask their help to come write all of the words – but asked orally or just wrote them to move things along quickly. Read below for the really fun concluding part!
To make this interactive and help students pay attention to capital letters and punctuation, we “act out” the sentence in this way as we read it aloud.
- When we read a word with a capital letter, both arms go straight up above the head.
- When we come to a period, we decided to make a fist with one hand and very lightly pound it into the palm of our other hand. The fist represents the shape of a period.
- For a comma, we made a comma shape by arcing our finger.
- For the exclamation point, we raised the right arm vertically pointing it upward and then put a closed fist under the slightly bent elbow.
- To represent the dash (in teeter-totter), we just briefly moved one hand in a horizontal motion.
Here are some other tips to consider:
I want to emphasize the last one – speaking in complete sentences translates to writing in complete sentences. After I worked on this strategy (thanks to Great Expectations tenet of speaking in complete sentences), I saw a marked improvement in students’ ability to speak in complete sentences, write in complete sentences, AND recognize where their sentences ended and the next one started. To make this happen, whenever I asked questions or had discussions students could NOT start their sentence with “Because . . .” I had a signal of the letters “c” and “s” in sign language (for complete sentence) in case they forgot. Or I sometimes had to help them get started by restating the question so it formed the beginning of their answer. This was the ONE change I made (after many years of wondering why students could not punctuate the ending of their sentences – or even recognize if they had written a complete sentence) that had such a wonderful impact on writing. Please give it a try!!!
Here’s the strategy chart again (same one I shared in Writing Part 1): For your FREE copy, click HERE. Next week will be strategies to help students work toward more independent writing.
Here are three different FREE charts that I utilize during writing and guided reading (as mentioned above). Enjoy!
- 2 sided alphabet mini chart from Mrs. Ricca’s Kindergarten (TPT)
- Vowel team mini chart from Literacy Links
- Blends and digraphs mini chart by The Reading Roundup