Thursday 14 March 2013

Daily 5 and Writer's Workshop {freebies}

Alright, I am finally back with some writing ideas and freebies I promised! Be prepared for the longest. post. ever! 

In February, my teaching partner forced coerced asked me nicely to present a half-day session with her for our divisional P.D. day. I get so nervous talking in front of peers, but we had a lot of fun! We decided to do a session on writing because that was something we both chose as one of our focuses for professional growth this year. We spent the session talking about how we each do writing in our classrooms and gave some writing ideas (lots of Pinterest and TpT inspired!). To start this blog entry, I thought I would describe my whole literacy routine for you. I am by no means an expert on this, but this is what I have done this year that really works for me and my group. I spend pretty much all morning doing literacy activities. Here we go...

9:15am - Whole Group Literacy Activities

Sight Word Work - I have been using Natalie's Daily Sight Words each morning and the kids love them! We do a little sight word chant (ex. Give me a G! Give me an E! Give me a T! What does that spell? Get!). I used to lead the cheer, but now I pick a student to do it and they really get into it. Then we write the sight word in the poem, share read the poem together, and add the sight word to our word wall. 

Read Aloud- I usually read a story by our author of the month or a theme/holiday book. I do a lot of modelling reading skills (left to right, expression, etc.) and comprehension activities together as a whole group--making predictions, making connections, talking about story elements, etc.

Word Work - We usually do a whole group lesson or indivudual activity involving a phonics skill, word family, poem of the week, emergent reader, etc. I love Deedee Wills' monthly poetry packs. We have been using these a lot!

9:50am - First Round of Daily 5/Guided Reading

I split my students into 5 centre groups. I actually have 26 students now and the colours have been moved around a bit, but you get the general idea. The different coloured stickies are my reading groups... The students who are orange and yellow are my pull out students. They are pulled out during Daily 5 daily/weekly for Literacy Support or EAL Support. So my centre groups are kind of heterogeneous, but kind of mixed up.

I have five different centres - Read to Self (from book boxes), Listen to Reading (on mp3 players), Writing (free writing in journals), Computer (we have a subscription to Raz Kids), and Word Work (ten tubs they can choose from... I don't dictate where they go or how often, as long as they are working on something each time). I change these up whenever I feel like it. Some of them are from my monthly word work packs. Others have stayed the same since September, like Wikki Sticks and alphabet puzzles.

I don't put myself as a centre because sometimes I spend longer with certain groups or I just want to pull students one-on-one to do running records. This gives me lots of flexibility!

10:10am - Clean Up and Round Two of Daily 5

Students clean up and go straight to their second station.

10:30am - Clean Up, Wash Hands, Eat Snack

10:45am - Recess

11:00-11:35am - Gym or Music (my prep)

I usually read with 3 groups each day. I am also lucky to also have a Grade 12 student who volunteers in my room every morning from 9:00-11:30. She pulls out students one-on-one to practice sight words and reread books. It is awesome! I love her! :) It's also great because from 10:30 until 11:30am my students have snack, recess, and gym/music, so for an hour each day I have her to do random jobs for me... She is getting good at cutting out laminating! Hehe.

11:35am-12:05pm - Writer's Workshop

This is the time where we learn about specific writing skills and genres. During Daily 5 time, writing is free choice... whatever they want to write about! We do spend a lot of time in September going over how to write in our journals though. We talk about what to write about, spaces/capitals/punctuation, beginning/middle/end, who/where/what, etc.

Now here are some (random) writing ideas that I shared at our P.D. session.

At the beginning of the year we create a heart map of things that are important to us. This map is a list of ideas that we can use when writing in our journals or when writing stories. It is based on the book "My Map Book" by Sara Fanelli. We keep these in our writing folders to reference when we are stuck on an idea!

Download "My Heart Map" here.
Border from Creative Clips Digital Clipart.

To talk about writing on the same topic, we made "All About" books. I read this big book "All About Real Bears". This is from a Creative Teaching Press set called Learn to Write. I have the K-1 pack, but they have books for older grades as well. It has a book for each genre and the text is very simple for first graders to read.

We did a few lessons on fact vs. opinion before we started writing our books. Then we talked about how everybody was an expert on something. We made a chart of everything we were experts on, then they picked one thing to write a book about. We just wrote one fact about our topic on each page. I had books about cats and Lego and Star Wars and gymnastics. Lots of variety. They were fun because the students got to write about something that they knew a lot about and that interested them.

Download "All About Story" here.
Frame by Fancy Dog Studio.

For some fun writing story writing ideas we did sticker stories (got the template here from Castles and Crayons) and squiggle stories. For sticker stories, I have a huge bucket of stickers. They get to choose three sticks and stick them on their page. They have to draw and colour a background and write a story to go with their picture. For squiggle stories, they get a paper with a black squiggly line on it. They have to turn the line into a picture and write a story to go with it. I just draw a line with a Sharpie on the paper before I photocopy it. I found this cute book that goes perfect with these stories. It's called "Andrew Drew and Drew" by Barney Saltzberg. The boy draws lines that turns into exciting things. It's a perfect storry! "Harold and the Purple Crayon" is another good story to read.

Download "Squiggle Story" here.
Border from That Girl Designs.

A big skill that we focus on in First Grade is writing stories that have a beginning, middle, and end. I try and do a variety of personal narratives and fictional stories. I tend to use picture books for modelling this. After I read aloud the book, we retell the story using a beginning, middle, and end frame. Then as they are writing I can refer back to the story to remind them of things.

After reading the classic story "Harry the Dirty Dog", we wrote a fictional story about a cat or dog. In the beginning they had to tell the setting and if the character was a cat or dog and it's name. In the middle some sort of problem had to happen to the character. And in the end, the problem had to get solved. Unfortunately we had a lot of cats and dogs getting run over in our stories, but they always seemed to be okay in the end! :)

Download "11x17 BME Writing Paper" here.

A personal narrative story I did last year was writing about a time we lost something important to us. This cute story "Patches Lost and Found" is about a girl who loses her guinea pig. She even ends up writing a story about how she lost and found the guinea pig. It's perfect!

Download "Lost and Found Story Map" here.

We did a few different how-to writing activities. I started with something very familiar to the students--getting ready for recess! I told the class we were going to pretend a student from Mexico was going to be visiting us and he's never seen Winter before! We had to give good directions to help him get ready. After writing, we acted out a few to see just how accurate the instructions were and how much detail they needed to add. "Put your jacket on." Put it on my head? Put it on my feet? Gotta be clear!

Download "How to Get Ready for Recess" here.

The next lesson was fun because it involved food! I brought in all the fixins for PB & J sandwiches and had the students first orally tell me how to make a PB & J. When done, they created these adorable sandwich books (from Amy Lemons "Black History Month" unit). They are pretty cute! Of course we all had to taste some PB & J too.

Here is something new I am trying this year and I just love it--a writing portfolio! I took a large piece of construction paper, folded it in half, glued a title page on the front, and laminated them.

On the inside I staple one piece of writing from the first (or second) day of school on the left side. I forgot to have them do a separate writing page, so I just photocopied their first journal entry. Next year I will do a separate page. Then I have the students do an assessment journal piece each term and staple it on the right side. Each term I staple their newest writing page on top of the previous one. That way we can visually see how far their writing has come since September! You could even do once each month if you wanted. I just chose to do one for each reporting period. It helped me with my report cards and it was very useful at parent teacher conferences. I could show the parents the progress that was made in the term.

Download "Writing Portfolio Title and Pages" here.
Clipart from DJ Inkers.
Frame from Fancy Dog Studio.

Last up I want to share what we are working on right now... We are writing our own autobiographies! I bought The Teacher Wife's cute cute cute "All About Biographies!" pack. Look at these title pages. So cute! We will be making our paper dolls tomorrow.

I wanted some more focused writing pages, so I created my own writing pages to go inside our books. We are writing about:

1. All About Me (what we look like, how old, birthday, etc.)
2. Things I Like
3. My Family
4. My House
5. My Friends
6. My School
7. When I Grow Up

The books are turning out very cute so far. I am so impressed with how much they are writing. In journal time I'm excited if they write two sentences. For this project they are writing a page and a half for each topic. It's fantastic! I promise to show some pictures when they are all done. 

Download "Autobiography" pages here.

Wow, that was probably way too much reading for one post, but I wanted to get it all out there. I hope you found something useful to use in your own classroom! Have a great Friday!


  1. Lots and lots of great information here! I devoured your entire post! Thanks for sharing all the fun things your students are doing. And, thanks for the freebies!
    Ѽ Lori
    Teaching With Love and Laughter

    1. I'm glad you made it to the end of the post! Thanks so much for stopping by Lori!

  2. Thanks for sharing all of these awesome resources!!


    1. I'm glad you found this post useful! :)

  3. Thank you so much for sharing these awesome resources. It is very hard to come by good resources that can be used all over the world. Thank you again,


  4. So glad I found your site. You provide a wealth of resources. Thanks so much Amanda for sharing.

  5. This is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing all your ideas :D

  6. Thank you!!! I will be teaching a k/1 in the fall and I was at a loss of what to do with my gr1's... this is a life saver!!!

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