South Orangetown Central School District

Academic growth is at the heart of William O. Schaefer Elementary School’s annual First Grade Writing Celebration, which was held yesterday. The event provides first-graders with the opportunity to visit kindergarten classrooms to share their work with their former teachers.

In fact, first-graders’ writing in October already looks much different than their work just a few months ago. For the first six weeks of first grade, students are engaged in writing a personal narrative around a small moment. “Stamina and elaboration,” explains Grade 1 Teacher Art Gunther. “We write for longer periods of time and have been building up to 20 to 25 minutes a day. We’re also adding detail to bring stories to life. You can see it in the difference in the paper choice: In kindergarten, there is a frame for illustration and maybe two lines beneath; but now, beneath the illustration space, we have six lines per page.”

Teacher Heidi Hill notes that students are encouraged to use the “snap words” they are learning as part of the new phonics program being rolled out this year and to bring their stories to life by:

  • Unfreezing people by making them move and talk
  • Telling small steps
  • Using ellipses to build excitement
  • Writing exact actions
  • Including what their characters think
  • Including what their characters feel
  • Using bold pop out words

How can parents support growing writers? “To become a better writer, you need to read,” says Gunther. “Reading is magic for learning storytelling rhythm and patterns, building vocabulary and strengthening spelling. When you ask your children higher-level questions about why they think something is happening in a story, it gives them a chance to think like a writer and consider decisions the author has made.” Congratulations, First-Grade Writers!

Female teacher helping student with writing