Teaching Informative Writing

Ahh, informative writing! Writing is one of my favorite times of the school day and I absolutely love teaching informative writing. One reason it's one of my favorites is because first graders absolutely love to learn facts about real things. They also love to share what they learned too. I also find this writing easier to teach than narrative or opinion writing, but that might just be me. 

My firsties really love animals. They love to learn about animals, look at pictures about animals, etc. So, here's how I taught them informative writing this year: 

First, I exposed them to the many nonfiction texts in our classroom. They've had access to these texts all year long, but we have never really talked about them. They explored ocean books, bug books, dinosaur books, etc. They were filled with pure excitement and joy when looking through these books. 

We discussed nonfiction writing and how the author is an expert or becomes an expert on a particular topic... So much that they can write about it. Here's the anchor chart we created:

It cracks me up what some of my kids came up with. As you see, Blake is an expert on his brother whining a lot ;)

The next day, we discussed how we may all be experts on different things, but there's two things we are all experts on: our school and our classroom. My mini lessons for this unit focused on our school and when my mini lesson was over, my students wrote about their classroom. I taught them what Four Square notes are and we took notes on our school and then I sent them off to take notes on our classroom.

Did you notice this little sweetie wrote "and it's filled with love."?! All the heart eyes for this girl!

Then, we used our four square to create our graphic organizer and our stories!

After this week, we did a group informative writing piece on polar bears. I modeled and my firsties did all the pieces with me. Then, they wrote their stories on their own, using the graphic organizer. 

The following week, they got to choose from four different animals: sloth, great white shark, meerkat, and cheetah. They went through the whole process by themselves, with guidance from me. 

Here's a closer look at what's included in the informative writing unit! My first graders absolutely loved it! Click on any of the pictures to take you to the resource. 

How do you teach informative writing?

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Valentine's Day Favorites

Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday to celebrate with my first graders! Outside of school, it's meh. My husband and I usually do something small, but celebrating with kids is just so much fun!

Today, I'm going to show you the goodies I picked up from Oriental Trading. I picked up some treats to give them on Valentine's Day, like these personalized pencils. I can't wait for them to get these. I know they will totally eat them up. I can already hear it, "Mrs. G, this says your name!" Plus, I'm a sucker for anything personalized and fun. 

 I also got them these chocolate bar pencil sharpeners and chocolate bar notepads. I grabbed up the sharpeners because I don't sharpen "fancy" pencils in my nice, fancy sharpener because whenever I do that, that's when the sharpener begins to break! So, yellow pencils only in my nice, fancy, teacher sharpener! Also, I wanted to get them something this year that wasn't candy and I think these will still do the trick since they're sweet ;) My kids absolutely love to write and always seem to go crazy for notepads that are their own!

The sharpeners also have an eraser inside! So convenient, I love it!

I also have these stampers that we are going to use at our writing center. It would be really fun to use these as a math center with ten frames too. My kids love stamps so I know they will be excited to use these again and again again!

Grab the free Valentine's cards here! Or click on the picture below!

(Fonts are from A Perfect Blend)

What do you like to give your students for Valentine's Day?

*I was provided these products from Oriental Trading for review purposes, but all opinions expressed are mine.

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The Best Way To Start Guided Reading

I love teaching guided reading. I really do. 

I hate planning guided reading. I'm not super about it either. 

So, that's why I like starting guided reading the exact same way every time. Having the same thing planned every time means that the first 3-4 minutes of guided reading is boom.done.dontthinkaboutit.

Every time we begin guided reading... And it doesn't even matter which group I'm calling... We play "Pop The Balloon!". "Pop The Balloon" is a quick game in which each student in you group has a balloon card. He/she begins at the bottom and reads each sound or word correctly. If he/she makes a mistake or needs help, he/she has to go back to the bottom and start over. Whenever they reach the top, they pop the balloon! My kids like to clap and go "POP" at the same time when they reach the top. This "game" is a game for a child to do independently. It's not a game they play with the group, although the entire group is doing it. During this time, I listen to each child read his/her card around the table. Sometimes, I give them a new card. Sometimes, I don't.

Here's a video of one my firsties reading sounds to pop the balloon:


There are 8 packs total for this fun little game, which makes it easy for me to differentiate between groups. I know exactly which skill to pull for the group, depending on their needs. Plus, since this is something we do everyday, no need to explain rules or expectations. Win win!

You can find the "Pop The Balloon" cards by clicking any of the photos below!

I love starting guided reading this way! How do you start guided reading?

UPDATE: Since this post, I've created Pop The Balloon! cards for sight words and addition facts. You can find them by clicking the pictures below!

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