Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Getting Them to Write! Teaching Informative Writing to 1st Graders Through Thematic Units

Summer is the perfect time to reflect on what worked well with  my first graders and what didn't.  One thing that went really well this year was teaching my kids how to write informative pieces.  

Summer is also the perfect time to go back to units that I created early in the year and tweak them. I was doing just that with my Africa unit a few days ago, and I was struck by how far my kids came with their writing this year.  

Take a look at the writing paper that I developed for my beginning first graders in September.  I recall one little guy who looked at me with horror when he saw the writing paper below. "You expect us to fill up all those lines,?" he asked.  Little did he know that in May, he'd be requesting a 2nd page when writing about toucans (on paper with many more lines)!

So...how did we get from this...
Beginning of the Year Neat Sheet
Africa Unit
 to this?
End of the Year Neat Sheet pg 1
End of the Year Neat Sheet pg 2
Amazing Animals of the Amazon Rainforest

Like anything else with teaching, it's a process!  In this case, it's teaching kids the writing process.  

Embedding Writing Within Thematic Units
I embed writing instruction in thematic units.  In first grade, we study animal habitats.  Throughout the year, we learn about everything from anteaters to zebras. The kids love making craftivities, but its not just about the projects. They also learn how to get facts about animals through research, write rough drafts, edit their work, and revise to the point that they can write a "neat sheet."

Progression of Writing Throughout the Year
Throughout the school year, I teach between 5-7 habitat units, depending on our time.  Following is a chart detailing the progression of writing instruction.

Facts Webs
Beginning of the Year Facts Web
African Habitats Unit
Mid-End of the Year Facts Web
Ocean Animals Unit
Rough Drafts

Beginning of the Year Rough Draft
African Habitats Unit
Mid-Year Rough Draft
Polar Animals Unit

Editing Sheets
Africa Unit Editing Sheet Sample
African Habitats Unit

Neat Sheets 
Beginning of the Year Neat Sheet
African Habitats Unit
End of the Year Neat Sheet pg 1
Amazing Animals of the Amazon Rainforest 
End of the Year Neat Sheet pg 1
Amazing Animals of the Amazon Rainforest

My thematic habitat units are available for purchase in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for $7.50 each. Click on the links, and download the previews for detailed descriptions of each unit.

I sure would love to hear how you teach informative writing in your classroom! Leave a comment below, and let's chat!


  1. Hi! I saw you on the TpT forum and wanted to stop by your blog! I already stopped by your facebook page too!! Your thematic units look so cute! My students would love these! I love your chart you posted for your writing instruction, it's so helpful and fun to see what others are teaching! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Andrea! It lok like we have a lot in common! Your blog and button are super cute! I'd love to collaborate on a linky or something! Still trying to figure all this out! :)