1st Grade ELA : Unit #4 - Writing informational/explanatory text : Lesson #1

Not Quite Together

Objective: SWBAT use a graphic organizer to develop their details in an informational paragraph.
Standards: W.1.2
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Introducing a Web Graphic organizer - 10 minutes

My students write independently every day. Most of the time, they write to a prompt, which I agree to with my grade level team; once in a while I treat them to a free choice. In addition, I teach a specific text-type (W.1.1, W.1.2, or W.1.3) writing lesson each day. When I taught this lesson, we had started focusing on expository text. I use this strategy of shared or interactive writing as a transition between modeled and independent writing. When I do it with a small group, I work with chart paper on an easel and the students around a table, or with them on the floor using clipboards.

This was a good lesson to start out a unit on expository paragraph writing because it lays the foundation for students to understand the structure of an informational paragraph (topic sentence, details, and closure) in a really well-supported way.

I have found that a web organizer helps first graders develop key facts for their informational paragraphs. It also helps them remember to begin with a sentence stating their main idea, since it's basis is in the larger oval. You can print webs like the one shown on the resource section, you can put such a web inside a plastic sleeve so that the kids can use dry erase markers to write on them and reuse them, or you can simply show the kids how to draw them. An easy differentiation is to vary the number of ovals according to the students' writing level. 

After reading a paragraph about cats, we brainstormed facts and add them and together completed a graphic organizer. I worked under the document camera, as students followed along on their journals.

2 Shared Writing - 20 minutes

Once we had completed the graphic organizer together, I asked students for possible opening sentences, reminding them that the opening sentence should tell the reader what the paragraph is going to be about. (I try to be noncommittal as they give suggestions. This validates everyone's efforts, encouraging timid students and demonstrating that there are many ways to approach a problem).

After three or four ideas, I choose one or combined two, but let them know that they can choose another one. I told them to write the opening sentence on their papers, and wrote it at the same time under the document camera. (I could have done the equivalent with chart paper or on the Promethean Board).

Then I referred them to the graphic organizer and asked a random to student to select the fact that interested her the most. We collaborated on forming a detail sentence. Then I wrote the beginning of it and let them finish by themselves. I briefly walked around while they wrote it, giving editing suggestions and keeping them on track. We repeated this process with three more sentences. We ended by agreeing on a closing sentence. 

3 Independent practice - 20 minutes

After getting the shared writing support, I had them repeat the whole process on their own: read facts about a topic, complete the graphic organizer, and write an expository paragraph.

To make it easier, and make sure they were focusing on the writing, I told them to write about dogs, which we had plenty of simple informational books about to draw from.

As students worked independently, I conferenced with individual groups based on their areas of growth regarding content or conventions. See my reflection for my thoughts on the most common challenges that came up.

Extraneous Details
Developing a Conceptual Understanding

The most common issue that sprang up had to do with students copying facts from the book with no rhyme or reason as to which facts made sense with their main ideas. To support students with this problem, I paired them up with a stronger writer and had the student read his or her paragraph out loud. Having an audience usually helped the student realize which details helped the paragraph and which ones were irrelevant; plus, the more advanced students would have been done early anyway, so this gave them additional practice with the objective without interfering with their own ability to complete the task independently.

4 Closing - 5 minutes

I had students meet me on the carpet to share their paragraphs with their carpet partner.