Tuesday, August 18, 2020

How to Make Writing Fun for 1st Graders

So you want to know how to make writing fun for 1st graders? I have the answers! :)

Writing should be engaging and exciting and a way for a child to express their creativity and personality... but what if your first grade students just don't enjoy writing?

There are plenty of ways to make it fun for your reluctant writers!

1. Make writing into a craft activity!

I absolutely love writing crafts! I have them for pretty much every theme, holiday, and topic you can imagine. 

Kids write a story, color the picture, cut it out, then glue it onto a piece of bright construction paper to make an instant, easy craft! 

First grade writing activities that are so fun and NO PREP!

You read that correctly... Only 4 steps!

They can write as much or as little as they want then cut it out and it's such great writing practice.

Making writing fun elementary tips and ideas

As you can see above, there is the main page that is connected to a picture. It's all ONE piece, which makes it extremely easy for cutting out that even kindergarten students can do. Then, there are also additional pages if they have more to say! 

Because the page attached to the picture they color only has 4 lines and because the image is so huge, it looks really inviting to kids... and, more importantly, doable, whereas a sheet of blank lines can look really daunting.

The picture can inspire them to write as well as make it simply look more fun.

If you have some 1st graders who love to write, I actually have each craft in 3 difficulty levels: a 4 lines version (like the one above), a 5 lines version, and a 6 lines version so that you can pick "harder" versions if you have kids who like to write a lot! The picture gets smaller as the amount of lines increases.

Super cute ideas for differentiating writing in first grade

You can differentiate it even further by how many pages they can write for the same craft... which is limitless, really! 

They simply glue the pages together by putting a line of glue in the space where the title normally is and placing pages on top of each other. I very much prefer glue sticks for this! These are the glue sticks I love to use. In my experience, they roll on soo easily across that title area and stick on super easily.  It makes the crafts beautiful!

The "extra" pages get glued to the back of the main page (the picture/lines combination page) so that the pages go in order.

Anyway, I love when kids can add pages to it because then it becomes a story they can flip through and it simply looks way cooler too!

Here are THREE fun, FREE writing crafts you can do right away! I hope you love them :)

Fun writing first grade how to be a friend activity

This free pack includes How to Be a Friend, If I Met an Alien, and The Best Field Trip so you have a procedural writing (how to), a fun creative writing prompt, and a narrative for the best field trip they ever went on. You could also use the best field trip for them to write creatively to describe what would be the best field trip ever.

If you love them and decide that you want more of them, you can browse all the writing crafts I have available if you want to check them out! :)

These make such a great bulletin board as well!!! AND IT'S SO EASY. All you do is print them and hand them to kids and all they do is write, color, cut, and glue for an instant new bulletin board display!

If finding the time to keep your bulletin boards up to date and cute is a struggle for you at all, these will save you SO much time. Not having to think of a new project, prep that project, actually do the project, and then arrange it all cutely on your board... so nice to not have to do all that! 

Having these for each holiday / theme going on makes it so easy to switch out bulletin boards quickly and easily. Plus the kids LOVE to see their writing and finished work and they look so beautiful on your board, especially if they add the "extra" pages that can be flipped. People who walk by will be thinking, "How did they have the time to do another cute writing project??" 

I love that it makes kids proud of their work, too, and it's also a great display for parents to see. Parents love to be able to see their child's work and read it and kids are proud to point it out. I could go on and on about this, but making kids PROUD of their writing & excited to show it off really helps it be fun too! You could even encourage teachers who walk down your hall to compliment kids / your class on their writing so they know people who walk by are looking at it and admiring it. Ask a teacher friend to come in your room and say, "Oh my goodness Miss Giraffe, your students' writing out there about If I Lived in an Igloo is SO fantastic! What great writers you have in here!" Seems silly, but your kids will be beaming. Beaming, I tell you. And it takes 5 seconds. A compliment seems to mean 1000x more to them when it's from a random adult outside your room.

A few bulletin board hacks for you since we're on the topic:

- Since these crafts will always be the exact same size (the size of construction paper), you can space them out perfectly ONE TIME. Then, each time you switch out the bulletin board, take down 1 craft at a time and immediately replace it in the exact same spot with the new one. So you only ever have to line them up perfectly one time. Or at least until you want to change the background color :) Isn't that amazing though?! Extra tip: Draw the tiniest little line around the 2 top corners of each one with a pencil (ever so lightly so you can't see it) so you know exactly where each one was.

- If you do the tip above, you'll also have the same amount of space for the title of your display each time. Make your own letters so you can pick the exact size! I wrote this really easy tutorial for how to make your own bulletin board letters so you can always have the exact title you need. :)

- This is how I organize my actual borders - if you have a lot of them, you may find it helpful. I recommend picking one in a color that goes with A LOT of potential displays so that you don't have to change it often... or ever. Same with the background! Pick a color you can leave up all year if you're fine with that! :)

2. Inspire your young writers with a lot of pictures!

If you want your kids to write, you have to inspire them! One of the easiest ways a child begins to dislike writing and becomes a reluctant writer is that they feel frustrated with not knowing what to write about.

So put out writing charts wherever they write!

Writing Charts for first grade are so wonderful to help kids write words they may not know how to spell

I have THEMED writing charts that I love for writing centers. They have topics like ocean animals, farm animals, construction, zoo animals, bugs, pets, beach words, and so on. 

They make it really easy to find a topic and start writing!

I also have them for each alphabet letter sound. Each letter has its own page. 

If you scroll down in my Teaching Letter Sounds post, you can see some of them in the picture I showed. 

Those are my Alphabet Writing Charts set so if you're reading this for help with a kindergarten student that is learning a letter a week, then those are great!

If you're reading this for first graders, then I'd recommend the Phonics Sounds Writing Charts instead. Each chart has pictures and words for the phonics sound(s) you're learning that week so they can write using those.

One fun thing that you can do is put the writing charts in sheet protectors in a binder then prop up the binder like my example above. 

What I love about this set up is that you can display the chart on whatever theme / letter / phonics sound you're focusing on that week, but kids can also FLIP through the pages in the binder if they want to find words they've done before or for more inspiration.

I absolutely love these because you can put out a fun themed writing chart about farm animals, for example, and now they have a fun topic to write about. The fun pictures can inspire them to know what to write about and it really helps their writing skills and confidence to have words already there for them.

3. Remove any frustrations for reluctant writers

On that note, besides not knowing what to write about, another common writing frustration for 1st graders can be not knowing how to spell words they want to write. 

Having the words written for them on those charts alleviates that barrier.

You can also have picture word cards in the area that they write so they can pick them up, look at them, and write them. 

You could also simply have them pick up 2 or 3 and write a story about them. I have a ton of picture word cards (I show a lot of examples in my How to Organize Phonics Pocket Chart Centers post) so those are easy for kids to look at and know how to spell.

As many places as you can have words for them to copy with pictures, the better!

You can even put the words for them to use right on their writing paper!

Awesome support for reluctant writers in first grade or kindergarten! You could even use these in 2nd!

This picture is from the post where I showed my Phonics Sound Binders using my Long I binder as an example so that's why it's in a binder if you're wondering. :)

These 2 pages above are a great example of the 2 styles of writing sheets I put words down the side of.

If you look closely, you'll notice both sheets have the exact same words - all words with the long I with a silent E sound. One has a picture box with writing lines. The one on the left side has 3 separate picture boxes and writing lines areas so that they only have to come up with 3 individual sentences, rather than a whole story. 

This is an easy way to easily differentiate and not overwhelm your struggling writers. The more you can support your beginning writers, the better. Having the words literally on their paper is so, so helpful.

The words down the side give them topics to write about, as well as lets them know exactly how to spell the words. They can simply focus on writing, rather than, "How do you spell...?" :)

I have these pages in each No Prep Phonics Pack for each sound (scroll this page slightly if you want to see all the sounds I have) and then I also bundled them separately in my Phonics Pictures Writing Helper Pages pack

I waayyy recommend the phonics packs instead if you want those pages, though. There are a ton of fun activities in each pack. Even if you think you only want the writing pages, I encourage you to try 1 phonics pack instead, for whatever sound you're doing, and try them out first. Because if you end up wanting the phonics packs later, then you'll already have all those pages for each sound.

You can see a lot of pictures of the no prep worksheets / activities in those packs in my Digraphs Teaching Ideas post, the EW UE UI activities post, and also the Short A activities post. They show other fun activities for those sounds but all 3 of those show a decent amount of the worksheets in those packs. The activities are consistent from pack to pack (so you only ever teach how to do them once) so it'll give you a great idea of what they're like :) 

Anyway! The point I am trying to make is: provide LOTS of pictures of words that are spelled for them to support them in their writing.

Another quick note - 
Make sure they are comfortable while they're writing. You want them to be able to write in a comfy spot, even if it's just at their desk. They need space and quiet. You could allow flexible seating for them to choose a spot where they are comfortable (if you're able to) and allow them to freely write. Don't correct how they're holding their pencil while they're trying to write creatively. Yes, they're still learning how to write at this age but you want them to focus on only one hard task at a time. If they are left handed especially, let them hold their paper however they want to. You want their focus to be as much on their writing as possible and limit any distractions, frustrations, and discomforts in order to make writing as fun as possible.

4. Let your students write about topics they're interested in!

If a student loves space, let them write about space! The writing crafts I mentioned above are AWESOME to throw into a writing center so students can choose the topic they write about.

Space writing prompts first grade kids love!

I show more of these Space Writing Crafts in my giant New to First Grade? Everything You Need to Know! post that explains how you can incorporate science into your day by integrating it into other subjects... like writing :)

That post also shows a few more writing crafts for back to school and classroom management if you want to see more of them. I also have posts that show some of the crafts I like for each month. You can see links to them under the "Monthly Writing Crafts and Ideas" section of this page:

Those are showing mostly seasonal ones but I have them for a ton of different creative writing, how to writing, narrative writing, and opinion writing topics too! 

I recommend printing out a bunch of random ones and putting them in a place where kids can choose the one they want. This makes an AWESOME fast finisher bin that kids who finish their work early can grab and do a fun little project. Just the fact that they can pick the one they do makes it all of a sudden seem like a reward. I'm sure you've noticed that too! :) Even if it's a math center they had to do at one point... now, if they get to choose it, it's all of a sudden a treat. Such a fascinating first grade phenomenon. And kindergarten phenomenon. And, if I'm being honest, adult phenomenon lol :) Yes, it works on us too!

I hope this post gave you some fun ways for how to make writing fun for 1st graders in your class or for your first grader at home. These ideas really apply to any elementary aged child, so no matter what age student you're trying to encourage to be a good writer that enjoys writing, I think these ideas will help! The main focus is to keep it as fun and silly and creative as possible and to limit any frustrations getting in the way of those 3 things. Happy writing! :) 


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