Teaching 2nd grade writing is SO rewarding because you get to see great writers emerge throughout the year. At the beginning of the year, you’re going to find that your students are all over the ability map. Some may still be mastering letter formation while others are writing paragraphs. That’s why setting individual and flexible writing goals and building out an easy-to-follow writing routine is so important. You want to make sure you’re pushing all your students to become better and more confident writers, no matter where they’re starting from!
Before you dive deeper into HOW to set writing goals and create routines let’s make quickly go over some basics. If you’re a new to 2nd grade teacher this will help set expectations. If you’re a seasoned vet looking for new ideas you can skip forward to:
What Should 2nd Grade Writing Look Like?
If you’re new to 2nd grade having appropriate expectations for how your student’s writing will look coming into a brand new year can help prevent frustration. For both you and your students. The tricky part is that 2nd graders will come to your class at a HUGE range of abilities. It’s common to have students who are still mastering letter formation or basic sentence structure. It’s also not uncommon to have students who are writing completely fluently with solid spelling! I once had a 2nd grader who sat down and wrote me a 3-paragraph essay, complete with indents and perfectly placed quotes, about his summer on day 1.
So, what should you be looking for? Here are some questions to ask when looking at student writing.
These are the base skills that students should have at the beginning of the year. If they don’t, don’t stress. It just means you’ll have to be mindful of choosing goals that meet them where they are to move them into grade-level writing and beyond!
What Are Good Goals For 2nd Graders?
Depending on your students and where they’re at in their writing development there’s an endless amount of goals you can set. However, at the beginning of the year, I like to focus on five main goals. Here they are in the order I assign them to students.
- I used spaces between my words.
- I used capital letters and punctuation completely.
- I wrote in complete sentences.
- I wrote a beginning, middle, and end.
- I reread my writing.
Writing Goals for At & Below Grade Level 2nd Graders
Once you’ve got a sense of where your students are it’s time to start setting some goals. If you’re not so sure where they fall on the writing spectrum the Small Group & Intervention Literacy Kit can give you a baseline of basic reading, comprehension, and writing skills using some of the checklists and assessments included in the kit.
Goal setting can be tricky for our little learners because they’re just so young and frustration can set it quickly. That’s why small, clear goals are so important. Clear is kind. My favorite strategy for setting these small & clear goals is creating a little chart for students to move through. This can be something you display or something you keep in a binder. Here’s an example of what that may look like. Whether I display or keep a teacher copy largely depends on my group of students each year but generally I keep a teacher copy in a binder because classroom wall space is hard to come by.
Next, I decide which goal each student is going to work on based on their individual needs. Then, it’s prep time! Print out the student goal cards on different colors of paper (if possible). The colors are great for your non-fluent readers. After some practice, they’ll be able to identify what goal they’re working on by the color of the paper, even if they can’t read the card completely.
Once you’ve selected a goal for each student you can use your own writing assignments or print one of the pages from the Fall Writing Prompt freebie. I love these writing pages because there are 3 options for each prompt so you can choose how much support your students need in their writing. Then, I just staple each student’s goal to the top of their page. Student goal cards are helpful for building good writing habits. They serve as a constant reminder to your students of the goal they’re working towards.
If your students can handle it, you can put these goal cards in a pocket chart or containers and have them find their goal and staple it onto their own pages. I’ve found – that small bit of responsibility adds an extra layer of accountability for my students because they’re the ones attaching the goal to their work.
Once your students have mastered the goal they’re working on you simply move them on to the next one. After they’ve mastered the five basic goals listed above continue increasing the rigor with more challenging or standards specific goals. This includes goals like, “I can use dialogue for characters in my story” and “I can write an introduction to hook my reader.” The Writing Bulletin Board has almost 40 different goal cards for your students to use.
If you’re an All Access member you can download the goal cards from this page. They’re all included in your membership!
Writing Goals for Above Level 2nd Graders
Some students will walk through your door ready to just blow the lid off your writing block. It’s exciting but it can feel stressful if you’re not prepared for it. We want all students to grow while they’re with us, not just the on and below-grade level students. That’s why keeping up the momentum for your high flyers is important. In the beginning of the year, this often means quickly working your way through the basic skills and progressing to the more challenging skills. Often this looked like stapling 2 or 3 goals onto the Fall Fun writing page.
With both goals attached, they’re keeping two skills in their head at once. An example of this may be attaching the “I used punctuation and capital letters correctly” and the “I can write reasons to support my opinion” to one assignment. The first is a friendly reminder to use conventions correctly and the second is a skill they may need some focus on.
Just like any other part of your school day, routines are the key to good writing instruction. Your writing routines will change throughout the year but at the beginning of the year my biggest focus is building stamina and independence. You can do this by creating a super simple stamina tracker. If I’m working on whole class stamina I will make a big bar graph on chart paper but you can also have students track their own stamina on personal graphs if that works better for your class.
Typically my beginning of year schedule looked a little something like this:
Part 1: Build The Muscles!
5-15 minutes of free writing with an optional prompt. This time was SOLELY focused on building stamina. I told my students they could use the prompt (Here’s some 2nd grade writing prompts if you need them) if they wanted to. They also had the option to write whatever their little hearts desired. I would display a sand timer on the board and the goal during this time is to WRITE until time’s up without using the phrase, “I’m done.” There’s no such thing as “done” during this time. I also don’t let them ask me questions about spelling or anything else. My sole goal during this time period is to get them comfortable writing on their own and to build up those hand muscles. I don’t grade this writing. This is just pure fine motor exercise time!
Part 2: Writing Mini-Lesson
Depending on how you structure your literacy block this lesson can be whole or small group but I try to devote at least 10 minutes a day to a writing mini-lesson. If you’re using a scripted curriculum this is probably baked into it. Otherwise, grab the free 2nd grade scope & sequence if you need some guidance on how to order your lessons. Here is the free 1st grade scope and sequence.
Part 3: Small Groups & Independent Work
Your literacy block is going to be one of if not the largest chunk of your day. Explicit reading instruction is going to be a big focus at this age but daily practice should definitely be a component of this block as well. I’ve always been a big fan of student rotations and mine give students 20-30 minutes per center. Throughout the year, I love using the writing pages as independent centers. It’s really easy to teach students how to use them independently. This way they’re working on those individual goals using their goal cards every day.
2nd Grade Writing Goals
At the beginning of the year begin with figuring out where your students writing is. This way you can select goals that help them move step by step to the next goal to slowly build amazing writers! Also, if you don’t have a writing bulletin board up, you’re definitely going to want that on your wall at the beginning of the year, if not all year round. It serves as an awesome reference for your students and can build student independence.