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Home » Blog » Writing & Language » Writing Instruction » Beginning of the Year Writing Mini Lessons

Beginning of the Year Writing Mini Lessons

Fall, Literacy, Writing & Language, Writing Instruction

Written by: Krys Warstillo

Are you sitting there thinking, “how do I even begin with writing?” For years writing instruction felt like a weakness for me. Maybe it feels like that for you too. If so, let’s fix that! In this post, we’re talking about simple writing mini lessons that get your 1st-grade students going.

Writing Mini Lessons Idea #1

Things We’d Expect Students To Know But Maybe They Don’t

First things first, are you finding gaps in basic writing skills? Maybe your students are having trouble with letter formation or understanding what a complete sentence is? There are always gaps in student learning but the last few years have been a little extra bonkers resulting in more gaps than normal. That’s okay! Just back up and start where your students are.

Start with a narrative writing assignment that has handwriting lines, a word list, and room for an illustration. I found this type of assignment gives students structure and allows me to get a baseline read of where their writing skills are. The 1st Grade Campfire Prompt is a good one to start with.

Set a timer and just let students write. I usually give them 10-15 minutes since that’s about how much stamina many students begin with. Collect their writing and look for skills you should be seeing but aren’t. Some things to look for:

  • Are they forming their letters correctly?
  • Can they write using handwriting lines?
  • Are they intermixing capital and lowercase letters throughout their writing?
  • Are they using any punctuation?
  • Do they write in complete sentences?
  • Is their writing legible?
  • Can you sound out their writing?
  • Where do they start writing on a page?
Download this writing page

Look for patterns and group students accordingly. Each of these questions can be the base for quick writing mini lessons. Start the super basics like letter formation and how to use handwriting lines then scaffold from there. Meet your students where they are to minimize frustration as you move through the school year. It makes no sense to jump into graphic organizers if your students are still struggling to write on the lines.

Writing Mini Lessons Idea #2

What Are Some Real Ways People Write Every Day?

For students who are ready for it, start by talking about WHY people write. This is especially important for reluctant writers. Make it real for them. Work together to create an anchor chart of all the ways writing is part of our daily lives. Make sure to add in things they’d like to write. Here’s an example anchor chart in case you need a little inspiration!

Writing Mini Lessons Idea #3

Coming Up With Original Ideas

One of the most common phrases I heard in my classroom during writing instruction is, “I HAVE NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT!” You and I know that’s not true and usually comes from a desire to not write or frustration with writing or honestly, maybe they just slept poorly and the creativity just isn’t there today. That’s where this mini-lesson comes into play.

For this writing mini lesson, as a group, come up with interesting things to write about and make an anchor chart for your students to reference. These should all be very short prompts that spark creativity in your students. Remember to draw a quick picture for each prompt for students who aren’t fluent readers. Here’s an example of what that anchor chart may look like:

Download this chart

During your writing block have students reference this chart if they feel stuck. If you find that they look at the chart and say, “that’s doesn’t help me. I don’t have anything to write about” I will ask them to tell me a story using one of the prompts. While they talk, I draw a quick storyboard on their desk with a dry-erase marker. I’m talking about a very basic drawing with stick figures or symbols. Then, they have a quick visual to reference as they begin writing.

Writing Mini Lessons Idea #4

How To Take The Ideas In Your Head & Put Them In a Planning Template

Our little learners have amazing ideas in their heads but sometimes getting all those ideas down on paper is a struggle. That’s where graphic organizers come in. Here’s how I teach this skill – feel free to modify it to your students’ needs.

First, I always start with narrative writing. It’s really engaging and gives students tons of room for their imaginations to go wild. Let’s use the 1st grade Sprinkler prompt as an example for this writing mini lesson. This prompt has three different versions but let’s begin with the graphic organizer.

Download this writing prompt

With 1st grade students, I like introducing each box and working through them one at a time. Normally, I set a timer for 3-4 minutes and tell them to just draw a very quick picture of their idea for that box. We do this for all 5 boxes. Drawing the picture first helps them get their ideas down without the stress of encoding. Pure creativity. Once their drawings are done we go back and start writing.

Download this writing prompt

Writing Mini Lesson Idea #5

Teach 5-Star Writing

With our little learners, a visual rubric is going to be your best friend (and theirs!) I love having a writing bulletin board up.

Download this writing bulletin board

Lead a mini lesson on what Star Writing is and how to use the bulletin board to figure out where on the spectrum their writing falls. Star Writing is writing that is neat, best spelling is used, images are detailed and carefully colored, and it hits their writing goals. You can set these writing goals as a class, as small groups, or for individual students. Star Writing helps students visualize expectations and self-monitor.

Writing Mini Lesson Idea #6

How To Spell Words

The last mini-lesson idea is all about teaching your students spelling strategies that will help them as they continue to develop as writers. These spelling strategies can easily be turned into seven separate lessons. Teach them one by one and create an anchor chart together as you move through them. When you’re done teaching all of them, you can give your students a personal list of all 7 strategies to keep in their writing folders or notebooks!

Check out this blog post If you’re looking for more writing mini lessons that stick.

1 Comment

  1. Jessica

    this looks awesome!


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