Writing Portfolios: Using informal writing pieces to help guide classroom instruction.

school busSchool is back in session! Teachers have been setting up classrooms, formally and informally assessing their students, collaborating with grade level members and placing their students in flexible skill based groups.

My first graders are learning classroom routines, how to write their first names and last names, how to count tally marks and my favorite part – learning how to read.  The school where I teach offers half day kindergarten so you can imagine how hard it has been for the little ones to stay focused since the school schedule is from 8:15 AM – 2:55 PM.  It is an extremely long day for them (and for the teachers).  I have a little one that starts to cry as soon as I take roll.  I also have a runner who dashes out because he wants to go home.  When we walk them out for lunch they run to get their backpacks and we have to remind them, “Put your backpacks down. It’s not time to go home yet, it’s lunch time.” I feel so bad for them when they give you that look that screams, “But I just want to go home!” But during our first week back, I have to say every day has been better than the last.  As with all things, we take it one step at a time.  

On the first day of school I always give my incoming first graders a piece of paper and ask them to write their name, last name and the date. I then tell them to write me a story, something they did during the summer or anything they would like to share. I keep it as open ended as possible. The only rules are, I can’t help you and neither can your neighbor.  A handful immediately started to write and then proceeded to draw a picture related to their writing. Some said, “Teacher, but I don’t know how to write.” To which I responded with, “There is no right or wrong here. Just do your best. I make mistakes all the time and so long as you try, then you will be just fine.” This seems to calm their nerves and then they go about writing and doodling.  

Every month throughout the school year, on or about the same start date, I hand my students a piece of paper where they  write about anything they wish to. It is also an invaluable tool to see what writing skills I need to focus on during our writing instruction and which ones they as a whole are independently transferring into their own writing. At the end of the school year, their writing is compiled into a book and given to their parents to showcase their child’s growth in first grade.  I find it fascinating to see the growth over time. And I always feel so proud of my little ones!

First day of school - August 20th (DRA 4)

First day of school – August 20th
(DRA 4)

writing med

First day of school – August 20th (DRA 2)

First day of school - August 20th (DRA 1)

First day of school – August 20th (DRA 1)  

First day of school - August 20th (New to the country & didn't attend a full year of kinder in his native country.)

First day of school – August 20th (New to the country & didn’t attend a full year of kinder in his native country.)

I’m including some picture samples of some of my students ranging in levels and abilities.  I will post and keep you updated on their progress in the middle of the school year and then again at the end.  Have a wonderful school year!

“Indeed, learning to write may be part of learning to read. For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.”

― Eudora Welty, On Writing