Follow Up On Writing Portfolios in First Grade – Trimester 2

images-1In October I wrote on how I use writing portfolios to help guide classroom instruction in my first grade class. We are now finished with the first trimester of the school year and this week we are having parent conferences to discuss academic progress and social-emotional growth.  It has been a challenging first trimester to say the least, particularly with the implementation of the new Common Core Standards. Nevertheless, we teachers keep chugging along, trying our best, looking for new and innovative ways to maintain rigor, curiosity and depth to the given curriculum.

As I mentioned on the previous post, I always give my first graders a writing assessment on the first day of school to get a baseline of where they are academically in terms of language, spelling and penmanship. Unfortunately two of the samples I included are no longer in my classroom.  For this reason, I am including a new student who didn’t start the school year with me, but came in September. Hopefully I won’t have any students transfer out of my class as is the case in many urban school settings.

In class we have been doing many activities to promote and foster the love of reading and writing. We read about three read alouds per day ranging from simple pattern books to more sophisticated informational texts that are usually aligned to science and social studies. We do shared writing activities, writer’s workshop, guided writing and writing throughout the curriculum. We also make big books to complement our units of study. A former student who is now in second grade stopped by to visit today and said, “I miss your class because you used to read us lots of stories.” I make it a point to read stories of varying genres in the morning, after lunch and before going home.  Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

Check out their latest writing portfolio entries….they are coming along!

This student is on grade level and is doing well in all subject areas.

First day of school - August 20th DRA 4 student

First day of school – August 20th
DRA 4 student

Nov 18, 2nd Trimester/DRA 8

End of first trimester: November 18th /DRA 8

This student is developing proficiency in language arts.

writing med

End of first trimester: November 18th / DRA 4

End of first trimester: November 18th / DRA 4

This student is far below grade level and receiving intensive reading intervention in and out of the classroom. But I am proud of the progress, albeit slow. This student can now write first and last name independently and is beginning to demonstrate beginning sounds in writing.

End of first trimester: November 18th / DRA 2

End of first trimester: November 18th / DRA 2

I will continue to work with my first graders in small and whole group settings, collaborating with my grade level and finding ways to help them succeed. My team teacher said something that has stayed with me all night as I write this post. “No matter where our students are (academically speaking), they are not afraid to write. They sit down, write and do their best.” 

I’m looking forward to another successful trimester. I will report back in February at the end of the second trimester with more student samples. Until then, keep reading, writing and having fun!

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King

“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.” — Virginia Woolf

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
― Anaïs Nin

The LA Latino Book & Family Festival – Great Books, Humble Souls

Victor Villaseñor getting read to sign his books.

          Victor Villaseñor getting read to sign his books.

The Los Angeles Latino Book and Family Festival took place yesterday at East Los Angeles College. Even though the weather was chilly by LA standards, many came to check out this fantastic cultural and family event.  I was excited to partake in a Q&A session with noteworthy children’s authors, René Colato Laínez and James Luna, as well as other indie authors like myself.

René Colato Laínez shared he was celebrating ten successful years as a published children’s author. I’ve read many of his picture books and I use them often in my classroom. I even bought a copy of his latest, Señor Pancho Had a Rancho, a fun twist on Old McDonald Had A Farm with a Latino flair.

rene colato books

               Books Written by René Colato Laínez

James Luna has written two picture books and both have been well received.  The Runaway Piggy also received the Tejas Star Book Award – Wow!  The coolest thing about meeting these two successful children’s authors is that they are both teachers and have over 20 years of teaching experience. Imagine how amazing it must be to be a student in their classrooms. I would love to be a fly on the wall to see how they motivate their students during Writer’s Workshop.

runaway piggy

After the Q & A I got to sell and sign alongside these two gentlemen.  The author sitting to the left of me, Juan Villegas, shared that he couldn’t believe he was sitting next to the Victor Villaseñor, a Mexican-American writer, best known for the New York Times bestseller novel Rain of Gold. I giggled because I understood what he meant. Juan and I looked at the super long line of fans waiting to meet and have their book signed by Victor Villaseñor because we were more than happy to sell a few books.  And in just one hour Victor Villaseñor sold out boxes and boxes of books. I then discreetly pointed to René and James who were sitting to the right of me and said, “I hear you. Those two are the real deal in Latino Children’s Publishing.”

Malín Alegría, James Luna, René Colato Laínez

            Malín Alegría, James Luna, René Colato Laínez

I also had the pleasure of meeting Malín Alegría, an established Latina YA author who’s written a bunch of books as well – like the Border Town series.  And while we newbies sat amidst these established and recognized authors, I noticed how humble and unassuming they all were. They didn’t once mention any of the accolades their books had received. They didn’t bring an entourage or display a lavish signing area. It was just them, their books and a pen for signing. But what they did bring to the book festival was an ernest desire to encourage others about the power of telling one’s own story, of writing it and sharing it.