Writing Summer Camp For Young Children

e4c96e7f-5d6a-49ff-967a-d03b9a8645da.jpgThis week I taught a writing class at a summer camp to incoming first and second graders. We read several picture books where we discussed and wrote about them. We also had daily shared writing activities where each student gave their input and ideas as I scribed their words. We explored “juicy words” or expanded vocabulary like epic, wonderful and melancholy and encouraged each other to use “brave spelling” or invented spelling.

One of the stories we read was I Feel a Foot! written by Maranke Rinck and illustrated by Martijn Van Der Linden.

i-feel-a-foot.jpgBetween two trees, high above grass and ground, Turtle, Bat, Octopus, Bird and Buck are sleeping in a hammock. Suddenly, Turtle opens his eyes. “Hey,” he whispers. “Do you hear what I hear?”  Each animal’s imagination runs wild with what wild creature may be making the sound they all hear. Is it a giant turtle? Or a bird with a giant beak? Perhaps it is Bat-Tur-Octo-Bird- Buck. Luckily for the small animals, it isn’t any of these creatures. It is just their old friend Elephant who was out wandering around. The animals invite him to join them in the hammock and soon the wild imaginings about the night noises begin all over again.

The illustrations are magnificent with gorgeous black backgrounds and a collage type feel. The look of the illustrations was the inspiration for our final writing project. Our little writers watercolored the scenes of their stories, which were then pasted on black construction paper. Their stories included mermaids, Pokemon, a lost octopus, family, cycles, bad guys, destruction and American flags in the jungle! It was a pleasure to work with these little writers. They were an incredibly talented group with lots of enthusiasm and wild imaginations.

in the rainforest

In the Rainforest

in the desert

In the Desert

the search

The Search

eevee vs the bad guys

Eevee Vs. the Bad Guys

the great day at the beach

The Great Day at the Beach

in the field

In the Field

the lovely night at the beach

The Lovely Night at the Beach






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