When I think about writing in a first grade classroom, I brace myself for ALL the struggles. We all know them. Very little stamina, struggling to follow the writing process correctly, stating they are “done” when they are absolutely not done, or the timeless saying, “I don’t have anything to write about!”. And then after we jump all of those hurdles, we come to the daunting task of editing so the kids can ACTUALLY be done. But we’re all about growth mindset over here! So instead of struggles, we came up with a solution: Writing Checklists for PRIMARY learners.
Of course giving students tools seems like the most obvious thing to do to help them gain independence. But we absolutely cannot forget the magic behind them: YOU. As we all know, for these tools to become really powerful, we have to take A LOT of time modeling and practicing. In our classroom, at the beginning of the year, we spend a lot of our writing block simply refining what it should look like. We choose topics we have experience or knowledge on to write about. We get our ideas out by brainstorming. We write and we write. We build our stamina and we grow. When it comes time to edit, together with our checklists, we create authentic individual goals to work on to grow and become better writers. I model incorrect pieces so students can help me edit my own so they see exactly how to utilize this resource. I want to let you know I spend WEEKS modeling each specific category. They watch me before they bring their papers to the carpet and then we do it together. The students help each other and then they practice, practice, practice! After long breaks, we spend ample time reviewing how to use these so the students are independent while editing even after being away! While it may sound like a lot, the kids LOVE editing their own writing and of course helping me “fix” my mistakes!
So let’s dig into all the awesome categories we cover with these checklists when we pull these out during our editing portion of the writing process. The checklists make sure we have looked over our writing for capitals, good spacing, sight words, punctuation, and to make sure everything makes sense before publishing.
Searching for Capitals
One of the reasons I LOVE using these checklists is because we can really learn about the mechanics of writing and how it helps us as readers! In our classroom, we use green highlighters to search for capitals because who doesn’t love using highlighters?! We highlight correct capitals in our writing, while circling capitals that need to be fixed on our final copy. What an authentic way to learn about capitals and explore more about WHY we use them in our writing.
Our finger spaces box gets checked after we make sure our spacing is correct throughout our entire piece. This is a tricky one with littles and takes a LOT of modeling so they don’t have a huge gap between words and call it done because there’s a space. You can check out these fun spacemen I created to help students really understand how much space is needed! You can also grab this freebie by subscribing!
The next item on the list is to check that all of our sight words are spelled correctly. Students are encouraged to use the classroom word wall or their personal word collection notebook/dictionary to check for spelling errors. I am a HUGE proponent of phonetic spelling, especially for primary students. However, when it comes to sight words, I am a big believer in making sure they are spelled right. It also provides great opportunities for students to search for them and practice those recognition skills. It empowers students to use all of their tools to help them. All at once, they get practice searching, recognizing, and spelling sight words. This prepares them so much more when they come across the words in a story to be confident in knowing and understanding that word!
The punctuation box brings out our highlighters again! This time we use red/pink highlighters to call attention to correct punctuation and again we circle places where we missed them or used incorrect punctuation. This is another authentic way to learn about different punctuation marks, why they are important, and how they are properly used. It is amazing how much you’ll notice how this particular box on the checklist transcends into your reading instruction. Students begin to notice all kinds of various punctuation when they’re reading and why writers use them. It gets them more excited to use punctuation correctly and read with more prosody because they know what the punctuation mark is for. Talk about a win win!
Does Our Writing Make Sense?
The last piece of editing before our publishing stage is making sure our writing makes sense. In order to check our “makes sense” box we read our writing OUT LOUD to make sure we and others can understand our writing. I really encourage them to read it out loud because we know what we want to say in our minds, but reading aloud we can really HEAR that we included everything we intended and didn’t make any silly mistakes. It’s also fun to use different voices to engage them, get them excited and motivated to really want to read over their work to check that it all makes sense!
The Power of Peer Editing
These checklists are used for peer AND independent editing and they give students a great resource to ensure they have gone through the writing process completely. This gives us teachers more time to confer one on one with our students. The best part is that they can be used with ANY type of writing and they’re super kid friendly with visuals and words. Oh and did I mention they are available digitally as well as printable versions? It comes in two sizes, one to use for whole or small group lessons, and then individual sizes to give to each student. Of course with a little lamination, these can be used over and over again. They allow for tons of collaboration, academic talk, and they get students into the habit of pushing each other to grow into stronger writers. They are also a life and time saver for us educators during writing time! Peer editing also opens up for TONS of differentiation. The many different ways you can pair and group students for editing can help push your highest students or support your students who need a little extra help. It is amazing to see how students can really help and support one another. But of course how do we get there?
We typically begin using the checklist independently to ensure we ALL know how before bringing in peer editing. Does peer editing sound scary in primary? If I’m being honest, I was TERRIFIED when thinking about teaching first graders how to peer edit. However, with the use of these checklists and of course LOTS of modeling and practice… these kids DID NOT disappoint! I was SO impressed at how much better they could push one another compared to getting help from me. Kids have a way of reaching one another better than we can sometimes and it’s powerful when we can recognize and foster that. You can also bet their understanding is at a mastery level when you get to the point of THEM teaching each other all the mechanisms of writing! Let’s empower these little learners and see the amazing things they can do with more independence!
Authentic Goal Setting
We know that setting goals and providing feedback has HUGE impacts on student learning and growth. With these checklists, students know exactly the area they need to improve in and can set their OWN goals! Talk about some powerful learning. While students are working, you have MORE time to confer one on one and support students because guess what… They are working on their own! It makes such a difference and feels SO good to get to more students for one on one support. Check out this idea I learned on Instagram. It was also a huge help and great visual for students to see during writing time. It also works great to help keep me on track!
What Are Teachers Saying?
Teachers tell me over and over again how much this resource has helped transform their students’ writing. Read below some of the wonderful things teachers have to say about these checklists.
“Great resource! I printed out a copy for each student to have on their desk to refer back to and created a larger scale one to have available for them to see in the classroom. A great way for them to self correct their writing.”
“Love this checklist! I use the mini templates in small group/ my writing center. The larger templates stay on my board for us to refer back to when writing!! A must have!”
“Perfect visual to send home with students to utilize during distance learning or to include on daily slides! Thank you!”
“This is a great resource for editing in the primary grades! Very user-friendly!”
“Love the great visuals with the easy to understand checklist. ”
“I love using these when my students are peer editing. It helps them pay better attention to their writing.”
“Super simple writing checklist to use with 1st graders. They were able to use it to help with their writing.”
“Love the format of these!! Thank you!!”
“I LOVE this resource. It is a helpful reminder for my students when they are writing. The checklist is fun.”
“Great visual reminder for students and helps to build self-monitoring skills during writing.”
Other Writing Resources
Below you’ll see some of the other writing resources I love to use during writing. These are all GROWING bundles! I’ve also begun creating digital writing resources for distance learning! Some more ideas coming soon are writing process lessons and teaching hooks print and digital lessons! Learn more about the print and digital bundles by clicking on the pictures.
Digital Writing Resources
I really hope you enjoyed learning more about these writing checklists and how to make it fun and enjoyable not only for the students, but for you as well! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including Spaceman Writing Spacers FREEBIE! But you will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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