craft · informational writing · mentor texts · primary grades

First Graders Get Crafty

Our first graders are completing a unit on informational writing.  They are writing “All About” books.  This is their second informational writing unit this school year, and their teacher was looking for ways to lift the level of their writing.  They had already studied nonfiction text features earlier in the school year, and their teacher was noticing these young writers use plenty of captions, bold print, and pictures in their books.  Author and consultant, Diane Sweeney, has been working with our primary teachers on making books, and she helped our first graders get crafty.Rock is Lively

Diane needed an informational mentor text that would be accessible for first graders, and I had the perfect book on my bookshelf. For our lesson, we used The Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. (Coincidentally, I won this book a couple of years ago from a giveaway on the Two Writing Teachers.  Click here to read Stacey’s post about the book.)  For our minilesson, we showed the students three ways the authors made their writing more interesting for the reader.

1.  The authors compared two things.  The authors wrote: A rock is galactic.  Outer space is a shower of rocky fireworks.  We talked to the kids about how they could compare two things.  We did some writing in the air with their topics.  I said, “Danny, you are writing about tigers.  You might write: Tigers are fast like race cars.  Or, Jackie, you are writing about polar bears.  You might write: Polar bears are as white as a blank paper.”  

2.  The authors used opposites.  They wrote: A rock is huge… and tiny.  What a cool way to make your writing more interesting!  Their classroom teacher writes alongside them, and her book was about Italy.  She provided us with another example.  “I could write: Italy is old… and new,” she told us.

3.  The authors used a repeating line.  Each page begins with a sentence about a rock:  A rock is lively.  A rock is mixed up.  A rock is old.  A rock is helpful.   After showing them this craft move, we did some more writing in the air.  “Abby, you could write: Butterflies are pretty.  Then on the next page: Butterflies are delicate.  The next page could say: Butterflies are soft.”

We noted the three craft moves on an anchor chart and sent them off to write.  Here are two examples of how our first graders got crafty.

This student compared two things.  Hummingbirds' eggs are smaller than pencils, she wrote.
This student compared two things. Hummingbirds’ eggs are smaller than pencils, she wrote.
This student used opposites.  Butterflies are fast... and slow.
This student used opposites. Butterflies are fast… and slow.


We didn’t see any students use the repeating line during that lesson.

During our debrief after the lesson, the observing teachers noted the willingness of these young writers to add more writing to their pages and to try something new.  These are kids who are not afraid to take a risk.  These are crafty kids.


8 thoughts on “First Graders Get Crafty

  1. Great craft moves Dana. I love that they encourage kids to experiment with both elaboration and structure, the info writing hallmarks. The writing is so full of voice and thinking. Reminds me why this is one of my favorite units!


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