Primary Writing

Description

Writing skills are one of the most important set of skills in any job or field of study.  The study of writing also allows students to develop a set of skills for thinking critically and for organizing their thoughts logically.   Yet, writing is often not taught systematically or practiced extensively by school-aged children.   At Vine Academy, we have dedicated an entire daily class to developing and practicing formal writing skills.  It  is a highly customized class where students are taught in ratios of six students to one teacher so that the teacher can work intimately with each student. While course activities and writing prompts are often common to the class, the goals that each student is working on are individual.  Ultimately, we aim to take each student from his or her current writing skill level, whether it be remedial or advanced, to the next level.  

 

Goal

Our goal in the Primary Program is to ensure that students have a firm foundation in composing strong sentences with supporting details, which can then be combined into basic paragraphs.  

 

Types of Writers

Emerging writers are beginning writers, who are just learning to put pencil to paper to create print.  While these students will ultimately compose sentences and paragraphs, the focus for an emerging writer is on the mechanics of writing in correctly forming upper and lower case letters and writing basic words, including their names.  Emerging writers compose shorter sentences, where the focus is on having a subject and predicate, proper capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.

Established writers are writers who have mastered forming letters and writing basic words and who are now creating longer sentences.  These students can write basic sentences, but the goal is to incorporate additional detail and proper mechanics into their writing.  

Exiting writers are writers who are mastering a Four Square paragraph and are working with the teacher to edit and revise their papers to include depth in length of sentences, word choice, tone, grammar, and punctuation.  These writers are almost ready  for our elementary writing curriculum.

 

Class Activities

One on One or Small Group Time: During individual time with the teacher, students work 1:1 or 2:1 on a variety of skills.  Students learn grammar skills, receive direct instruction in handwriting skills, or edit and review their paragraphs with the teacher.

Grammar: Students are given worksheets to practice grammar and sentence writing skills.   If a student makes numerous mistakes on grammar practice, the teacher should review the practice sheet with the student during small group or one on one with teacher time.

Group Lessons: Group lessons are taught using the curriculum “Framing Your Thoughts.”  Students are taught the idea that a sentence is a complete thought and how to initially create a sentence with a simple subject and predicate.  Eventually, sentences are expanded to include where, when, how, and why as supporting details.  Additional skills such as pronouns, prepositions, describer words (adjectives), punctuation, and conjunctions are introduced.  During the Group lesson, the teacher models the skills for the students, the group practices examples together, and then students are given time to practice independently.  

Letter Formation: Writers in the primary program are taught and expected to print letters correctly and neatly.  They will practice both capital and lowercase letters and when to utilize each. Emerging writers focus on handwriting as a means of practicing recognition and formation of letters, and basics of spelling.  Established and exiting writers practice handwriting through printing their compositions by hand.

Writing: Students are given regular writing topics and ideas from which to compose sentences and paragraphs. The majority of paragraph prompts focus on  informative writing, but students also work on creative writing such as penning letters and stories. Students are taught to compose paragraphs using the Four Square Organizer method of writing.  Students are given a graphic organizer with four squares, and a box in the middle.  In the primary program, the writing process goes as follows:

1st Four Square Organizer:  Students write the topic in the middle box (e.g. fall).  In 3 of the 4 squares, students write one word that reminds them of the topic in each box (e.g. leaves, sweaters, and Halloween).  In the remaining 4th square, students write a concluding sentence that typically includes a feeling (e.g. I think fall is the best!)

2nd Four Square Organizer: Students now expand each one word written in the initial organizer into a sentence.  For example, in the middle box, students expand the topic into an introductory sentence (e.g. fall= I like fall.)  The other three boxes are also expanded into one or more sentences (e.g. leaves= Leaves change colors in fall.  They look beautiful). The concluding sentence remains the same, or can be expanded (e.g. I think fall is the best= I think fall is the best because of all the reasons I listed).

1st Draft:  Students then take their Four Square organizer and copy the sentences they wrote on lined primary composition paper.  Students use their Writer’s Checklist to check their work (e.g. must include a title, must indent, etc.).

2nd and Additional Drafts: After the 1st draft, the teacher and student will conference over the rough draft, and go through the Writer’s Checklist together to ensure all criteria are met.  Together, the student and teacher will make editing changes.  Students are then expected to compose a second draft, with the proposed changes.  Students revise as many times as they like, and should be shown how each draft is an improvement on the last and is getting them closer to the final product that they take pride in.

Final Draft:  When a student has revised his or her composition enough that he or she feels it is complete, they turn in a final draft, along with all copies of the rough drafts and Four Square organizers.  

 

Assessment

In primary, we expect that students will develop different skills at different paces.  Students writing is assessed using rubrics that focus on the individual goals of each student and allows personalized feedback on which skills to tackle next in composing their assignments. Larger writing assessments are assessed using a early writers checklist to provide feedback to the student and to pinpoint what areas students need to work on more in depth.

Students’ writing abilities are assessed on a daily basis; formative and summative assessments are given at select points in the term.  During daily assessments, students’ ability to use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling is assessed.  This occurs during editing sentences, composing paragraphs, working individually with the teacher, and by completing grammar work.  Class discussions, as well as participation and meeting with the teacher, provide daily formative assessments.

Grammar Assessments occur once per term.  They cover concepts that are taught in whole group instruction and are practiced during individual grammar practice.  The grammar assessments are a cumulative assessments of the topics covered during the term.  At the end of the year, a cumulative assessment is given where students are expected to demonstrate mastery on all the concepts taught throughout the year.  This assessment is a culmination of skills that have been built upon throughout the year, and is done so through basic grammar work and writing compositions that incorporate these concepts.

 

Appendix: Topics by Term for Emerging Writers

Term 2

  • What is a Noun?
  • Types of Nouns (Person, Place, or Thing)
  • Proper Nouns (Names of People, Pets, and Holidays)
  • Commas in a Series
  • Pronouns
  • What is a verb?
  • Noun vs. Verb
  • Subject Predicate Review

Term 1

  • Why We Write and Types of Writing: Letters, Words, Names
  • What is a Sentence (Subject and Predicate)
  • Letters Vs. Words Vs. Sentences
  • Starting with Capital Letters
  • Ending with Periods
  • Ending with Question Marks
  • Ending with Exclamation Marks
  • Statements vs. Questions vs. Exclamations

Term 3

  • What is a Paragraph?
  • Components of a Paragraph
  • Writing a Topic Sentence
  • Writing Three Details
  • Writing a Concluding Sentence
  • Paragraphs: Putting it All Together
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs

Term 4

  • Regular Plurals (adding- s)
  • Adding- es Plurals
  • Irregular Plurals
  • Past Tense (adding -ed)
  • Past Tense Irregulars
  • Present Tense (adding- ing)
  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms

Term 5

  • Homonyms (to/too/two, for/four, one/won, eight/ate)
  • Homonyms (read/red, sea/see, in/inn, so/sew, be/bee)
  • Contractions (I’m, I’ll, We’ll, He’ll, She’ll)
  • Contractions (Shouldn’t, Couldn’t, Wouldn’t, Can’t)
  • Contractions (didn’t, isn’t, won’t)
  • Abbreviations (Mr., Mrs., Ms., initials)
  • Abbreviations (St., Rd., Ave.)

 

Appendix: Topics by Term for Established Writers

Term 2

  • What is a paragraph?
  • Components of a paragraph
  • Writing a topic sentence
  • Writing three details
  • Writing a concluding sentence
  • Paragraph: Putting it all together
  • Tense: Past narratives
  • Tense: Present and Future

Term 1

  • Why We Write: Letters, Lists, Narratives, Reports
  • What is a Sentence (Subject and Predicate) Review
  • Starting with Capital Letters
  • Ending with Punctuation (Periods, Question Marks, Exclamation Marks)
  • What is a Noun?
  • What is a Verb?
  • Simple and Compound Subjects (Using and and commas)
  • Simple and Compound Predicates (Using and and commas)

Term 4

  • Regular Plurals (adding –s)
  • Adding –es Plurals
  • Irregular Plurals
  • Pronouns: we, they, he, she, me, I, something, it
  • Possessive Pronouns: his, hers, mine, theirs
  • Apostrophe: Possessive
  • Apostrophe: Contractions
  • Persuasive Paragraphs

Term 3

  • Common nouns versus proper nouns
  • Proper Nouns: Names of People and Places (include abbreviations Mr., Mrs., Ms.)
  • Proper Nouns: Days of the Week, Months, Holidays
  • Commas: Dates
  • Commas: In a Series
  • Writing Reports

Term 5

  • Articles: a, an, the
  • Prepositions
  • Facts versus opinions
  • Adjectives
  • Synonyms
  • Homonyms
  • Writing Letters/Emails

 

Appendix: Topics by Term for Exiting Writers

Term 2

  • What is a paragraph?
  • Components of a paragraph
  • Writing a topic sentence
  • Writing three details
  • Writing a concluding sentence
  • Paragraph: Putting it all together
  • Tense: Past narratives
  • Tense: Present and Future

Term 1

  • Why We Write: Letters, Lists, Narratives, Reports
  • What is a Sentence (Subject and Predicate) Review
  • Starting with Capital Letters
  • Ending with Punctuation (Periods, Question Marks, Exclamation Marks)
  • What is a Noun?
  • What is a Verb?
  • Simple and Compound Subjects (Using and and commas)
  • Simple and Compound Predicates (Using and and commas)

Term 4

  • Regular Plurals (adding –s)
  • Adding –es Plurals
  • Irregular Plurals
  • Pronouns: we, they, he, she, me, I, something, it
  • Possessive Pronouns: his, hers, mine, theirs
  • Apostrophe: Possessive
  • Apostrophe: Contractions
  • Persuasive Paragraphs

Term 3

  • Common nouns versus proper nouns
  • Proper Nouns: Names of People and Places (include abbreviations Mr., Mrs., Ms.)
  • Proper Nouns: Days of the Week, Months, Holidays
  • Commas: Dates
  • Commas: In a Series
  • Conjunctions: Because
  • Adding explanations to sentences
  • Conjunctions: And, Or, But, So
  • Writing Reports

Term 5

  • Articles: a, an, the
  • Prepositions
  • Facts versus opinions
  • Adjectives
  • Synonyms
  • Homonyms
  • Writing Letters/Emails