This is the first time in my four years at this grade level that I have all these factors in place… 1) I’m teaching writing to a mixed ability group and not the “high” reading group, 2) I’m starting at the beginning of the year (like, I’m actually present at school and not on 3 months of sick leave) and 3) I have some idea of how to approach second grade writing.
So let me just start off with a big roller coaster “Wooooo!” because that’s how excited I am to be in this place. Creating Level 1 of Growing Writers was a seven-year process, and I think Level 2 will be the same. It’s a gradual learning process of trial and error, with the first year being akin to Lost in the Woods and year seven being Mountain Guide, when I feel I can then publish my vast wisdom.
Being halfway right now between Lost and Mountain Guide, here’s how Book 1 is working out for me.
First, thank you, thank you to Katy, Erin, and Rachel for the strong feedback last year that second graders still need handwriting practice, and a lot of it, at the beginning of the year. I re-did the first two workbooks to include more handwriting. I was delighted to find that research is backing me up on this. (There’s nothing like that plucky “researched-based” feeling)
In the cave of the Evergreen State College Library this summer, I gave up some sunny summer days to find out what research I have missed out on in the last 10 years. It turns out that handwriting has been a pretty big topic, and the consensus is that kids aren’t getting nearly enough of it these days. Researchers note that fluency and mastery of handwriting contributes to the number of ideas kids can get on paper, helps them keep their train of thought, and affects how well their writing is received by others.
I’m finding that for my class, the amount of handwriting that’s included in Book 1 so far is about right. Most of the class experienced some handwriting instruction last year, so this isn’t brand new. The focus on handwriting is giving them a message though: Good handwriting is important in here. I will expect it from you. I will help you learn it.
Here is some progress from one of my boys. Lesson 1 and Lesson 7. You can see in the background of the first photo some interesting a’s that he erased.
Here is another student’s handwriting progress from Lesson 1-7. On this one also, you can see where he erased his first try on a’s, which were circles with the line attached. I think I made him nervous after the first day because when we started Lesson two he was very vociferous about not wanting to do writing. I gave him lots of support and encouragement on the second day and he has been fine since then.
I have a few students who apparently didn’t learn much about spacing last year. I have had to demo what spacing looks like both within words (keeping letters close together) and between words (small spaces). I didn’t catch this one today to have her fix it. She will do that before the next lesson, though.
Most of the students are catching on to the sentence circling/add what’s missing/write the sentence. We did Lesson 7 today and very few had a problem doing it independently. During the first few lessons, some students were writing one of the other sentences on the line and not the one they had made. Today I had only one student make that mistake, and only two students didn’t recognize the fragment.
Comments are welcome. Let me know how things are going for you!
Next week I will post about how the other side (free writing) of Book 1 is going. Stay tuned.