Well, hi there, sweet teacher! I’m excited to be a part of your thinking space. Thank you for inviting me in. I really have something crazy to tell you. As teachers, you and I both know we have these areas of our teaching that we know are necessary but not exactly fun for our kids. In years past, sentence writing practice was one of those areas for me, and maybe it is for you as well. But I cracked the code. I made it fun, and I shared this resource with other teachers. On November 6, 2020, Tammy V. wrote, “My students actually cheer when I say to get ready for our daily sentence.” You can achieve this too my friend, and I’ll tell you how to do just that.
Let me give you a quick life update. I’m so happy to report to you that I have switched schools, and I’m finally teaching first grade. I’ve taught second grade for years, and I really enjoyed it. But I never felt that passion I felt back when I taught kindergarten. So you are now listening to Teacher Toni, first grade teacher, yay! And let me also say that I have four children, you may know the story. I got two back in December. And we’re just learning this new way of life.
What Makes Daily Write-It Special
I want to come to you with how to get your students cheering for sentence writing practice just as Tammy V.’s students did and my students do now. I feel a little uncomfortable with this because I don’t like to push my resources that I sell. If you’ve been with me very long, you know that most of the content I give to you here on the blog is absolutely free. That will be true today as well.
But Tammy V. is actually someone who purchased the resource that I sell that makes sentence writing practice so easy and absolutely no prep for teachers. I absolutely believe in this product. I’ve used it every year for the past six years and haven’t found anything that gives me such focused, successful sentence writing practice for my students. The beauty of today’s post is that I’m not selling you the product. Of course you can purchase that if you’re interested. But I’m giving you the formula of the product so that you can recreate this in your own classroom, whether you purchase it or not.
I’m going to tell you how and why it works. So if you’re frugal and don’t want to buy a thing, I’ve got you covered. But if you do end up purchasing the product because of convenience, this episode will also help you understand why it works and how to use it effectively.
Formula for Students to Cheer for Sentence Writing
Forming complete and grammatically correct sentences is pretty complicated. Students have come along this journey of hearing words and sounds and strings of those words put together. But suddenly, they are expected to encode that information and put it down in written form. That is pretty tough, guys, we have to admit it. And we have to realize that this is complicated for our students. That is why we as educators must make it as simple as possible.
Well, back in the Sentence Writing post, I explained why dictated sentences are an effective strategy to use when helping our little learners gain this skill of writing complete sentences. For me, I am teaching first grade now, and I am starting off the year with dictated sentences for sure. I’m going to use the formula that I’m going to share with you now.
But here’s the thing, if we just randomly throw in dictated sentences, it may not give us the success that we’re craving. If you’ve taught primary any amount of time, I know that you’ve had that craving for students to write complete sentences. What I’m saying to you is that using dictated sentences in the way that I’ve described in the post I mentioned, along with a formula I’m going to share with you today, can give you that success from your students that you crave. You have to give this strategy a try teacher, I promise you will love it. Even if your current curriculum does a lot with sentence writing, this quick 10 minute routine can change things for your students.
Sentence writing is such an important skill. It translates into all other areas of our life. Here is the four part formula that you will need to implement to ensure that dictated sentence writing is the most effective that it can be. I’m going to very quickly break all four of those down so that no matter if you are using the product I created, or the free sentence writing toolkit that I have available, you will have success.
Let’s talk about routine sentence writing. Yes, I love routines. I talk about routines all the time, because I truly feel they make my life easier, and they make learning easier for my students. Anything that is done repetitively is something that we can master. So we of course want our students to master sentence writing. Doing it over and over ensures that all students have opportunity to be successful. Make sure that you are doing this as a daily routine. Put it on your classroom schedule, and make sure that you repeat it daily.
What I love about routines is that it takes the thinking out of the process. Of course, I still have to think to produce the results. But the process is always the same, so I know what to do. And I do it without any arguing.
When you’re using dictated sentences, the second part of the formula is cues. This is something that may be a little harder for you if you don’t purchase the product, but I’m going to give you some examples and ideas to help. Cues are used to help teach, remind, and reinforce students’ ability to do a particular task or use a set of skills. We want to have cues that are involved with our sentence writing practice.
As an example, in the Daily Write-It Simple Sentences pack, that’s the product I’m talking about here, there are many sounds that cue students on what to do. The routine itself has a little sound at the very beginning. When students hear that sound at the beginning of the routine, they know that is the start, so I better get my mind ready. You might think, well, that cute introduction sound is fun for my kids. But it’s actually an auditory cue.
There are many visual cues involved as well. For instance, there’s a picture that goes along with a sentence. There is a boy holding a pencil and a notebook when it’s time to write. Then there’s a giant check mark when it’s time to check your work. Those visual cues guide our students.
So if you don’t have this product, and you’re just using dictated sentences, which can be just as effective, you can recreate this for yourself by using cues. Maybe you have a certain bell that rings whenever it’s time to start sentence writing. Maybe you hold up cue cards, just like the pictures that I mentioned, that guide your students through the process. You could get that absolutely free on Google.
Let’s talk about scaffolding. I never truly understood the concept of scaffolding until one day I Googled the word scaffolding. Images popped up of these builders creating a building from the ground up. The scaffolding is what allows them to go up to the top. Once I saw that, I understood that it’s just a support for kids that helps them reach higher levels of learning. Scaffolding is definitely important during our sentence writing practice as it is in almost every area of our teaching.
We want our students to go from dependent on us when writing sentences to independence. Now you may have a few students who are initially independent, but most of your learners more than likely will need your guidance, your scaffolding, to become independent sentence writers. It comes with almost every student that I work with and use this strategy, but it just takes time, routines, cues, all of those things repeated over and over.
When we think about scaffolding in sentence writing, we have to think about the abilities of our students. Some of your kiddos can probably do a lot of it on their own. The way that the Daily Write-It program is designed, every student has to work independently for a certain length of time. Embedded in the digital version is music that you can play. It plays very low, relaxing music, and that can also be considered another auditory cue.
While that music is playing and your students are working independently, it gives you the teacher time to walk around, visit with individual students, and scaffold them on to success. Some of your students may struggle with spelling words. This is a time where you can give them strategies to fingerspell or to sound out words, whatever you use in your classroom. Other students may be missing things like capitalization. You can give them a quick reminder.
Level Up With Scaffolding
Whatever the needs of your students are, you can scaffold during this independent writing time, and that is what helps your students find that success. If I just gave a dictated sentence, didn’t walk around the room, just went ahead and gave them the answer, many of my students would never find the success that I can provide them through scaffolding.
So let’s not give them the answer. Let’s give them time to struggle and give them little pieces of support to help them reach the next level. It will be up to you to find and determine what that scaffolding looks like for your kids. But over time, you will find that this is what drives the biggest part of the success.
Another suggestion related to scaffolding is to also make sure you are constantly moving up and challenging your students to get better and do more. This is the reason why I created several different packs of Daily Write-It sentence practice. There’s a Simple Sentences that I always use starting around December in kindergarten. Then there’s a First Grade skills pack that I have used in kindergarten and at the beginning of second grade. Now there’s a Multiple Sentences pack that I used consistently all year last year in second grade and found wonderful results from. I have all three of those bundled up on Teachers Pay Teachers if that’s something you’re interested in.
My point is to make sure your sentences are becoming more challenging, covering more skills as you go along. You’re helping them climb those stairs to get stronger and better by giving them more challenging content, but yet still scaffolding and supporting them individually on the way.
Rewards (Why Students Cheer for Sentence Writing)
Let’s talk about rewards. I’m not suggesting give every kid a piece of candy every day that they complete their sentence writing. No, I’m talking about a fun dance break or brain break or some kind of quick activity that lets students know that hey, you did a great job. And now you deserve this break.
Whether we like to admit it or not, rewards are engaging to our students. I personally do not use a treasure box or give out candy. I have found that there are more intrinsic ways to get them motivated. What I found was if I inserted a brain break at the end of every sentence writing practice, it motivated my students to do their best work.
Let me describe to you how this works. Within my Simple Sentence pack, at the end of the routine, students have an option to pick what kind of dance they want to do. So I say, “Boys and girls, I’ll be watching during our sentence writing practice today. And if I see a student who is using capital letters correctly, and punctuating, and finger spacing, I may choose that student to pick our brain break for today.” We have to use our heart and our excitement here and really make it a big accomplishment to choose the brain break. The thing is, every student will get to enjoy it.
So at the end, teachers can let students pick which kind of character they want to be, like an astronaut, a ninja, a genie. The student that you choose gets to stand up and say, “I want to dance like an astronaut.” That is what the rest of the class gets to do. You click a button and it goes to that quick 30 second dance break. The kids just get to go crazy. They love it, and that is really the cherry on top of this dictated sentence writing practice.
Intrinsic Rewards for Lifelong Learning
My guess is that this is the reason Tammy V.’s students really cheer to do their sentence writing practice, because they have associated it with fun. When we can associate fun and learning together for our students, that can last their whole lifetime. Talk about a lifelong learner. That, my friend, is why your job and my job is so important. We have to give these kids enough fun and engagement to last them through their entire school career. If we give them that love of learning, that association of learning with fun, that is powerful.
If you use my product great, or if not find a repetitive reward, something that your students can have a choice in and something that they absolutely love. There are some brain breaks on YouTube that my kids beg to do. My first graders are excited about these Would You Rather brain breaks. If you’re interested in that, you can Google them. Whatever the reward is, just make sure that it involves your students and really piques their interest and makes them want to do their best work.
I promise if you’ve not tried these strategies before, you will find more success in sentence writing practice than you’ve ever had during your time in the classroom. That’s a big promise, but I am sticking to it, teacher friend.
Get your students to cheer for sentence writing!
I love talking about literacy, and I’m so excited to be in first grade. My own new students at my brand new school will begin Daily Write-It simple sentences on Monday, and I’m so excited about that. My hope is that they will progress quickly through that pack. I’m not sure because this year students are obviously behind where they would be in a normal year. But after that, I’ll move on to the First Grade skills pack and for my higher level students, they may even make it to the Multiple Sentence pack this year. My friend, whether you have these products or not, you can still use all of these strategies, all of this information and create your own. You are so smart, so talented, you can do whatever you set your mind to.
Wish me luck on this brand new first grade adventure at a brand new school! Wow, am I nervous and excited, and more than anything, I’m excited about the knowledge that’s going to come out of this transition that I can share with you. If you are a first grade teacher, please email me with your best advice. I’d love to hear from you.
I wish you a blessed, healthy week. If you’re heading back to the classroom, have fun with those kiddos. Spread your joy. Spread your passion. And until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.