–by Kelly Patten–

First graders are natural storytellers. You would be surprised at how much we know about grandma’s best friend’s birthday party! At the beginning of first grade, students write personal narratives and learn how to zoom in on small moments. So they share about a time they fell off their bike or rode a scary rollercoaster. They practice telling stories in the first person, using the word “I.” 

During our realistic fiction unit, first-grade students take narrative writing a step further. They build on their skills as storytellers and write stories in the third person. They create pretend characters and settings, think up adventures for their characters, and write a book series. 

We prepared for this unit by sharing some of our favorite realistic fiction stories. Cynthia Rylant’s series, Henry and Mudge, is a great introduction to character development. Then we explored classic first-grade stories with realistic problems and solutions, including Knuffle Bunny and Ira Sleeps Over. Once our students gain a strong understanding of how realistic fiction works, we set them free to write! During daily writing lessons, students practice skills such as adding details, showing a character’s feelings, and writing dialogue. As the students grow as writers, they bring their stories to life.

At the end of the writing unit, our first-graders chose their best pieces of realistic fiction to publish into a book. This year we were inspired by Mo Willems’ blending of photographs and drawings to illustrate the Knuffle Bunny series. Our students used a green screen app to merge photographs of realistic settings with drawings of their characters. Once our books were complete, we were ready to celebrate!

On March 15th, grade 1 students gathered in the ES Multipurpose Room to share their published stories with classmates, teachers, and administrators. The students gave positive feedback to their peers on stickers, which they pasted on one another’s book posters. First-grader Ploen shared, “It’s really fun to read with friends. We get to share our stories with friends in a different class and they get to read to us too.”  

Students in all grades regularly publish writing pieces and celebrate their accomplishments. RIS hosted a Family Writing Celebration on May 17th for grades PreK 3 through grade 2 to celebrate our students’ growth in writing!