Reading and Writing in Grade 1

First grade teachers are believers.  They know that their students need to be “writing more” in order to meet the demands of the Common Core / Iowa Core.  But the struggle becomes more of a management than a pedagogical issue.

“How do I fit it all in?”  “How much should students write?” “What should they write?” “How much time should I devote to Writing Workshop?”  or “How much time besides Daily 5’s ‘Work with Writing’ do my students need?” are just a few of the questions that I frequently hear.

So we began by planning first grade literacy learning.  The teachers determined that the focus would be gathering evidence that the students had met this standard:

RL.1.3   Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

Teachers using the Lucy Calkins Units of Study in Writing or Reading Units have a vast array of resources to support reading and narrative writing for their students to provide evidence of meeting this reading standard.  Other teachers may consider going to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s “Unpacked ELA Standards” for further clarification of student expectations.

“RL. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3  First grade students continue to build on the skill of asking and answering questions about key details in a text. At this level, students use key details to retell stories in their own words, reveal an understanding about the central message of the text, and tell about the story elements.

Use questions and prompts such as:
• Can you tell me what happened in the story at the beginning? What
happened after that? What happened at the end of the story?
• Can you tell me where the story took place?
• Can you tell me the important things that happened in the story?
• Who are the characters in the story? What do you know about them?”


We have been talking and thinking about a “body of evidence” that shows “mastery of learning” the standards.  How much evidence is needed?  How do we define mastery? The signposts matched our confusion!  What else did we need to consider during the planning and implementation of this study?

Before going any further our next question was, “What other English Language Arts (ELA) first grade standards are related and could possibly be combined or bundled together to provide deeper learning for students?”  In a coaching conversation with a group of teachers we identified the following ten standards as possibilities.


Our thinking was that if we were aware of all the possibilities, we could consider and experiment with an array of recording techniques. For example, we might include a checklist format for specific standards and/or utilize a narrative writing prompt that might be a “higher level” of application that could be used to demonstrate understanding in reading and writing.  We struggled with the idea of having to record every single standard in oral language, reading and writing.  Driving questions were:  “How can we make this manageable for teachers?” and “How can we show students the learning targets?”

Our next step was a look back at the kindergarten reading standard that we would be following in this work: “RL.K.3.  With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.”

After the standards review, we created the possible checklist/rubric below. We believed that our one star rating would allow many first graders to begin with success and also showcase their kindergarten learning.  Ultimately, we would like the students to explain their own “star rating” with a reason why they chose that rating.


What process have you used to plan reading and writing instruction?  Have you found standards that “fit or bundle” together?  Does this process transfer to your grade level?

5 responses

  1. […] First grade teachers are believers. They know that their students need to be "writing more" in order to meet the demands of the Common Core / Iowa Core. But the struggle becomes more of a managem…  […]

  2. Good post! I’m finding that many teachers, not just English teachers, are “fitting in” writing. It’s got to be good for kids!

  3. Thanks, Rusha!
    More time devoted to writing has to be helpful for students if the focus is on learning and expressing their thinking! Writing could and should be a natural extension of “evidence” of learning in many classrooms as a formative assessment. That valuable information could aid the teacher in planning the next instructional steps rather than being viewed as a “burdensome chore to grade!”

    I believe that deep connections between reading and writing will truly result in more learning for all our kids!

    It was great to hear from you!

  4. Reading and Writing in Grade 1 | Cool School Id... | Reply

    […] First grade teachers are believers. They know that their students need to be "writing more" in order to meet the demands of the Common Core / Iowa Core. But the struggle becomes more of a managem…  […]

  5. […] First grade teachers are believers. They know that their students need to be "writing more" in order to meet the demands of the Common Core / Iowa Core. But the struggle becomes more of a managem…  […]

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