Celebrating the Value of Words at Wing

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For Lisa Dieumegard’s first-grade class at Wing, learning the fundamentals of writing proved worthy of a very special celebration, in which the students’ own personal narratives were published in book form and displayed for their proud parents. The students had spent the previous few months working through the writing process in a series of steps.

During the first step, one of immersion, the children listened to many mentor texts – such as Arthur Howard’s “When I Was Five” and Aliki’s “My Visit to the Aquarium” – to learn about the decisions that writers make and the crafts that they use. “This was when the children realized that they are the authors of the stories of their lives,” said Dieumegard.

Using the personal narrative components learned from the mentor texts combined with their own stories, the students began to generate ideas for their own writing. These ideas were then sorted through, and each student selected one idea they wanted to develop and publish. During the drafting process, the students assembled facts about their topics to write their stories.

“This portion of the writing process is challenging for first-graders,” said Dieumegard. “Taking their ideas and writing them as a beginning, middle and end required the children to plan the structure of their writing and envision its organization as a whole.”
The students worked with partners during the revising stage to add dialogue and make sure their writing said what they wanted it to say. In editing, they checked that their writing was clear and readable, with a focus on spelling, punctuation, capitalization and word usage. Finally, the children arrived at the publishing stage, where they readied their stories for an audience and words and pictures were finalized.

“Watching the children move through the stages of the writing process was very exciting,” said Dieumegard, who noted that writing workshop was a favorite time of day for both students and teacher. “First-graders love telling stories about themselves and the goings-on of their daily lives, and this gave them the perfect opportunity to take a story that was important to them and create a book out if it.”

The unit culminated in the school’s first Personal Narrative Writing Celebration event on Feb. 12, where parents and Principal Christopher Smalley were invited into the classroom to learn about the writing process and see the resulting books created by the students.

“Seeing the children share their books with their parents was incredible,” said Dieumegard. “The children were so proud of themselves, and parents cried because they were so moved and impressed by what their children had to say. The children are learning, at an early age, that their words have value, and what they say is significant and has an impact on others.”