The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 15, 1999


Writing program for first graders: a component of all subjects

In first grade, writing is a part of everything the children do. Even math and science have writing components, first grade teachers Jennifer Davis, Esther Almgren, Daryl Greenwood and Michelle Toch told the Carlisle School Committee at their January 5 meeting.

Davis explained that there are many writing activities and opportunities, including journals in which students record factual information and notebooks in which they write story ideas. In workshops, they develop their stories, edit and revise them until they are ready to be published. Students then add illustrations and teachers bind the finished product into book form. The published editions are then shared with the class.

Another frequent class writing activity is adaptation of familiar stories or poems. The class takes a poem, for example, and substitutes new words to make a new poem.

Almgren talked about writing as part of the science curriculum. Students write in their journals about what is being studied, such as the attributes of whales.

Even in math, writing is incorporated, Greenwood explained. She gave the example of how the students use pattern blocks to make a star and then write about the star in their journals. Children also read story books that include math concepts, such as counting or measuring, she added.

Mechanics of writing

"The mechanics of writing, including punctuation, capitalization and spelling are taught in the morning message every day," explained Toch. "The message uses the same format each day, but some letters or words or punctuation are left out. The class edits the message with the teacher to fill in blanks or correct mistakes. These daily lessons in writing mechanics carry over into the students' independent work," Toch said.

School committee member Cindy Nock, referring to recent controversies in other states, asked whether Carlisle uses "phonics" or "whole language" to teach reading. The teachers responded that they use a combination of both. Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson added that Carlisle uses an integrated approach and a variety of methods since any one approach will not work for all children.

Member Peter Cole asked the teachers what they needed to help them do their job better. The unanimous response was more books, especially related to social studies topics.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito