At the beginning of first grade, the challenge of writing something all by oneself is brand new to many children. Start them out with a topic that is familiar and manageable. Tell children they are going to write a book about themselves. Explain the concept of a work in progress, and provide each child with paper and a folder in which they will keep their work. Tell the students that, when all the pages are finished, they will put them together to make a book. Show them where you are keeping the files when they are not in use.
Begin the first writing session by asking children what kinds of things might be in a book about themselves. Keep a running list on a large piece of paper that all can see. Their responses might include things they like to do, their favorite colors, favorite foods, their family, where they live, their pets, etc. When they are finished, tell them that you are going to put the list aside for future use.
Now, tell children that they are going to create page one of their books and that, since this is a book about them, page one should say who they are. Have children draw a self-portrait—as detailed and personalized as possible. Then have them write their names beneath the drawing. You may wish to have the children discuss and share their pictures. At the end of this session, have children date their work and put it back in their files.
On another day, take out the list that the children developed and read it back to the class, giving them the opportunity to add or change things. Now explain that today they are going to write another page in their “About Me” books. Let children choose anything they wish from the list. Once they have decided on an idea, they can begin writing or drawing.
Continue in this way, over the course of several weeks, having the children work on a page at a time, chosen from their original list of topics. While they are busy writing, circulate around the class and give individual help in writing captions for pictures and spelling words. During some or all of the writing sessions, you may wish to invite a few children to share their work with one another and offer constructive responses to their classmates.
Tip: When the project is finished, you may wish to take an instant photograph of each child to paste on the front of their finished books. The books can make a good holiday present for someone in the child’s family.