What “Small-Moment Writing” looks like in First Grade (at home)

  1. What is small-moment writing?
  2. How I taught small-moment writing at home
  3. What are some ways your child can enhance their stories?
  4. What are some good books that show a “small moment?”
  5. What grammar points should be covered in “Small-moment” writing?

Lucy Calkins’ units are not perfect, but her “whole language” approach does nurture a love of writing. She places a strong emphasis on writer’s craft, and it is not at all too early for 6-7 year olds to start thinking about how authors make a purposeful choice of vocabulary, sentence formation, voice OR tone in their writing. The full Lucy unit is unrealistic to implement at home, so I focused on a few teaching points when working with Kai. I am sharing this post to document how I have modified this unit to make it work for us, as well as:

(1) An immersion classroom where English lessons might be shortened

(2) Families who wish to supplement the personal narrative unit their child is doing in school.

Before starting this unit, you may want to introduce a simpler personal narrative version that is structured. around a BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END format. You can read about it on my other blog titled Supporting your child to write stories with a clear Beginning, Middle and End- foldable trilingual template:

1. What is small-moment writing?

“Small-moment writing” essentially belongs to the personal narrative genre depicting real events that happen to the writer, and the personal pronoun “I” is used. This unit invites students to write about stories from their lives, specifically, “small moments” which are clear and focused stories with detail and elaboration. Big, generic topics are discouraged, and “small moments” are selected from big events.

Once a child comes up with a focused topic, they are then asked to stretch it out.

Here is an example of a BIG TOPIC that needs to be narrowed down into smaller moments

You can see that each moment is more focused. Children need to know that I should not be writing about EVERYTHING that happened inside the ice cream museum, but ONE small moment.

This is the example that I wrote for my English as a Second Language Learners to show a small moment:

2. How I taught small-moment writing at home

I came up with a different way to come up with small moments with Kai. We collect “small moments” throughout the week. After an outing on the weekend, we’d sit down and write down, on heart-shaped papers, a few key events that could be expanded into full stories. We put everything inside a shallow plastic bowl so that when he writes, he can look through the “hearts” and find a topic that interests him.

Here is an option for you if you don’t want to put small moments on heart cut-outs:

Once Kai chooses his topic, I ask him to draw all the pictures across the page. We then follow our usual writing routine “Touch and Tell” which I introduced in previous units. (Please note in the classroom, I have students “Touch and Tell” with a partner first before they “Sketch” )

Why is it important to let your child draw first? I love what this Scholastic article (here) says about picture-planning:

“Drawing a picture provides a pre-writer the opportunity to plan, brainstorm, and develop new ideas. When a child draws a picture, he/she is telling a story. A writer is born the first time your child puts crayon to paper.”

More Than a Picture: How Drawing Develops Young Writers

Here is an example of Kai’s “Touch and Tell” in Kindergarten.

I sometimes record his stories on the “Voice Memos” app as well:

3. What are some ways your child can enhance their stories?

I focused mostly on dialogues in this unit, as dialogue can reveal how characters feel and what they think. In order to encourage Kai to incorporate dialogues, we added small sticky notes on his pictures before the “Touch and Tell” . You could also do this with thought bubbles.

4. What mentor text supports small moment writing?

5. What grammar points should be covered in “Small Moment Writing”?

  • Beginning sentences with capital letters and ending with full stops
  • Using ellipsis to show hesitation
  • Using past tense to describe past events
  • Using transition words to link BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END
  • Incorporate strong verbs
  • Adding quotation marks to show dialogues and thoughts (OPTIONAL)

** If your child is a weaker writer, you may want to model each (past tense verb/transition word) in sentences.

This is the example that I wrote together in my class: which I showed Kai as an example as well:

Below are a few of Kai’s personal narratives:

Here are a few story writing papers Kai uses:

I love teaching this unit because selecting the right “small moments” such as when the fireworks glaring in the sky, or when your coat gets stuck on the school bus makes a story more personable and memorable. This eliminates the tendency to write generic details about how you spent an entire day, things you did for an entire vacation. Please tag me on @msclaudias_bento if your child writes any small-moment stories!

Other related blog posts:

  • Supporting your child to write stories with a clear Beginning, Middle and End- foldable trilingual template (here)
  • Using “Touch and Tell, Touch and Say, Touch and Read” strategies to foster independence in writing (here)
  • What we need to know about children’s stages of writing development (here)

Published by Ms Claudia L. Kimura

Apple Distinguished Educator, Class of 2015 Primary school teacher, technology coordinator Not just a regular mom, but a teacher-mom Mom of 2 boys, stepmom of 3 boys

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