A jigsaw puzzle for a story?

I derive great pleasure in planning activities; more so, when I see them successful and when children say, “Can we carry on?” or even better, “Can I do another one?” This morning was one such experience for me. I was asked to plan a lesson for the Year 1’s (5-6 year olds) to help them achieve one of the writing skills, ‘I can sequence sentences to form a simple narrative’. I wanted the activity to be individualised and interesting. Of course, I would use visuals and introduce them to the idea of sequencing. They already knew and used time connectives (first, next, then, finally) to order events, so, a lot was revisiting and application of previously learned skills.

I decided to use three-piece puzzles, which I borrowed from my 2 year old daughter as the hook! These were perfect for story writing as each three-piece puzzle was a story! A terrific way to introduce children to a simple short narrative with a beginning, middle and end. I photocopied the puzzle and cut them into strips of visual stories. I had eight picture stories for those who preferred the ready-to-use visuals. For the more confident and risk taker writers, I gave three empty boxes for creation of visuals, to develop their own story.

The three-piece story puzzles!

My lesson started with a shared drawing. We drew a picture of a story. I made a mountain (hoping to get them oriented to what they would experience in Year 2 when they start writing stories using a story mountain) to introduce them to the concept of how a story is planned.

story mountain

However, on seeing a mountain, children started calling out, “I’ve been to a mountain”, “I’ve seen a mountain”, “I’ve climbed a mountain!” So, I decided to ask one of the girl’s help me make up a story. I did not touch upon the concept of a story mountain but we reached the top and back down nevertheless. We decided to take her and her mum and dad on a climbing adventure. We talked through the picture story.

This was our shared picture! The story was simple – a girl, her mum and dad were thinking about climbing a mountain (picture erased). They started walking up, took a little rest (look for the three chairs), walked again and when they reached the top, they said “yoohoo”! They decided to walk back down, which was easier and reach home in time for dinner (table with three chairs).

Story mountain
Our picture story!

We then moved on to our shared writing task where I had a simple 3 piece puzzle story as a prompt and we developed the story together using words like, first, then, finally. I told them to add details where possible and if they wanted.

Shared writing
Shared writing of a story using picture prompts. We re-read each sentence to check that it made sense.

The children were excited and ready to write their independent stories. Here is what they came up with!

Picture 1 newPictrue 1a new

Picture 2newPicture 3 new

Picture 4 newPicture 4a new

I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Year 1’s today. I was extremely impressed with their ability to write an extended story.  Aren’t they amazing? Most of them added more detail than just writing a line or two about each picture. Did they accomplish their goal? Yes! They were all able to write a short narrative in a sequence. How long did we take to achieve all of this? 45 mins! Yes, it’s possible!

Through this piece of work, there were some other end of year expectations that they also met:

  • Write sentences by saying out loud what they are going to write about
  • Write sentences by sequencing sentences to form short narratives
  • Re-read what they have written to check that it makes sense
  • Discuss what they have written with the teacher
  • Leave spaces between words
  • Join words and clauses using ‘and’
  • Begin to punctuate sentences using a capital letter and a full stop

Have you had any positive experiences of story writing in your class? What has been a great hook that has worked successfully in your class lately?


Is it a ‘doing – something’ word?

The suffix ‘ing’

An article, I recently read in an educational magazine called ‘The Reading Teacher’, identified various children’s books to help teachers teach suffixes by using stories. My focus in a Year 1 class recently, was the suffix ‘ing’ and it was their experience of engaging with this suffix. As recommended in the article, I chose the book ‘Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear?’ by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle.

Polar Bear

We started off with a quick brainstorm about words they’d heard of which had the ‘ing’ sound in it. They came up with a whole lot, including words like ring, king etc. I listed them too, but separately. I told the students they would become word detectives and signal to me when they heard an ‘ing’ word in the story.  I also shared with them that the ‘ing’ word needs to be a word that’s a doing-something word.  In the book, each page has an animal with the sound it makes, a word that’s doing something! So, they picked every word. We listed them into two categories.

Doing something word and not doing something word.

We revisited the not – doing – something ‘ing’ words like king, ring, spring and children could clearly understand why they didn’t belong in doing words.

I had two tasks prepared for the children to choose from, to practice their understanding of ‘ing’ words. The goal for this lesson was for them to identify ‘ing’ words which are doing something versus ing words which are not-doing-something. I was also hoping that children will understand that any action is a doing word and that ‘ing’ is nothing but continuous action!

  1. List the different sounds animals make (based on the story read) but with different animals. Find the Animals and sounds suffix ‘ing’ here.
  2. Cut, sort and paste ‘ing’ doing something words verus ‘ing’ not doing something words. ing paired sort picture cards and ing sorting sheet here.

Both were very achievable and children showed that they clearly understood the difference.

word list
List of sounds
Pictures sort ing words
Picture sort

We ended the lesson with some movement using ‘ing’ words like running, hopping, singing and then looked at the grammatical term, suffix and discussed what it meant. We looked at the root word ‘jump’ and I asked them what I needed to add to it, to make it jumping. They all said ‘ing’. I asked what is ‘ing’? They said ‘a suffix’!

Thank you for read + ing = reading