When 1st Graders Write Reviews

Last month, my first graders were learning how to write reviews... reviews of toys, movies, and books.  But it wasn't quite as easy as I thought it would be.  I found they were accidentally slipping back into what they knew well as writers.  Some children were unintentionally writing personal narratives or informational pieces, particularly how-to pieces.  I realized these were traps that were easy for any writer to fall into, especially a writer who is only 6 years old.  So I thought about showing them examples and non-examples of reviews so they had a clear picture of what a review looks like and (maybe more importantly) what it doesn't look like.

I started by drafting my own samples (see above) and giving a set to each student team.  I challenged each team, "You have three samples of writing.  One is a review, one is a personal narrative, and one is a how-to piece.  Together, study each sample, talk about what you notice, and decide which sample is which.  We'll talk as a whole group when every team is ready."  I gave each group sticky notes so they could record their ideas and thoughts.  After about 10-12 minutes, we came back together on the floor and discussed each sample, talking about what type writing it was and what features of the writing led them to believe that.  Interestingly, every team correctly identified each sample.  We had fun talking about how these other types of writing were a "trap" that writers sometimes fall into because they're familiar and we know them so well.

Then, we really dug into the review and talked about how they knew that particular sample was a review.  Since the students were so involved in the discussion around the samples, I knew the work would make a great visual anchor for students to refer to during the remainder of the study.  By turning it into an anchor chart, I was also able to refer to it during student writing conferences and sharing sessions.  Simple chart + student discussion = big payoff.  Yay!  :)



  1. do you sell your review papers in your TPT store? I love the ribbons on the paper!

  2. Hi Jackie,

    I don't sell them, but if you'd like me to email a PDF copy to you, I'd be happy to. Just leave me your email address and I'll send it.

    Have a great day! :)

  3. Sorry if my comments show more than once, a glitch from linking vi Pinterest maybe.

    I'd love the papers as well. Also wondered if you use Lucy Calkins for writing? If so, are you starting realistic fiction next.

    1. Jenniferhancock@sbcglobal.net

    2. Hi Jennifer,

      I'll email the paper pictured above in just a few minutes. We do use Lucy Calkins' materials as a resource in our teaching, but we're planning on rounding out our year with a little bit of poetry and then narrative writing. We ended last year with realistic fiction, but after reflecting with the 1st and 2nd grade teams, we changed it up this year to end with narrative. The 2nd grade teachers felt it prepared the students better for the following year. There's some flexibility in our district's roadmaps, so we were able to make a few changes. :)

  4. I too would love a copy of this template if you could share. Fabulous idea! Becrazybeyou@aim.com

  5. I just ran across this post on Pinterest. I know it's several months old, but, if you get this message and the offer still stands, I'd love to get a copy of your "traps" examples. What a fabulous idea! My email is dianestrickland@gmail.com
    Awesome blog! I'm a new follower. :-)

  6. Oh my goodness! These are so great. I would love a copy of your stories if you would be so kind. I am just about to introduce review writing in my 1st grade class and I bet my kids are going to fall right back into these traps as well. My email is leigh.fite@aol.com. Thanks for posting this! I'm going to check out you TPT store now to see what other great things you have out there.


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