Informational writing can be a very new type of writing for many elementary students in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. Primary students are usually used to writing in their daily journal or creating fictional stories. However, informational writing requires a totally different set of writing skills.
With narrative writing, students can just write whatever they want from their own minds. Informational writing is based on facts, so it can add the step of doing research on new topics as well. This can be a new and challenging skill just on its own.
Although it can be challenging, informational writing can also be so exciting for students. It allows them to explore topics that they are passionate about or learn more about topics that interest them.
As you can see in the chart below, students are expected to do a little bit more with informational writing as they grow as writers from 1st to 3rd grade.
So, 1st grade focuses on finding facts to support a topic. With 2nd and 3rd grade, the focus is developing points on their topic. Then, they need to support each point with facts.
For young writers learning such a new, specific format of writing, it is important to break it up into small, clear steps.
Below is how I tackle informational writing step by step:
INTRODUCE INFORMATIONAL WRITING:
First, I explain what facts and information are with visuals and examples. I also go through a pre-written example of informational writing to show how to put facts and information into a piece of writing.
We identify and discuss each part of the piece of writing. For first graders that means topic, facts (2-3), and closing. For second and third graders, that means a hook and opening, 1-3 points with facts supporting their points, and a closing.
GUIDED INFORMATIONAL WRITING PRACTICE:
I like to model the actual process of informational writing as well. When modeling, I pick a topic that students have background knowledge on so that it is easy for students to participate. This also allows students to focus on the format while not being bogged down by new content. I also keep the writing in this model basic and clear. This helps students not get overwhelmed in what they need to produce in their first piece of informational writing. While modeling, I refer to the prewritten example that I provided earlier. I also display sentence starters and transitions to use as a guide while they are writing.
Analyze Writing Models
Next, students use Informational Writing “Color Coding” passages. They read through and color code the topic and supporting facts on the topic (first grade) or the topic, point, and supporting facts for the point (second-third grade). This allows them to independently interact with pre-written informational writing. Interacting with informational passages in this way really helps the format begin to sink in for them.
“Stick to the Topic” or “Stick to the Point” Determining Importance Activity
This fun activity gets students to identify facts that are important for their topic or point in a hands-on way. It shows them that there can be many interesting facts on a topic, but only some are really important and necessary for a piece of writing.
Informational Writing Prompts with Visuals:
After practice reading through pre-written informational writing examples, students are given their own prompt with visuals. First graders, or other students that need the support, get a practice writing prompt with the sentence starter already chosen for them. Higher writers or use a sentence starters poster to choose their own sentence starters.
Now it’s time for students to begin an informational writing piece from scratch! I usually provide at least an overall category for the entire class to focus on (i.e. animal report, biography, etc.) , but you could also give multiple options or have them develop their own individual topics. If you are having students develop their own topics, it is helpful to provide students with a way to jot down topic ideas they have by category (i.e. animals, sports, etc.).
During the prewriting phase of the writing process, students brainstorm using a graphic organizer. There are many types of brainstorming organizers you can use, depending on whether they are doing a “brain dump” of information they already know, or if they are finding facts by researching a new topic.
After gathering their information, it is so helpful to provide a prewriting graphic organizer. This helps students place information where it will belong in their informational writing draft. While writing their draft, they can refer to their sentence starters poster. This helps them transition from their topic to points/facts and then the ending.
After writing their drafts, I give students an editing checklist to use as a reference. This makes it easier for students to ensure they have included each part of a piece of informational writing.
For more comprehensive informational writing pieces, I also like to give students templates for a Table of Contents and Glossary. I also provide writing pages with boxes for students to place photos, diagrams, drawing, etc. This really brings the writing together into more of a nonfiction book.
ONGOING INFORMATIONAL WRITING PRACTICE:
Writing Informational Hooks:
For students that are ready (typically 2nd and 3rd graders), I like to take students in small groups to work on writing hooks. You can definitely do this whole class as well. I go through a poster that shows either 3 or 4 hook types they can use to engage their readers. Then, students practice writing their own hooks for pre-generated topics, such as “All About Summer.” After practicing, they can then apply this skill to their own writing.
Informational Writing Journals:
I love using writing journals to provide students with tons of ongoing practice! I use them as informal free-writes just for continual practice, but some or all of the entries could be used for writing pieces that go through the writing process (prewriting, drafting, editing, revising, and publishing) as well.
All of the materials shown in this blog post for teaching informational writing to students in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade can be found in the Informational Writing Unit in my TpT shop!