Picture labelingSTOP! After reading the title above, most assume this article is for pre-school and kindergarten teachers. That’s not true! First and second grade teachers (and special education and resource teachers) also need to plan label-writing units into their curriculum.

Although many young writers ended last school year writing sentences, consider starting the year with a label-writing unit. This gives them a chance to review important writing skills without the pressure of sentence conventions. Keep in mind these students have likely lost a little of their writing ability over the summer. So relieve the pressure of writing complete thoughts (with capitals, endmarks, word spacing, etc.) and just let them work on 1-2 word labels.

One advantage to label-writing lessons is that students are using visuals rather than creating them. If you provide students objects or images to label, then this puts a pencil in their hands more often than a crayon. (Remember, we aren’t building artists–we’re building writers!)

Primary picture labelingFor example:

Such activities are fun for students and have a significant instructional purpose. We want students to realize there is a lot to say about a topic/visual. A label isn’t simply a one-word title of the content. We are looking for many words and multiple phrases related to the subject matter.

After several label-writing lessons, watch what happens when you ask them to write complete thoughts/sentences. Students will no longer just write one sentence and be done. Their writers’ minds will be trained to think about the MANY precise words and the MANY specific details related to a topic. And this will transfer into MANY sentences in their writing.

Article originally posted August 22, 2014.

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