Hi friends! It’s Kristen from Where the First Graders Are. I am so excited to team up with Jen from Sparkling in Second and share with you three of my favorite picture books for teaching writing. I have to say that I love teaching writing more than any other subject. I love it because there is never a perfect paper, you simply try to inspire each student to write and illustrate better than they did the time before. I think there is something really special about that. Let's get started, shall we?

How to Extend a Story

I was introduced to a new book this year called Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter. In fair warning, this is a pretty long book. However, it serves as a great mentor text. Each page could be used as a different Writer’s Workshop mini-lesson on how to extend a story. The main storyline is about a young girl who is trying to write a story, but can’t think of anything to write about. As she sits on the steps of her house, she observes different people in her neighborhood who try to help her with her problem. Here are some examples:

Mr. Sims, a retired actor, tells the narrator “The whole word’s a stage. Observe. And don’t forget the details.”

Mrs. Martinez, a chef, tells the narrator “Add a little action. Like soup. A little this. A little that. And don’t forget the spice.”

Alexis Leora, a ballerina, tells the narrator “If your story doesn’t go the way you want it to, you can always STRETCH the truth!”

Illustrating and Sequencing

Patches Lost and Found by Steven Kroll is an adorable book about a girl named Jenny that loves to draw but she does not like to write. When Jenny’s teacher gives her a writing assignment, her mother encourages her to make a story with pictures first, then she can go back and write the story.

This book serves as a great reminder to me as a teacher that some students (and adults) really do struggle to come up with a good storyline. After reading this book, I now give my students an allotted amount of time to write and illustrate their story. Some start with words and some start with pictures. I tell my kids that it is up to them what they do first, as long as the story is finished (or close to finished) in a certain period of time. I’d be lying though if I didn’t admit that about half way through the “allotted amount of time” I encourage my students to start writing if they had not already done so.

This book and method is also really great if your students are struggling to write stories with a true beginning, middle and end. In first grade, it still seems like a difficult concept for students to write a story where more than one event happens. Patches Lost and Found is a great mentor text for teaching sequencing and introducing/using those transition words.

The Bad Guys series by Aaron Blabey was an instant success in my classroom. This series follows your typical story characters who are normally catergorized as bad guys: Mr. Wolf, Shark, Snake and Piranha. Mr. Wolf convinces his friends to join the "Good Guys Club" with the intentions of doing good deeds and turning their reputation around, but something always goes wrong. 

Not only is this book super engaging for students, but it serves as a great mentor text for bringing characters/settings to life and using sound words. The book is written as a graphic novel which mimics a comic book so there is constantly action bursting from the pages, tons of dialogue and it is loaded with sound words. 

There are so many great books out there for teaching non-fiction text features. My favorite go-to books are any of the National Geographic books. Each book format offers a variety of features, here's a list of features that I like to target: 
  • Titles/Headings
  • Captions
  • Labels
  • Close Ups
  • Diagrams
  • Maps
  • Table of Contents
  • Index
  • Glossary

Cynthia Rylant is another favorite author of mine. We love to read her Henry and Mudge series as well as Poppleton and all of her other great books. When you do an author study on Cynthia Rylant, you find that she often uses patterns of three in her writing. 

Here's an example from Henry and Mudge The First Book: 
"But first they looked at their house with no brothers and sisters.
Then they looked at their street with no children.
Then they looked at Henry's face". 

Check this out--->

I was introduced to The Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements a few years ago and I've been in love with it ever since. This book is about a little boy who does not want to eat his vegetables at dinner time.

This book is so good at illustrating a small moment and really building excitement of the readers. I really like using it as a mentor text because it shows writers how to keep their reader interested and leave them wanting more!

Writing Letters

Need mentor texts and mini lessons specific to writing letters? Check this out--->

Want To Get Started? 

Are you new to writer's workshop and your're not sure where to start? 

Check this out--->

We all know that early childhood learners are developing their print awareness. They start to understand that letters represent spoken words and that those words can be put together to make a book that tells a good story. We teach them to read left to right and from top to bottom. We teach them how to use the illustrations and find context clues.

However, one thing that is sometimes forgotten, is to teach students that the author is, in fact, a REAL PERSON. It just really blows me away when a student sees a photograph of an author and they realize "Hey, that's a real person". I feel like this is such an important step not only in reading, but in writing as well. When students connect with their favorite authors, they can start to envision themselves as authors as well!

Here are a few quick tips for creating readers for life.

Tip #1: Author Photographs

Need a quick and cute bulletin board idea? Why not showcase your class' favorite authors?

This is one of my favorite spots in my classroom! Students are so intrigued when they see the author's photograph. I keep baskets filled with books from those authors right underneath the bulletin board so that students can easily browse and read books from our favorite authors!

Tip #2: Author's Purpose

When teaching author's purpose, you can make it really personal for the student by saying "Why do you think Eric Carle wrote this book for you to read?" Then you can reverse that question when teaching your students to write by saying "Why would you want someone to read this story? Do you want them to laugh? Do you want them to learn something? Do you want to persuade them to do something?

Tip #3: Scholastic Authors Studies

Want to take it just a few steps further? Scholastic offers author study ideas on their website. You can find them {here}. These great lesson ideas tell you which TEKS/skills you can target, what materials you will need and how to conduct your lesson. These author studies are a great way of showcasing what makes each author different, which is an important step in helping students discover their favorite authors. The best part about these author studies... NO WORKSHEETS NEEDED!

What strategies do you have for helping your students connect with authors? Let me know in the comments below!

Hello friends! It’s been a while. This school year has been a whirlwind to say the least. I am so blessed to be in a new school this year, small catch though... our first grade classrooms were not ready until the 7TH WEEK OF SCHOOL!! Oh..my...word. For the first six weeks of school, our librarian graciously shared part of her library space with me. The library is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!! One small problem though, the space we occupied had one wall of floor to ceiling windows! Needless to say, we spent many days discussing weather patterns and learning how different construction equipment/teams worked, lol. Let me just say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger... or at least it makes you appreciate your classroom! Anyway, we are now happily settled into our new room and loving it. I can’t say that I am fully unpacked,  but all of my boxes are very well hidden.

If there is one thing I really love, it’s organization. Moving into any new space definitely presents you with organizational challenges. It took me a few weeks to get my small group area right, but now that it’s ready, I couldn’t wait to share! The best part, once I started looking at everything, all but one of my small group bins/baskets were bought for $1 or less!

Student Supplies

When I moved, I found TONS of these little clear boxes that I had bought at Dollar Tree (3 for $1). In my old room, I had a basket for pencils, a basket for erasers, etc. This year, I made a small supply box for each student that would be at my small group table. Inside the box I put crayons, a pencil, an eraser and a spacing stick (popsicle stick). The crayons are inside a recycled Jello pudding cup, which is the perfect size/height for crayons! I will occasionally put a highlighter or dry erase marker in the box, but for the most part the students have everything they need with just those basic four items and I’m not having to pass things out each day. I’ve even started training my first table group to go get their box off the shelf, and the last group puts them up!

The boxes are still fairly small, which is good when you don’t have a lot of room at your small group table. Here’s what it looks like at my table:

Teacher Tip: Do you have chairs or stools that seem to migrate their way around the table? Use washi tape to mark where the students should sit.


Yep, there are those cute little 3 for $1 boxes again! They are also great for holding math manipulatives. I prefer these boxes over the Ziploc bags that they come in because the students are able to get started and clean up much faster! When you only have a limited amount of time in your small group, you don’t want to waste a second!


Like I said earlier, everything on this shelf (with the exception of that black crate) was purchased for $1 or less! To be honest, most of it probably came Dollar Tree or Target. Here’s a quick run-down of what I keep in each basket/bin:

Top Shelf
Blue Basket (Dollar Tree): bingo dobbers, scissors, glue, extra erasers
Green Basket (Dollar Tree): highlighters, dry erase markers, colored markers
Clear Marker Boxes (2 for $1 at Wal-Mart): one set of markers each
Clear Supply Boxes (3 for $1 at Dollar Tree): pencil, crayons, eraser, spacing stick

Second Shelf
Black Crate ($6-7 at Target): word journals for writing, sight word flashcards, number lines
Grey Basket ($1 at Target): Foam Dice
Clear Boxes behind Dice (3 for $1): Counters or other math manipulatives to pass out to students
Clear/White Tubs (Dollar Tree): Math manipulatives, currently: unifix cubes, counters, bears/hippos and special dice

To pin this organizing tip and see many more--->
Follow Where The First Graders Are's board DIY, Organizing and Decorating for a K-2 Classroom on Pinterest.

What "on a budget" organizing tips do you have? Share in the comments below!

Back to Top