Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cleaning Up Writing Skill Errors: Recommended K-2 Skill Outcomes

In working with intermediate grade teachers and children, I am noticing that important writing skills we would expect to be secure in the children's writing are not.  In this post I make some grade specific recommendations for K-2 writing.  Please note that these skills do not represent a full writing program, but rather specifically address composition skills.

Kindergarten: Expected Writing Skill Accomplishments by End of the Year

Correctly print first and last name.
first word in a sentence
 names of people and specific places (i.e., home city/town).
Recognize and name end punctuation.
Correctly read and spell high frequency words (see list by grade level)
Spell: a, and, I, the, can, is, we
Read: a, am, an, and, at, can, come, do, go, he, I, is, in, it, like, me, my, no, see, so, the, to, up, we, you
Write a letter or letters for most consonant and short-vowel sounds (phonemes)
Recognize all upper- and lowercase letters  and be able to print most upper and lowercase letter (at least 40) using correct letter formation.
Form regular plural nouns orally by adding /s/or /es/ (e.g., dog, dogs; wish, wishes).
Understand and use question words (interrogatives) (e.g., who, what, where, when, why, how).
Be aware of specific print concepts when participating in interactive writing or shared writing: Capital/lowercase letters, directionality, the use of finger spaces between words, and the use of text wrapping at the end of a line (return sweep).

Grade 1: Expected Writing Skill Accomplishments by End of the Year

Print all upper- and lowercase letters.
Use common, proper, and possessive nouns.
Use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs in basic sentences (e.g., He runs; We run).
Use personal, possessive, and indefinite pronouns (e.g., I, me, my; they, them, their, anyone, everything).
Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home).
Use frequently occurring conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, so, because).
Use frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., during, beyond, toward).
Uses capitalization rules from Kindergarten
days of the week, months of the year
names of people and places
Write in complete sentences.
Use end punctuation for sentences.
Use commas in dates and to separate single words in a series.
Use an apostrophe to form contractions.
Write 63 high-frequency words automatically and read the first 100 words automatically.

Grade 2: Expected Writing Skill Accomplishments by End of the Year

Use collective nouns (e.g., group).
Form and use frequently occurring irregular plural nouns (e.g., feet, children, teeth, mice, fish).
Use possessive pronouns (e.g., its, theirs).
Use subject pronouns (e.g., she vs. her; I vs. me).
Use reflexive pronouns (e.g., myself, ourselves).
Maintain subject/verb agreement.
Maintain consistent tense, especially past tense.
Form and use the past tense of frequently occurring irregular verbs (e.g., sat, hid, told).
Use adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified.
Produce, expand, and rearrange complete simple and compound sentences (e.g., The boy watched the movie; The little boy watched the movie; The action movie was watched by the little boy).
Uses capitalization rules from previous grades
product names
geographic names
first word in dialogue.
Use commas in greetings and closings of letters.
Uses some quotation marks in dialogue.
Uses colon when writing time (e.g., 12:30)
Use an apostrophe to form contractions and frequently occurring possessives.
Write and read 150–200 high-frequency words automatically.


  1. Hi,
    This list causes me great concern, I think you are making many assumptions about what young learners are capable of doing. We must work to get students talking first, so they can write properly. If they cannot say it, they cannot write it.

    I worry this list will become a measurement of writing. I feel primary learners will get stalled because they will constantly be in the revision process trying to master their skills. Instead shouldn't they be working hard to view themselves as writers who can communicate their messages in multiple ways?

    1. I would share your concerns if I believed that learners, outcomes and instruction were one in the same. They are not. As such, there will be always be (always have been) learners who fall outside the suggestions and I honor that. For me such things aren't even a question. However, there is a problem when lots of 10, 11, and 12 year olds write full compositions with nary an end mark. We need to do better.

      The challenge is to create better learning opportunities for the myriad of children who find themselves still unable to punctuate the end of a sentence. It makes me wonder why so many still are unable to do something so very essential to communicating. What's happening? Why is that okay? I taught groups of children how to punctuate the ends of their sentences during the last few days (10, 11, and 12 year olds) and I'm confident no damage was done. There is little communication that is deliberate when the writer cannot control the intention. It seems so grossly unfair to suggest that such behavior that cannot be controlled could be anything less than a problem for the learner. These children want to communicate and with some consistent attention, they seem abe to get a handle on the challenge. My question is simply why this isn't a priority in some schools earlier.

      There's no reason to stall or limit expression or learning to one part of writing (revision). That simply seems like poor teaching which coud be a problem.

    2. BTW, Angie, I do appreciate your insights.


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