Journal writing- one of my favourite activities for my students. I love how you really get to learn about students, their thoughts, their ideas, their experiences, and so much more through journal writing.
For some students, the task might be about describing something or trying to make connections between different experiences.
For other students, the task might be about writing a few sentences following the basic conventions of print.
And for a few students, the task might just be putting the pencil to the paper.
OR journal entry points could be anywhere else along the spectrum of journal writing. Do not get hung up on what a journal needs to include or how a journal entry should look. Journals are as unique and diverse as your students.
The long term goal or purpose of having students write journals is about expression- having another form of expressing their thoughts and ideas. At age 38, I use journalling as a means to reflect on my professional (and sometimes personal) experiences. I write to make sense of the world around me. BUT I also write to share ideas, thoughts, and opinions. We want to teach our students ways to express themselves. Journalling is just another way.
Please do be cognizant that for some student who may require significant supports with academics, communication, and/or attending skills, the purpose of participating in a journal activity might not be about expression. Rather, the purpose might be around routine, teaching independence, or teaching emergent academic skills. There is a level of flexibility when introducing journals to your kiddos. Remember, when teaching inclusively we want to include a variety of options, entry points, and tools- our outcomes & lessons need to be thought of as a fluid spectrum and not black and white.
Keep reading to learn about how to use our differentiated journals for the elementary classroom. You can grab yourself a free copy here.
I have had great success using this template of student journals in whole class, small group and individual settings. Keep in mind that this template was created with my students in mind, but I have been able to apply it with minor tweaks to the expectations year after year.
I use the template in two different ways: prewritten themes and free write (or a topic is randomly assigned at the lesson). If you follow the link, you will notice that I have blank journals and I have a package of 10 journals with preassigned topics.
Typically, I have my kiddos complete their journal first thing in the morning during attendance or right after recess when I am trying to lower the excitement level. Most of my kiddos can complete the journal routine with minimal support, but one or two kiddos might need me to be beside them or in close proximity. I adjust my position or the students seating based on the support level they require for the task. After a week or so, our routine is solid and the students understand their expectations for this activity. Of course, as success happens and the school year rolls on, I adjust as necessary. Easy peasy!
On to the journals:
These journal packages are differentiated into three areas of support. Depending on your students' grade, levels, and needs, you may need to adjust the demands from what I am writing in this post.
The blank journal package includes three formats, different levels of writing, of the same template. The topic journals are the same formats as the blank journals, however, it includes 10 journal topics to cycle through.
I refer to the levels as Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 for purposes of distinguishing the journals. Some jurisdictions refer to students as Tier 1, 2, or 3- this is a coincidence and in no way connected!
Tier 1 journals provide the greatest area for writing. My students who are writing 6-7 sentences to describe and explain are given this journal to fill in. I have them draw a little picture, and then use the writing area to describe the drawing or image in detail.
Tier 2 journals provide less area to write, but still provide an area for an illustration. I use this format when students are working on up to 3 connected sentences in their journals.
Finally, tier 3 journals provide an area for illustration, to complete an image, or to circle certain objects. At the bottom of the journal, there is a space to fill in a single word answer or build a small sentence. These journals are very individual to students who require significant support with journalling.
A few helpful hints when using My Inclusive Classroom's differentiated journals: