Journal time is an awesome opportunity for ALL kiddos to express themselves.
Sometimes, I give a preassigned topic to my students. Other times, I give them free write.
However, the expectation remains clear: this is your voice and your message. As well, I keep a consistent framework to journals- especially in the early grades and early in the school year. Consistency supports understanding of expectations, understanding of demands, and student output.
The attached picture is a mash-up of three of journals- tier 1 (attending or emergent skills), tier 2 (simple sentences, writing 1-2 sentences), and tier 3 (3 plus sentences, working on description).
When I provide a preassigned journal topic, I allow for space to draw about the topic and then I provide the students with an open ended question or statement to write about. For example, if I am asking students to draw today's weather, I will then ask them to describe the clothing they may need to wear today. Another example is asking the students to draw something about school and to tell me, in writing, about their school day. Providing open ended topics allows students freedom to write, freedom to provide detail, & freedom to explore all while remaining focused on a topic.
Some students, especially students learning English as language (EAL), may chose to write their journal in their mother language and translate it during the subsequent journal session or sessions. Whereas other EAL students may chose to write less, but in English from the start. Either way is ok- journal is driven by the students: Remember, it is their voice and their message.
Students working at an emergent level, may use journal time to practice line strokes, create pictures with stickers or symbols, write or draw. Again, journal writing is a time for independence in expression. This is a fabulous time to create functional & independent academic routines for all your students.
I have a student or two, who use technology as their mode for writing. Voice-to-text is wonderful if you can provide a quiet-ish environment. Of course, I do not have the student use same journal template as the attached picture BUT using a consistent e-format is ideal to create and maintain consistency. If voice-to-text is not appropriate, just using a keyboard is great too! Remember creating functional routines and supporting 'written' voice is important in creating life long writers. In the past, I did have one student who was supported by an EPA/TA/paraprofessional- his journal looked very different: it was a 'selfie' video of this student demonstrating different actions or gestures that he could do independently when asked. It is okay to change the way a journal looks, especially if it means a kiddo can access this class routine with independence (appropriate to them). Think outside the box!
At this point in the year, journal writing happens almost every school day and lasts no longer than 15 minutes (start to finish). It is fast, it is consistent, and all my students can participate. Some students picked up the routine after day one, whereas others took longer to complete the routine with independence (appropriate to them). It is possible and it is important.
I LOVE watching how far each student has come- it is amazing to grab a journal from September or November and compare it to journals from this week. PROGRESS is easy to see.
Journal writing is a fabulous time to start routines that are inclusive of all students- and directed by you, the teacher!
Keep reading for 5 ideas on how you can start an inclusive journal time for any grade.
1. Consistency: create or find a journal template that is easy to modify and simple to use. Use this journal framework daily- do not have the students switch it up UNTIL they are ready to go to an extension level. Ensure all students know what is expected of their journals and of journal time.
2. Routines: create a consistent daily writing routine that can be followed independently (or with minimal support by all kiddos).
3. Prompts & Supports: provide access to a word wall, visual word wall, visual symbols, stickers, and a variety of writing tools. Options and choice are beneficial- BUT you will have to guide your students into knowing which supports are more beneficial in meeting their unique needs.
4. Set the mood: journal writing is independent time. Keep the lights on, but low. Allow for some fresh air to flow in, while keeping the room at an appropriate temperature- not too hot or not too cold. And mostly, keep the noise to a minimum, Journal writing should not last too long- your students can work independently and quietly for 15 minutes!
5. Be present: walk around, and check in with your kiddos. Some students may need you to be closer to them or may require check-in prompts to remain on task- other students, might just need to see you moving around. Provide your students the right amount of prompting to help them work independently. If a child requires a TA/paraprofessional/EPA, guide this professional in only providing the least amount of prompts for the student to be successful during journal time.
Click here for a FREE copy of our levelled journals.