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Journal Writing in First Grade (It is the BEST!)

Three years ago, as an intern teacher, I had a hard time feeling like I was doing anything really well.  My teaching consisted of a lot of trial and error.  Mostly error. :)  I didn't discover Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers until later that year so I was mostly left to my own devices.  

I knew that I wanted my first graders to be confident writers so I came up with a plan for daily journal writing. This has been one of my novice teacher experiments that I have never given up on!  I LOVE JOURNALS!  And better yet, my students love writing in their journals!  I wanted to share a few ideas for making journal writing successful in your class!

Write in those babies everyday!  I usually have my students pull out their journals after lunch.  This way they have had some experiences already that day that they might want to write about AND, in all honesty, it gives me a few extra moments to breathe and make sure my next lesson is ready to go.  At the beginning of the year my kids write/draw for maybe 5 minutes tops.  But it quickly lengthens out.  At the end of the year we were writing for 30 minutes!

Let them write about whatever they want!  We brainstorm a class idea list that we display throughout the year and I also keep an idea jar with writing prompts in case they get stuck, but I let them write about anything they desire.  It is their journal and they should feel ownership for the thoughts and expressed feelings.

There is a world of difference between our August journals and our May journals.  I LOVE being able to see the progression and the night-and-day difference from month to month, but realize that you are going to have to start out slow.  I model journal entries for my kids a few times a month to remind them of the expectations.  I use manuscript paper with an increasing amount of lines so students can develop their fluency without feeling completely overwhelmed.  In August our journals have two lines!

This is super important!  I love to walk around the room while my students are writing and just drop down for a moment to talk to them about their process or content.  It is extremely informative!  I also like to pull students to the back to my table and have a more formal conference where we can identify areas of improvement and set a goal for their next entry.  Formal or not, just talking to students about their writing will have a tremendous impact!

My students LOVE to share their journals!  This is one area of sharing that is completely voluntary.  I'm not going to make anyone pour out their innermost feelings if they don't want to....but honestly pretty much everyone wants to!  I love to put their journals up on the document camera and let them read it into the microphone.  After they have shared their entry the class can offer a compliment and a suggestion.  We then give them a round of applause.  If my students had their way we would share all day everyday.  They love it!  And I love getting some insight into those cute little heads.  It is fascinating and often entertaining!  Here are a few fun entries from past students! These often make me laugh so hard I cry!

I'm making songs. I'll sing one for you.  Let me be free.  Let me be...oe, oe, oe. I'm gunna see the world someday day day day oe oe oe....don't let anything in my way. Don't let anything in my waaaaaaay!

I loved the pumpkins. They were cool.  I liked it.

After school I'm going to play Sugar Rush on the downstairs computer. I'm playing Candlehead. Even though I'm bad at the Sugar Rush racing game I still like it.

Visitor Day. We voted for the president and this is my vote and it was fun.  But I can't vote until I'm 18 and when I vote when I'm 18 I will get a sticker and President Obama won and I voted for Mitt Romney.

These are so much fun, you can probably see why I love first grade journaling SO MUCH!

I recently TOTALLY revamped my Journal Writing packet, here.  I went through each slide and tweaked it to make it (in my humble opinion) 5 million times better so I hope you enjoy it! 

There are journal covers for each month, over 17 variations of manuscript paper so you can choose what you feel is best for your students, over 100 writing prompt cards, and an assortment of assessment and conferencing pages.  Oh, and there are all new mini-posters!  Here are just a few!

This packet will be on sale throughout the week.  Enjoy!

Bethany Louise
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