Creating Independent Writers with Journals

Say goodbye to "bell work" and hello to independent writing time!  




If you walk into my classroom right when the bell rings, you will see a class full of quiet students writing in their journals. Not once do I have to say "get out your journal" or "please start writing". My students arrive at school, hang up their backpacks and they pull their journals out from their desk. There's not explaining, no questions, and it's eerily quiet.  How did I get them to be this wayyyy?






First, you'll want to set up your writing journals. You'll want to pick out a cover to use (I've created 16 different varieties) and you'll want to pick how many lines you want to start out the year. These journals can be changed out each month or however often you want!

Here is the journal cover that I picked for the beginning of the year:




They never ask me what they should write about because I teach them how to come up with topics on their own. Now... it didn't start that way, of course. They make HUGE progress throughout the year. They go from one sentence to 5+ sentences by the end of first grade! Many of my students like to use two whole pages to write one journal entry. :)

I teach 1st grade so on the first day of school my students walk in and I already have a sentence stem on the board that they will copy down in their journal. Then, there is a blank at the end of the sentence that they have to fill in their own word. After they copy the sentence stem, they sound out their word, draw a picture, color and then bring their journal up to me. I will check it off. Depending on the student, I will circle a mistake or two that I'd like them to fix and bring back to me. I basically have 3 types of writers: Emerging, Developing, and Advancing. I obviously expect more from my advancing writers than I do my emerging. It's up to you what you decide to conference with them about.

When they finish and get their beloved smiley face on their journal, they will do a fast finisher (read a book, puzzle, etc.).



I only tell my students what to write about for the first 9 days of school. After that, they pick their own topic or write about what they did yesterday (that's their go-to if they "can't think of anything")

Day 1: I like to eat_____.
Day 2: My favorite color is _____.
Day 3: My favorite animal is a ____.
Day 4: I like to drink______.
Day 5: I am scared of_______.
Day 6: I am not scared of _____.
Day 7: My favorite movie is ______.
Day 8: At school I like to _____. (a little more open ended)
Day 9: I like to_____ because _________. (we add the word because)
Day 10:  WRITE ANYTHING! (Sometimes this comes a few days later. It just depends on the grade you teach and your class.)


At day 10, I teach my students that they can write about whatever they want in their journals and to write about different things each day. I only require 1 sentence at the beginning of the year to get them adjusted. If they "can't think of anything", they write about what they did yesterday (or...If you're desperate, you can see the bottom of this post for some prompt ideas).

1st Grade (can be adapted and differentiated based on each student):
August/September- 1 sentence
October/November- 2 sentences
December/January- 3 sentences
February/March-4 sentences
April/May- 5 sentences
{This journal time is separate from my "writer's workshop" time}



This is what we do every day and it takes 30 minutes:



Starting in January, I give my students a writing checklist. As their writing starts to develop, they tend to make a few more simple mistakes and I want them to check their work before saying it's finished!  They are very familiar with each part of the checklist because we've been working on these all year and they've been hung up on the board (and I refer to them frequently)!
After they finish their journal, they read their own journal to themselves and use a dry-erase marker (the checklists are laminated) and they check off to make sure they meet the expectations.





Here are the posters I have hanging so when we switch over to the checklist they know exactly what to look for:





The progress they make is amazing!

From the first week of school:



Towards the end of the year:



You can snag everything I talked about in this post in my Journal Through the Year Pack! This pack would also work great with Work on Writing in Daily 5.

For those of you that REALLY want journal prompts (although I do not use them in my classroom), I've included over 150 picture prompts! You can print them and make them into booklets of ideas or you can cut them out and make picture prompt cards. I've also included a black/white version is you're low on the colored ink like I am. #printallthethings












Bloggers Night Out in Disneyland!

For the past 5 years, Rachelle and I (and the girls from Blog Hoppin') have hosted an annual Blogger's Meet Up in conjunction with the SDE/TPT conference each summer. This year was a little different because Rachelle couldn't make it to the TPT Conference. I knew I couldn't pull of a big meet up without her, so I decided to host a Bloggers Night Out in Disneyland instead. Since the conference was in Anaheim and Disneyland is my favorite place in the world, it just made sense! 

About 60 teacher-bloggers gathered in Disneyland for a fun night out in the park! We met in front of the castle for a group picture. I'm so happy that so many people joined us for this fun event! 



Here are some photos from the night! 

Thank you to Beautifully Broken Boutique for designing these adorable shirts! I absolutely love the TPT logo inside the Mickey!

 

  
Disney food is the best, am I right?!

 

 

 


 

 

 

 



 





It was a magical night in the happiest place on earth!


Thank you to Disneyland for providing me for 2 all day hopper passes in exchange for this blog post.

Also, if you're interested in planning your own vacation to Disneyland or Disney World, please consider using our affiliate link to book your next trip! (You can save $10 by using the code WTTW10 at checkout.)

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Math Quick Checks and Guided Math Groups


The past few years I've been working on doing more of a guided reading approach but in math...AKA guided math. I want to pull groups back and provide small-group interventions and enrichment. I also wanted this process to be EASY for me and for my students. Because... I'm easy. ;)




Each Thursday I give my students a quick check assessment (see below) to check in and see where they are and how they are doing in that week's math instruction. I score the quick checks and put them into 4 groups.




You can download that freebie {here}!


THEN, I sort my students into mixed groups for math tubs (these are different than the leveled groups I made from the assessment).  Before the students go to their tub, I let them know who will come to my desk for a "game" with me (aka intervention). Those are the groups that I made from the data I collected with the math quick checks.  Each round of tubs lasts for about 12 minutes. It's more of a rotation!  Tub #1 then goes to Tub #2 and so on (the number of tubs is based on how much time we have and how many games I have). Each round I call a new group  of students over to my desk. I use this Target Dollar Spot pocket chart. 




 I place these tubs around the classroom (got them from Dollar Tree). Each game in the tub is a game we have already played and the students are familiar with. This makes it easy when we have Math Tubs- we get right into it! Obviously I have expectations for my students while they are at math tubs, but that's for a whole notha blog post! ;)





This is how I store my tubs and some of the manipulatives. 



This is how I store all of my math games when we are finished with them! I store them by standard and topic. 





Over the past few years my first grade team has really been wanting a common assessment that we can use as data in our classrooms and to discuss during our PLCs (Professional Learning Communities). I started making these over a year ago because I made them as I went. Right now I only have 1st grade done because that's what I teach and that's what I use. These are tested by kids and the teachers on my team! We love them because they are quick, efficient and give us the perfect amount of data. What do we do with that information? We plan our math intervention and enrichment groups like I talked about at the beginning of this post.



Can go with any math program!
I created 24 math quick checks aligned to the Common Core State Standards for 1st grade! These quick checks are perfect to check for understanding during your math units. They are quick, easy to follow, and can be used as evidence of learning.  You can use the scores from the quick checks to re-teach or move on!

Also included:
*Standard Alignment Sheets
*Assessment Tracker
*Math Group Organizer

















Love the fonts I used? Me too!

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