Journaling Tips for Kids! {Makes pretty dang good writers}

1.  Write in your journals EVERY DAY!
We start on the very first day of school and we continue every day after.  I show them how to write the short date and then I give them a sentence like this:
I like to eat _____________.
They copy the sentence and sound out a word to fit in the sentence.  Then, they draw an illustration.

2. Show them what you expect: 
I enlarge one of their journal pages, write a journal entry, illustrate it and then laminate it. That way, I can use it year after year. I show it to them on the very first day of school.  This is what I expect. I expect good handwriting, finger spaces, sounding out words, and an illustration with 6 or 7 {however old they are) colors included. I start to expect more as the year goes on.

I'm pretty much the best artist...EVER!

3.  Let them write about whatever they want!
YES! They can pick to write about whatever they want.  It's called choice people and
Seriously, after the first 2 weeks of school, they HAVE to think of something they want to write about. I don't give them a prompt or even help them. You don't want them to rely on you every day for an idea.

4. What about if they REALLY can't think of anything?
If I have a student who really can't think of what to write about, I pick from the journal prompt jar. Anyone can use the prompt when I pick it out, but they don't have to.  I got the idea to make my journal prompt jar using a Crystal Light container from Kathleen at Growing Kinders. The prompts are taped to a popsicle stick and I've just added all of the prompts and the journal prompt cover, to my Journal through the Year Pack. It looks like this:
The prompts are taped to a popsicle stick! I have provided you with over 50 prompts. You can get them {here}!
Then, as I've been Pinteresting lately, I found {this} amazing idea to color one end of your stick red and one end green. Then, when you pick from the jar, you only pick out green sticks. That ensures that you never pick a prompt that you've already done. LOVE!
One end is red                                        One end is green

I also have a writing prompt picture booklet (I made 3 for my class) and a student can grab a book and find a topic idea. You can decide on what pages you want to put in there so it's not overwhelming. Or, you can cut out the pages and make writing prompt picture cards.

5. Start at the beginning of the day.
Journals are a great "morning work" starter {without all the worksheets and hassle}.  My students come in to class, vote for lunch, write their password, and start their journals. It takes about 20-30 minutes each day to do journal.  When they are finished, they can do a fast finisher.

6.  Conferencing!!!!! {This step is MUCHO important!}
This is where your students will really make you proud.  When they are finished with their journal, they will bring it up to me. THEY read their journal to me.  I pick ONE thing that I think they should work on {sight words, punctuation, finger spaces, etc.}, circle that one thing, and they go back to their seat to work on it again. When they finish, they show it to me and I put a huge smiley face or sticker on their page!  Not all of your students will be in line for conferencing at one time. Some students take the WHOLE 30 minutes to perfect their journal and some are done in 15 minutes.  It takes no more than 30 seconds to conference with each student. You can do it.

Here are the expectations I have for my students:

7. Journal Share
Each day I pick 4 students to share their journal with the class. This is where I really motivate them to work hard on their journals.  If they do well on whatever I asked them to work on, they have a good chance of getting to stand up in front of the class and share their journal. Because speaking and listening skills are apart of the 1st grade Common Core State Standards, I use a rubric to grade them on their journal share.
FYI- I didn't come up with this! My teammates have done this forever! 

You can download the journal shares for free {here}.

8. Use developmentally appropriate journal pages.
I know that I used to use composition notebooks for journals when I was first teaching. My students were really struggling with handwriting and spacing.  Since then, I've created a journal writing page that is appropriate for their level. At the beginning of the year, there are only 2 handwriting lines on the page.  Now, there are 8 or 9 lines!  In kinder, you might just want 1 or 2 lines all year. Whatever is appropriate for your students!  You might even want to differentiate between students, too.  Maybe John can have a few more lines in his journal because he's always spilling over to the next page. That's ok!!!  I've included a large variety of journal writing pages in my packet.  Here's an example:

That's all the tips I have for you! I promise your kiddos can do it!  Here are some recent examples of awesome journal writing:


Lisa R. said...

Love all the journaling tips Rachelle! I love that red & green tips idea at the end of popsicle sticks. Thanks for sharing!!

Learning Is Something to Treasure

khall said...

I love your journal share rubric! My kids need to be held acceptable for speaking loud and clear. I swear I am losing my hearing!!!!

Lisa at Fourth and Ten said...

Love this post, Rachelle! I often did journal writing with my third graders and loved it for some the reasons you talked about, they are perfect for morning work! I also ADORE how you incorporated CCSS' speaking and listening into your journal routine!

Thanks for sharing your great ideas!
Stories From Second

Laura said...

I love this post! Thank you for sharing your outline for journaling! Can't wait to see your packet!

Peace, Love, and First Grade

Vickie said...

Love this post...makes me inspired to go back to journaling as my morning work :) Thanks!!
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The Colorful Apple said...

Thanks for the great ideas. I've been thinking that I need to kick my journaling up a notch but wasn't sure how to do it. Now I am ready!

Sara :)
Smiling In Second Grade

Eileen Griffin said...

I love this! I do journaling for 30 minutes each day as well, but I give them prompts. I am going to begin having them create their own. You're right! They can do it!

Ashley Reed said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I am moving down to first next year. I have your packet on my wish list. :) how else do you teach writing (or do writers workshop) in your classroom?

School Sparks Renee said...

Rachelle - your tips are terrific. Renee

She (Sprinkle Teaching Magic) said...

Ok seriously reading this felt like I was just at a great journal writing workshop! Super easy to follow and hits all the key points for getting journaling off the ground in a classroom. Thank you for sharing!

Sprinkle Teaching Magic

Jordan said...

I love how you have journal ideas on popsicle sticks for kids who get stuck. Great idea!

Jill said...

This is a great post! Thanks for sharing.

I started doing journaling second semester with my first graders and they were super dependent on prompts. I like that you start in the second week of school. I think I will do that too!!

Marvelous Multiagers!

Heather's Heart said...

I love this! You are awesome!

Do you teach Writing Workshop too?

BTW- You are the best artist EVER! =)

Heather's Heart

Miss DeCarbo said...

I use journals as my morning work too and love it! I'm so happy to see this post and know it is a valued piece of the day. :) Great post - thanks for the awesome information! :)

Second Grade Sugar and Spice

Lindsey (The Teacher Wife) said...

dear rachelle,
i really, really, REALLY wish we taught together. please stop posting cute ideas and lessons, because it makes the pain {that we don't teach together} much worse.

lindsey ;)

Sarah Paul said...

Thank you for this post! I need to reread it again next fall before school starts. You have so many great ideas! I just want to pin this whole post over and over again. :) I posted a end-of-year writing rubric a while back if you are interested:

I just thought I'd share since I am constantly taking your fabulous ideas and freebies! Thanks again Rachelle!

Sarah's First Grade Snippets

Brandi said...

Thanks for sharing such great ideas. I really like how you start from day one and only give prompts as needed. Love the conferencing step with discussing 1 thing to work on.

Miss Kindergarten said...

You are the BEST TEACHER EVER!! {And I guess that makes me good too because I nodded my head with agreement on each step!} love it!


Traci Clausen said...

Great post. I am HUGE on kids writing everyday.
❤Dragonflies in First ❤

Corinna said...

Great ideas, thank you so much for sharing! I agree about appropriate writing paper, it makes it so much easier for them to focus on good writing!


Jodi said...

You rock and I am DEFINITELY doing this next year!!


Miss Trayers said...

Great tips! I love the idea of having the kids share some of their ideas. I just posted myself about how I can see so much growth just from their journal writing.


BrittanyLee said...

Hi Rachelle. I'm wondering if you could send me the link to the 50 wirting prompts, because I don't think the link is working.


Mrs. Cook said...

Yes I would love the prompts too. What grade level are they gears towards?

Mrs. Cook said...

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I've bought several of your products from TpT and now I finally have a blog! Come check me out and send some more bloggers too!
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First Grade Bubbles and Tails said...

What a wonderful resource! I am thinking about starting the Daily 5 next year and I think this pack would be great for the writing component. I posted a link to your blog on my blog.

Tarita said...

Thanks so much for sharing all your great ideas (and other's great ideas) in your blog this week. I am returning to first grade from second, and I am going to use most of these ideas. LOVE the prompt popsicle ideas!

Papers and Pencils and Books, Oh My!

Jessica Ann Stanford said...

Love the journal prompt sticks!!!
PS I'm having a giveaway and would love to have you join!

Jessica Stanford
Mrs. Stanford's Class Blog

Brynley said...

The speaking/rubric is awesome. I can't wait to try it.

Brynley's Brainstorms

Sarah said...

Hi! I love this post and followed your "password" link to a past post...what a great way to start the day with students! I look forward to trying that out next year! I linked your blog on my most recent blog post

Check it out if you have time :)

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know that I've been using your journal pack for a couple of weeks with my 4.5 year old son (I homeschool) and he absolutely loves journal time. It's the first thing he asks for in the morning - great job! :)

Andrea said...

Love this idea, and what a great outline! One problem that I seemed to come across way to much this year was those students who didn't know what to write. I will definitely be making a prompt jar like you have. Did you have students who would not do the writing, or would write just a line and then think they were done? I had 3-4 kids who did this each day with writing. In that situation, how much do you make them complete until they can be "done"?

Kelly said...

Great journaling tips! My kindergarten kids love to journals! I used your guided reading wizard pack a ton this year, so I am off to check out your journal pack now to get a jump start on next year. Thanks for your hard work!

Kindergarten Kel

The Tot School Mama said...

I'm a new follower and absolutely LOVE your blog - thanks for all the great resources, especially for the Daily 5 :)

Anonymous said...

These are absolutely wonderful and thank you for the inspiration! I'm a new blogger and a recent follower! I've given you a shout-out over on my blog! :)

alma said...

Thanks for the rubric and popsicle stick writing prompt idea, love it! I also do journal writing in the morning. Did you know that they make Primary Composition Notebooks? I just love them! They are perfect for first graders.

The Writing Whisperer said...

I linked your post in my post on about Journaling. I also used the picture from your site and gave credit for it with your blog site address. Please let me know if this is not okay. Thanks!


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