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 no 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.  As the year goes on and 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.


After about month of them just using their checklist to check their own work, they get to graduate to having a friend check it off as well. This friend has to be either finished with their journal already or at least finished with the writing portion. So, student #1 would use their checklist to make sure their writing is ready for a peer to edit. Student #1 finds someone to check their journal off. Student #1 reads their journal to student #2 and he/she will put checkmarks in the second column and sign their name.  Then student #1 brings their journal up to me and hopefully many mistakes were found before they got to me! This does add a few minutes to my journal time- so I'd say instead of 30 minutes, it's 40.


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








Let me just finish with the fact that this pack is COMPLETELY re-done! I took the feedback (not-so-nice feedback might I add) I got and changed this pack to meet the needs of my readers. Hopefully this helps! If you already own it, re-download in your my purchases!!!!!



9 comments:

Sara said...

I wish I could find ideas for teaching writing in Kindergarten! This looks fabulous, but my kiddos come in at a much lower level than this! I need help! Any ideas?!

Rachelle said...

This would totally work for kinder!!!! It just starts a lot slower and they work on only a picture and letter sound at the beginning! Feel free to email me and we can chat. Whattheteacherwants@gmail.com

Mary Rae said...

I have started my classroom morning task with journal writing for the last 20+ years. It's a fabulous way to begin the day. One of my parent helpers last year said that it was magical to walk into my room each morning to see the students so quietly engaged in their writing. I start off my year very similar to you. During the school year I might work with a small group to help them with the writing process. By the end of the year even my reluctant writers are writing freely in their journals. I also add the speaking component to journals. Each child has a day of the week in which they share with the class something from their journals. This means that 5-6 students will need to share each day. I incorporate this during our morning meeting time. Students love this time and will often want to share daily. I have a recording sheet that I use to document what they have written, level of voice, writing form, and a section for comments. I have used this procedure with 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. :-)

reda gamal said...

اليكم اليوم عزيزى العميل افضل شركات التنظيف فى المملكة العربية السعودية وهى شركة ركن الشروق التى تمتاز بالعمالة الفنية ذو الخبرة الكبيرة فى مجال التنظيف ومكافحة الحشرات ونقل العفش الى جميع انحاء المملكة كما ان الشركة لديها خبرة كبيرة من كثرة العمل فى مجال التنظيف فىى المملكة . شركة تنظيف بالرياض
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Anuj Agarwal said...

Hi What The Teacher Wants Team,

My name is Anuj Agarwal. I'm Founder of Feedspot.

I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog WhatTheTeacherWants has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 100 Elementary Teacher Blogs on the web.

http://blog.feedspot.com/elementary_teacher_blogs/

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reda gamal said...

اليكم اليوم عزيزى العميل افضل شركات التنظيف فى المملكة العربية السعودية وهى شركة ركن الشروق التى تمتاز بالعمالة الفنية ذو الخبرة الكبيرة فى مجال التنظيف ومكافحة الحشرات ونقل العفش الى جميع انحاء المملكة كما ان الشركة لديها خبرة كبيرة من كثرة العمل فى مجال التنظيف فىى المملكة .
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شركة نقل عفش بابها

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