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:

Journals Through the Year

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

10 Things

I literally can't believe there are only a couple of school days left!! Where did the year go?? Seriously!!

I made some printables that I wanted to share with you all. I've been thinking about the school year and going over some of the great things we've done in class over the past 9 months. These printables will help your own students reflect on the year and remember all the important things you've taught them.

I'm excited to see all the great things they remember about the year. I hope to see fractions and the Revolutionary War on the list, but I also hope they remember the life lessons and skills I taught them - being nice to others, setting high goals, believing in themselves... I can only hope that they take more than just reading and science away from this year... I hope I've taught them MUCH MORE.

This FREE download includes 3 different printables, so you can copy the one that suits your needs best.

If you can, please leave a comment with some of the "lessons" you hope your students always remember!

For more great lessons and ideas, please check our Teachers Pay Teachers stores by following our links below:

How many more days, flash sale & A GIVEAWAY!!!

Click the picture!!!

I have 30 more school days left.  It sounds like soooo long!  Since I have so many more days left, I asked some friends of mine if they'd send me some pictures of their students using my This Year Was Out of This World {End of Year Activities}.  Wow!  I got some great pictures back!
Thank you to:
Janae {The Sharpened Pencil}
Stephanie {Falling into First}

This one is an activity called "Moon Balloon with Memory Book". Stephanie hung her balloons from the ceiling and at the end of the day, one lucky {on task} student gets to pop the balloon! Inside of the balloon is a question about their school year and they answer in their Memory Book!

Great writing samples!

 This next one is from the "Moon Pie Taste Test":

What cute bulletin boards!!!

All of these activities {AND MUCH MORE} are available in my This Year Was Out Of This World Packet!  I'm having a flash sale on this packet!!!!! It is only $2.75 until Friday!

What would go perfectly with this packet...???..... How about the CUTEST, space themed tags that are a great incentive for your students?  You can read about these awesome BragTags {here}.  My kiddos love them!  

You can get these customized Brag Tags AND any 3 items in my TpT store! 
Here's how you can win {2 ways to enter}:

1. Follow ImageStuff's blog {come back here and leave a comment with your email address}

2. Follow ImageStuff's Facebook {leave a comment on their Facebook saying that What the Teachers Want sent you AND come back here and leave a comment with your email address}

Contest ends Friday at 8:00pm {MST}

Giveaway is now closed! Thanks for entering!

Parent Volunteer Gifts

As the year comes to an end {some earlier than others :) }, I always make sure that my parent volunteers know how much they are loved and appreciated!  I've been brainstorming some gift ideas for my parent volunteers. I got this idea from Crap I've Made!  Here's what I came up with:

I bought these cute scrapbooking scissors {about 1.00 a piece} from Amazon:

And I made this tag:

Then, I wrapped a pair of scissors in cellophane, tied some ribbon on it, and added the tag:

If you have a room-mom or a parent who you want to give extra thanks to, just add a book of scrapbooking paper, a photo album, and a paper punch! :)  I also have a few ideas from my post last year. Check it out {here}.

Do your students struggle with maintaining a tidy desk? Are they unmotivated to do so? My sweet friend, Erica had a request that I make a Desk Fairy Packet {inspired by the Handwriting Fairy}. I have for you, THE DESK FAIRY! :)  Check it out in my TpT store.

Outlaw Day CrAzInEsS

Today, we had outlaw day!  All of my students dressed up in their cowboy get-up and we learned all about outlaw words, cowboys, and even some animals!
Next year, I'm going to do an "outlaw week"! There was just too much fun to squeeze into one day!

I gave each of my students a handkerchief with this little poem on it:

I found these sheriff badges at Walmart for .97 for 4! The best part is, I used them as a management tool. I told them they had to earn their badge with good behavior.

We ate horse feed {shredded wheat (hay) and Cherrios (oats)} and we had rope snacks {licorice}:

Look at these cute boots {it gave me the perfect excuse to bust out my $17.99 boots from Ross}:

And of course we did lots of practice with our Outlaw Words Centers:

Then, we did the silliest square dance.... EVER!  

It was such a FUN day!!!!!!

All of these activities in this post {plus some} are included in 

In this packet, you will find:

*Outlaw Word Book {large & small}
*Roundin' Up Words {oy and oi word sort}- with recording sheet
*Spinnin' Spurs {ight word practice}- with recording sheet
*Boots or Books? {oo word sort}- with recording sheet
* Sheriff's Round Up {words that end in y}- with recording sheet
*Horse Corral {words that end in y}- with recording sheet
*Outlaw Word Cards- with recording sheet
*Moo! {outlaw word game}
*Cowboy Sentence Corrall {sentences using outlaw words}- with recording sheet
*Don't Get Poked {silent letter game}- with recording sheet

Plus...Newly Added:
Outlaw Day
*Outlaw day note to parents
*Snack ideas
*Pennant Banner
*Handkerchief Poem
*If I were a cowboy
*If I were a cowgirl
*Cowboy/Cowgirl tree map {whole class and recording sheet}
*Cowboy/Cowgirl bubble map {whole class and recording sheet}

So, if you've already purchased this packet, go and re-download it for free in your purchases! If you haven't bought it yet, it will be on sale until Sunday night!

Click {here} to see it!
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