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    By Jana

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    A few bits of advice... I don't know if your familiar with the 'four-block' approach (patricia cunningham,) but my school has starting 'doing' four-blocks this year, and it's sort of changed the way i've done my journal writing time-- which is our writing segment of the day. We call them 'journals,' but they're just our notebooks. I start by modeling my own writing for about 5 minutes-- i use the overhead and verbalize everything that's going on in my head, including my brainstorming, etc. You can even do things wrong and have kids correct you at the end. During this modeling you're pointing out strategies you're using, like using the word wall, thinking about capitals, punctuation, etc. You can direct a 'mini-lesson' right in your writing. However, this modeling only takes about 5 minutes.

    For first grade, i wouldn't be so concerned about the perfect finished product. Think of the journals more as a tool for long-term assessment. They're wonderful to see where a child starts, and how they progress. Each day i 'conference' with only 3-4 children. It's impossible to see every child each day-- and i used to try to do this. Spending about 5-7 minutes with just a few children allows you to assess on the spot. Where are they, what do you notice, where do you want them to go next. You can point out these things to them and write notes right in their journals for your own records. If you worry too much about spelling the kids will get frustrated and not want to open up and just write. Our focus really should be more about the PROCESS of writing. However, you do want them to spell the high freq./word wall words correctly.

    At the end of our 25-30 minute writing session, the same 3-4 students have the chance to share with the group what they've written.

    As the year progresses you can get more into 'publishing', and continuing pieces of work.

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