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Home : 2002 : Oct : 19

    By Marie

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    I have 2 journals - math and writing. For the writing journal, I do a brief modelling of writing a journal, demonstrating how I come up with a topic, talking through elements of writing (leaving a space between words, capitals, periods), and we blend and segment some of the words together as a class. I let them choose their own topic for their journals (be careful - you need to hide your journal writing or you may end up with imitations of it). I feel strongly about letting them choose their own topic during this time - because I've found children produce more when the topic is relevant to them.

    The children usually write 1 or 2 sentences during the beginning of the year, and increase to around 2 pages by the end of the year (by themselves, I _never_ tell them how much they should write. I do praise them for writing more though. I've found if you tell them how much to write, they will end their story at that limit, and never write more). After they are done writing, they can illustrate their journal (I use half blank, half lined exercise books).

    As well, I don't edit the journals. I use this as my evaluation of what elements of writing they can produce on their own. If a child has misspelled a word because they have not sounded it out properly (young children often say "f" for "th" e.g. wif for with), I'll teach them how to say the word properly and suggest they go back and fix that up. Or if a child has really no clue about spacing or sounding out words, I'll write a message back to them at the bottom of their page (in their presence). All this interaction takes place once a child finishes their journal. Once finished, they bring it up to me to read to me, and at that time I try to make one specific, relevant comment on their writing ("Jimmy, I notice you've using spaces between your words here and here. Good for you!"

    One key sanity point - never tell a child how to spell a word. You'll have 20 other kids asking you for every word they want to put down. Tell them to use their ear spelling, that they have all those sounds in their head (I'm assuming your kindergarten has taught them letter sounds). It helps them build confidence as writers, and they focus on the message rather than nitty gritty spelling. Spelling can be emphasized during guided writing, interactive writing, word wall exercisies, etc. Oh - during my modelled journal writing, I ask them if I could find a word in the room - kids will eventually catch on to use the word wall.

    Good luck!

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