October Writing Journal

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Language Arts, Writing, Journaling

Grade 1- 3

Objective

Students use journals to develop their writing skills.

Directions

Journals and SSW
Sustained Silent Writing (SSW) is similar to Sustained Silent Reading (SSR). It is a specific time each day set aside for the children to practice writing that is ungraded. The children, however, are expected to do their best work.

Sharing writing encourages children to develop their writing skills. It is useful to use a variety of methods to allow children to share their work.
Students can share their writing in the following ways:
  • with the partner next to him or her
  • with the whole group
  • with the partner across from him or her
  • with a partner of choice
  • with a partner drawn at random
  • with a small group
  • in a "donut" (One group of children forms a circle with their backs to the middle, and the other children form a circle around them.)

SSW can be done in a journal used expressly for that purpose. Journals can be made by stapling several pieces of paper between construction paper covers. The children can be given a new journal each month. Different colored construction paper each month makes the journals easy to organize. Monthly journals can be sent home to be shared at the end of each month with a letter to the parents requesting that they be returned the next day. If desired, you can also ask the parents to write a response to the journals before returning them. Their responses can be addressed to their children.

The following information is geared toward the use of journals in specific grade levels. Use these as guidelines for having students complete October Writing Journals.

Kindergarten
Begin by using blank paper on which the children draw a picture. Sharing their pictures with classmates gives them an audience for whom to draw and helps them to develop their verbal skills. The next step is for them to use a word or words to label their pictures. Afterwards, they can begin to use paper with one or more writing lines, drawing a picture and writing about it on the line(s). Support the children's use of "kindergarten spelling" (writing the letters whose sounds they hear when they say the word). This is a normal and vital step toward the development of conventional spelling.

First Grade
In first grade, children build upon their kindergarten experience. If they did not experience journal writing in kindergarten, begin with blank paper of pictures and labels. Decrease the size of the picture portion of the page each month, completely eliminating the picture portion by midyear. Since the emphasis of SSW after the first month of school should be clearly be writing, encourage children to write before they draw a picture. Support the children's use of "first grade spelling" (writing any letter sounds they hear when they say the word). Again, this is a normal and necessary step to conventional spelling.

Second Grade
The children will again build on their prior experiences, using a format similar to that used at the end of the first grade. If the children have not had previous journal writing experiences, begin during the first month with paper allowing a small picture area. Move to a fully lined page during the following months. Support the children's use of "second grade spelling" (writing conventionally any words they have previously learned and writing down letter sounds they hear when they say the word for any others). This step brings them very close to complete conventional spelling.

Third Grade
By third grade, the students should have had a fair amount of writing experience. Build on this prior experience, using a format similar to what was used at the end of second grade. Provide fully lined paper for their writing, forgoing drawing in lieu of complete writing content. Require a reasonable amount of conventional spelling, allowing for invented spellings wherever necessary so as not to interrupt the flow of ideas onto paper. Remember, spelling can always be corrected, and the primary purpose of sustained writing is to encourage fluidity of thought and expression. Stopping to look up words in the dictionary will sometimes block that flow.

Resources

  • October Writing Journals activity pages
  • writing and drawing materials

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