This Week’s Feature: Conversation Journals

So you may have noticed I took a little pre-Thanksgiving break but I’m back and I have a great feature to share today!

Kim Langhill was my mentor for my year of student teaching. She is inspiring, kind and masterful with classroom management. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to work with Kim for an entire school year. So in this feature Kim will be telling you a bit about how she teaches journaling in her first grade classroom and I can tell you that it works wonderfully. The kids always seemed to love it. So in her own words, her is Kim’s practice that is working…

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Kim Langhill
First Grade
Worcester, Ma

Tell us about what is working in your classroom?
Journal writing with student generated topics, not using prompts

Why do you think this practice is working?

Students are writing to “tell me something” with their pencils. They are writing about what matters to them. They share their writing and know that it is valued by me and by the other students in our room.

How did you set this practice up in your classroom?

I started by changing what I call the writing journals. I began to refer to them as “Conversation Journals.” The kids and I talked about how when people have a conversation, they are talking to each other, telling each other things. The kids now know that they have the chance to tell me something in writing each day.
The kids gather on the carpet. I hold their conversation journals in my lap as if they are precious jewels. I usually start with a modeled write, focusing on the objective. In the beginning of the year, my modeled writing lessons focus on how to come up something to tell, something to write about. The focus moves to how to sound out words, how to find words using the word wall, our ABC songs book, and other tools we have in our classroom. Right now we are focusing on using capital letters and periods.
I find it important to give the kids “thinking time” before they begin writing. I will ask each child what he/she will tell me today. I have the students vocalize their sentences or the topic before handing out individual conversation journals. This way, the kids have a plan for writing and are focused when they go to the tables with their conversation journals.
I also incorporate time for the students to share their writing. This lets the kids know that what they have to tell me / what they write is important. If time allows, each child shares. Some days, students share writing with each other at tables. When time is at a minimum, kids share with a partner.

I am a big fan of the way Kim gives her students ownership of their writing.

Do you do journaling in your classroom? How do you organize it?
-Annie

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