Saturday, November 28, 2015

Getting Merry With December Journal Prompts

Journal writing is how we start our day in homeschool.  Just like when I was in the classroom, I use journal writing as a brain warm-up for the ELA block. I have used journals in numerous forms over the last 20+ years.  You can read about how I use journals and the research behind journal writing here.

I finished my latest monthly set of writing prompts for journals a month or so ago.  These December prompts feature special days in December such as Read a New Book Month, Christmas Card Day, Violin Day, and National Brownie Day as well as Christmas and a prompt for students to write about what holiday they celebrate.  There are enough prompts for each school day in December!

These prompts are very versatile and can be used in many different ways.  In previous years, I have printed the cover pages and glued to the outside of a folder.  The December prompts have two covers pages from which to choose:  an elf and a snowman.

There is a color version as well!

Then, I printed all the prompts and placed in the folder.  Or, you can staple all the prompts together.  And just like that, you have a whole month of journal or writing center writing!

Some teachers like to use the prompts in a writing center or for Quick Writes. This prompt resource was created for more informal writing, as the student does not go through all the steps in the writing process.  I do not grade the writing, but I have students share their writing with the class. It is a "safe" place for students to take risks (e.g., using dialogue in a story), flex their creative writing muscles, and to enjoy responding to fun prompts.It is also used to help develop writing stamina which then transfers to Writing Workshop. 

 The way I use these prompts for journal writing is more relaxed than our Writer's Workshop block.  However, many times this year, my son has asked to work on a journal writing to take through the writing process to a final copy.  That is exactly what I was hoping for:  that the daily journal writing would spark interest and passion in writing and that the journal would be used as a tool for Writer's Workshop.

Something else that I do this year is to always give my son the choice of which prompt he wants to do as well as giving him a "freewrite" option where he gets to choose the day's topic.  When we started at the beginning of the year, we had a "Freewrite Friday".  As the year has progressed, he has become more confident with his writing, and asks to write more and more freewrites. Of course, this may not work in your classroom depending on how you use the prompts.  An idea is to have several prompts available and allow students to choose one when using in a writing center. Choice is such a powerful motivator!  Students will write with more passion when they can choose a topic that interests them!  At the beginning of the year, it was too overwhelming for my son to choose a topic. So, the journal prompts really helped to scaffold his writing.  I supplied the topic and he concentrated on writing a response to the prompt.

This year, I'm doing something different.  I printed the prompts at 85% and they are glued in the journal composition book.  They are just the right size!

On some of the prompts there is room to write and draw!  All the prompts are done in black and white to save ink and to have students color when/if they have time. Some times my son will start by coloring for a minute or so as he thinks about what he wants to write.  Of course, I had to help him with time management so he didn't spend the entire writing time coloring!

I also included (10) stationery sheets done in color. I use these for final copies that the students complete.

Something else that I forgot to mention above is that we have been working on writing stamina in both journal writing and in Writer's Workshop.  My son now writes for five minutes with the journal writing.  I set a timer and when the timer goes off, he shares his writing with me.  I also encourage him to reflect on what was easy, difficult, and whether he enjoyed the topic and we can work through any difficulties he had and brainstorm solutions.  The next day, he can decide if he is going to add more to the previous day's writing.

I can't say enough about how much the journal writing has helped my 3rd grader to blossom into a more confident writer that is now enjoying writing!  I saw the same thing when I was in the classroom. 

You can click here to see the listing of prompts if you are interested.

Do you use journals in your classroom or at home?  Please share in comments how you use a journal!

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