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Connecting Reading & Writing: Effective Journaling for Young Readers.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Jan 19, 2012 5:33:00 AM

journals help establish a critical reading-writing connection for young learners.Elementary school journal writing can take many different forms and serve a variety of purposes, especially for the youngest readers. Making the connection between a student's reading and informal writing is incredibly powerful for building understanding, and can help to create a strong foundation of literary skills.  

Using elementary school journal writing as a tool to aid reading comprehension can be accomplished in several ways. Here are three that employ a response to reading:

  1. As part of a read aloud, a teacher can have each student write a response in journal format.  This can be done during the reading to make predictions, or at the end to reflect or summarize. The writing can be highly scripted (“I liked this story because...”) or be more open ended (the student describes the setting in his own words). 

  2. During guided reading groups, a teacher can have students respond to the group’s selected text in their reading response journals. These responses can be connected to both the text selection and the skill or reading strategy the group is practicing. For example, the teacher might ask the group to respond to a text in relation to a specific strategy, "How are you like the main character?"  This will require students to use a variety of comprehension skills to answer: text knowledge, strategy use, and thoughtful response. At times, teachers may want students to choose their own topics, so each student's comprehension and response will be unique. These make great discussion starters for the group! 

  3. Independent reading is a great companion to journal writing because it encourages students to focus on characters and events in order to compose entries in their reading response journals. Teachers may establish set times for students to respond in their journals, and even have specific topics to set the stage for student responses.This strategy is best supported initially by the teacher through modeling. Over time, as learners continue to increase their comprehension and display success with independent reading, teachers can hand over full responsibility of responding to the reading by allowing students to choose their own journal topics. Lakeshore® has some wonderful ideas to support independent reading.

    One of the most important things to remember is that elementary school journal writing for the earliest readers will span a variety of ability levels. Some students will be able to compose paragraphs, others will write sentences, while others still may use a combination of words and pictures to convey their ideas.  All of these are valid responses, as long as the students are communicating their comprehension and ideas. The quality of the response is not determined by the length or complexity, but by a thoughtful response and reflection based on the student's comprehension of the reading.

    We also like to remind teachers that journal writing is a very personal exercise. Students should never be forced to share the contents of their journals; sharing should only be on a voluntary basis. Since bullying is a notoriously dangerous issue these days, a journal should not in any way be used as a diary. Teachers must take care to connect journal exercises directly to classroom assignments. 

    For more effective ways to engage readers, download our Best Practices Guide for K-6 Reading Comprehension, today!

    Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

     

     

     

    Tags: early readers, reading comprehension, journals

    “Seed” Journals: An Effective Writing Strategy for Early Learners.

    Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Dec 13, 2011 5:30:00 AM

    "seed journals" help early learners focus on writing with or without convention masteryKeeping a journal can often be a powerful way for students to organize their thoughts, try out  topics for larger pieces of writing, and practice content and conventions lessons the teacher has taught.  In her comprehensive approach to writing instruction, Lucy Calkins outlines the benefits of students keeping a “seed” journal, regardless of age or ability. These journals provide a place for primary students to begin their journey as a writer and experiment with their writing craft.

    Calkins’ approach to journaling weaves together writing instruction with student-generated topics, in an effort to form a balanced approach to writing development. Important characteristics of this strategy are:

    • All of the writing in the seed journals comes from the students' lives. They are a collection of things they've done, seen, and thought about; past and present. A seed journal isn't a place for fiction, just mini memoirs. (Here’s one teacher’s very clever idea for making an engaging “watermelon seed” journal.)

    • Students are encouraged to write about brief moments or “seeds” of a larger experience. Instead of writing about a trip on an airplane, students learn how to look within the larger topic for something smaller. Maybe a piece in the journal could be about feeling nervous while walking down the jet way or how the world outside the plane looked from the air. 

    • Writing conventions should not be the focus of the journal writing time. Yes, students should be expected to use proper conventions and grammar, as appropriate, by their development and grade level standards. But spelling and punctuation should never impede a child from putting their thoughts on paper. 

    • No two students are alike - some will be able to easily identify a seed topic and write for the entire journaling time while others will struggle to even develop an idea. Some may be able to write lengthy pieces with well-developed content and others may compose one sentence accompanied by a basic illustration.  Allowing students to include an illustration with a seed journal entry can be powerful for certain students, as they will be able to communicate ideas via the illustration that they may not be able to convey in their writing. 

    • Seed journals aren't the end product goal for these young writers. Via direct instruction, teachers will model and teach students how to turn these small seed ideas into a larger, more developed piece. Every great piece of writing started out as a small seed!

    We’d like to point out that writing in journals of any kind is a very personal exercise for students. Students should never be forced to share the contents of their journals; sharing should be on a voluntary basis only. In this notorious and very dangerous time of bullying, a journal should not in any way be used as a diary. Especially for older children, teachers must take care to connect journal exercises directly to classroom assignments. 

    Journaling as a writing exercise can provide an appropriate opportunity to discuss boundaries and why they are important in writing about one’s self, and others. It also can be used as a "teachable moment" to emphasize how writing on social media sites like Facebook can negatively impact personal boundaries and invade privacy. Many districts are wisely incorporating social media policies into their codes of conduct.

    For more effective ways to engage readers, download our Best Practices Guide for K-6 Reading Comprehension, today!

    Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

    Tags: early readers, Lucy Calkins, "seed" journals, early learners

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