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Journal Writing in the Elementary Classroom

Offer Your Students an Organized and Inspired Journal Writing Program

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Children writing in classroom
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Journal Writing Prompts

Journal Writing Checklist for Student Assessment

An effective Journal Writing program doesn't mean you just sit back and relax while your kids write about whatever they want. You can use well-chosen journal topics, classical music, and checklists to make the most of your students' daily writing time.

In my third grade classroom, students write in journals every day for about 20 minutes. Each day, after read-aloud time, the kids go back to their desks, pull out their journals, and start writing!

By writing every day, the students gain fluency while getting a chance to practice important punctuation, spelling, and style skills in context.

Most days, I give them a specific topic to write about. On Fridays, the students are so excited because they have "free write," which means they get to write about whatever they want!

Many teachers let their students write about whatever they want every day. But, in my experience, student writing can tend to get silly with a lack of focus. This way, students stay focused on a particular theme or topic.

To start, try this list of my favorite journal writing prompts.

I try to come up with interesting topics that are fun for the kids to write about. You can also try your local teacher supply store for topics or check out a kids' books of questions. Just like adults, children are more likely to write in a lively and engaging manner if they are entertained by the topic.

While the students are writing, I play soft classical music. I've explained to the kids that classical music, especially Mozart, makes you smarter. So, every day, they want to be really quiet so that they can hear the music and get smarter! The music also sets a serious tone for productive, quality writing.

After each student finishes writing, he or she consults a small checklist that is pasted into the inside cover of the journal. The student makes sure that he or she has included all of the important elements for a journal entry. The kids know that, every so often, I will collect the journals and grade them on their latest entry. They don't know when I will collect them so they need to be "on their toes."

When I collect and grade the journals, I staple one of these small checklists to the corrected page so that the students can see which points they received and which areas need improvement. I also write a short note of comment and encouragement to each student, inside their journals, letting them know that I enjoyed their writing and to keep up the great work.

During the last few minutes of Journal time, I ask for volunteers that would like to read their journals out loud to the class. This is a fun sharing time where the other students need to practicing their listening skills. Often, they spontaneously start clapping when a classmate has written and shared something really special.

As you can see, there's much more to Journal Writing than just setting your students loose with a blank pad of paper. With proper structure and inspiration, children will come to cherish this special writing time as one of their favorite times of the school day.

Have fun with it!

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