We have always used journals in our classroom.  In the first days, three years ago, I made the journals and they were mostly used for drawing, getting use to pen/pencil on paper, practicing our letters by writing our names and our favorite words – usually by labeling our drawings.

As the kids got older, they began making book long stories.  Some kids would write about their lives, some would make up stories about animals or trips.  Then we hit a time where some of the kids were choosing to draw and write about war/fighting/battles.  We decided to let it go, to let them work it out, thinking there would be an end or at least an occasional variation on the topic.  But that didn’t happen.

So we decided to begin having a list of topics that the kids come up with, minus the war/fighting/battle theme and then we started pulling from this list for the daily topic.  This is what happens now, on a daily basis.  There are minimum writing requirements (but no maximum), which varies by individual/group.

But there are also times that we make books with one story line.  Every year we enter the Reading Rainbow story writing contest, which has word/illustration requirements.  A good way to get a feeling for what it takes to submit writing for publication.  We write multiple drafts for this project, making sure we correct our inventive spelling and create a finished project for others to read.

Everyone in the classroom is still an emerging writer – everyone at a different place.  The kindergartners are really just beginning to get their footing in this new medium.  It is such a great way to learn to read, this act of putting letters down to make words that link into sentences.

We approach this in various ways.  We sometimes dictate stories, we sometimes talk them through the spelling of words and then try to get to the point where the kids can inventive spell.  Once they feel comfortable doing this, then we look at their writing, go over it, correcting any misspellings, punctuation and work on content (this being a three year process).

This is a gentle path we take.  Too much creates a sense of impossibility, frustration and sometimes stops the progression.  But too little keeps them from moving forward.  We keep close track of the kids and where they are and what they are capable of not only academically but emotionally as well.  We want it to be fun.  A place to create ideas, tell stories, learn, read, write, come together and move forward in this journey.

We have bound the first part of the years topics and they are now a part of our classroom library.  They read their own and are often read to each other just like the published books in our classroom. You can find our current writing topics outside of the classroom on the wall.

As a teacher and a writer, this is one of the most thrilling parts of my job.  I love to experience the acquisition of the written language on a daily basis.  It is amazing every single time a kids takes the next step in the reading/writing journey.  It’s magic.  It’s hard work.  It’s fun.  It’s a long, long road that we take one step at a time.