One Sunflower

journal writing in preschool

on October 5, 2009

Each of my students has been given a booklet titled My Pictures and Stories, created by the author, David Matteson.  We call them journals and since they have a yellow cover,  I tend to call them “our yellow journals.”  What does a preschooler know about a journal?  Nothing!  I realized that if I expected my students to color and write in these booklets, I needed to model what they are all about.  So on the third day of school I carried my “yellow journal” to breakfast with the students and began to draw a “story” of our class eating breakfast together.  I drew the blue tables, a row of faces seated at the table, some bowls of cereal on the table and the clearly identifiable shapes of a basketball backboards above us in the gym/cafeteria.  The children were thrilled at my illustration.

I pulled out my journal again the next day at circle time.  We had been singing  “if you’re happy and you know it”  and I had purposely added the verse, “if you’re scared and you know it.”  I opened the journal and stated, “Oh that reminds me of a story I wanted to tell you..” and I began a story about walking with my dog at night, hearing her bark incessantly at a tree in the woods, and finally seeing a raccoon peer out from the branches.  I purposely referenced a raccoon because I had told the students on a previous day how much I loved raccoons.  I chose to tell a story of being scared because I’ve learned from experience that when the children hear stories with intense emotions in them, or vivid happenings, they remember them.   The third day in the week I entered a story in my journal about four boys in my class completing an especially difficult puzzle. 

Entering pictures into a journal was only part of the story telling I began with my class.  We also have a “journal calendar.”  I’ve created a large calendar out of two sheets of poster board, it is probably about 36″ tall by about 26″ wide.  There are 7 columns across the board for the days of the week and 5 rows down so we can make it through a month.  The days we don’t have school are narrow – 2″ X 7″; our school days are marked off to support a 5″ X 7″ piece of paper which I tape on each day and we draw a picture to commemorate an event of the day.  I’ve been choosing the events to remember so far, but I’m beginning to ask for ideas now.  At the end of September, I pulled all the entries off of the calendar and we retold the story of each picture.  It was a great way to practice our oral language and for me to evaluate the student’s ability to recall stories. I posted the series of September pictures in a row at one end of the room with the “September” calendar heading.  We’ll continue to post our days around the room as the year goes by.

The 7th day of school I finally  passed out the yellow journals and asked the kids to write their own stories.  Some of my students were with me last year when we first started using the journals  and they were especially excited to begin drawing.  But even my newest and my youngest students, were eager to make their mark, and most had clear ideas of what they wanted to put on paper.     My aide and I went around to each student as they were drawing, conferring with each to find out what their story was about.  She is a bilingual aide and so went to the Spanish speaking  students first.  I visited my English speakers and then visited the Spanish students to see what they could tell me in English.  I will be scoring their oral language in Spanish and English throughout the year to see the gains they make. 

I only had two students who just made scribbling types of marks on their pages and they are 3, so are making pictures that are developmentally appropriate.   One of my most non-verbal students had a whole sentence to say about his picture.   I have reviewed each entry and scored it twice, once for the work the student did – the narrative elements in the picture such as characters, setting, details – and secondly for the oral language used to relate their ideas about their pictures and whether the telling remains consistent. 

We begin day 14 on Tuesday.  I had really wanted to get in another entry – and feel behind because we haven’t.  But this was a week of high emotion in the classroom, lots of rain outside and feeling a bit cooped up, and a fire drill practice on Friday.  We explored story in other ways, and did do the retelling of our September entries.  David Matteson will be in our district tomorrow and I’ll be reviewing my journals with the other preschool teachers.  It will be interesting to see how this writing process is going so far and to think about where we are going next.


2 responses to “journal writing in preschool

  1. Lindsay Nyberg says:

    Hi Amelia,

    I’ve also been looking for journals. Could you post where you ordered them from please 😀


    • onesunflower says:

      Hi Lindsay! I Googled “David Matteson My Pictures and Stories” and this is a web site I found that sells the journals – you can take a look and see what they are like: The journals cost a buck – which is nice and cheap. Another “journal” type book I found this summer and used with a student headed into first grade is one put out by Barker Creek Publishing titled Draw-Write-Now. It has lined paper for writing.

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