One Sunflower

supporting journal writing

on December 7, 2009

(Don’t you just love this picture by Daisy!!)

Today the lead preschool teachers in our district met to have a deeper discussion about supporting journal writing with our students.  The request for the meeting came out of our work last week when David Matteson was in our district.  Watching my students at work, reviewing the lesson and subsequently looking at journal entries by both preschoolers and kindergartners had several of us wanting more time to explore the ways we are modeling and developing writing in the classroom.

The questions I gathered from the teachers for discussion were:

How often should we be using the journals during the week?  What are some ideas for establishing routines for conferring with students about their work?  What are other ways we support writing/drawing during the preschool day?  Are there specific ideas for helping our students improve their “control” in their drawing?

Our discussion provided these answers for each other: 

Most of us are using the journals in a specific way at least once a week, a couple of us are using them twice.  We are all experimenting with how to confer with students finding that it is has challenged us to figure out how to do this within our current classroom routines.  Some of us have tried meeting with children during the actual writing activity period or pulling students aside during free choice time but none felt very successful at providing meaningful coaching to our writers.  David suggested identifying writers for each day that the teacher would promise to confer with.  He felt this would help students be more accountable on those days and provide real opportunity for a teacher to successfully meet with students.  Some of us decided to try this method out. 

We made a list of all the ways we are supporting writing/drawing with our students.  All of us are using white boards, some of us are using them for some “pre-thinking” activities before writing.  One teacher said she had her students create a “draft” idea on their white board and show it to her when they came to pick up their journal to do an entry.  One teacher uses the white boards as a check in activity when the students arrive in the morning, allowing them to practice whatever they want – writing their name, drawing, even scribbling – feeling that it gave the students a way to release energy.  I shared my “collaborative” drawing experience where I had several students participate in drawing various aspects of a figure or a house.  All of us are making sure we model drawing for our students, being intentional about being transparent about our use of shapes to drawing attention to our narrative elements.  We are also emphasizing quality, requesting that students start over if they start with a scribble or their pictures aren’t up to par for their abilities.

Hopefully this discussion will encourage each of us to try new things in this work and to evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts.  I have been offered the opportunity by the assistant superintendent to visit my fellow teacher’s classrooms and provide support to individual teachers in this process.  I’m hoping to do that before the holiday break so that we can come back in January, feeling enthusiastic about this necessary experimenting.

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