When my older two children were in first and third grade I decided to use a journal for communication. Instead of giving them journal assignments or a journal to just write their thoughts, their journals were a communication between my child and I.
I would write a sentence or two and then give it to my child and he would read it and write a response. We did this back and forth and talked about all sorts of things. It was highly motivating for them to read responses to their statements or questions and it made journal time fly by.
We didn’t do it everyday since it was an informal way to practice writing and doing it infrequently made it more special. They had a journal time every 7-10 days.
With my first grader I only focused on three issues. I ignored all other errors or misspellings. I focused on capitalization, making sure the letters were formed in the right direction, and spacing between words. Here is a sample of my first grader’s journal.
Here is the play by play with my interpretation in parenthesis:
Mom: I want to play a tycoon. How about you?
First grader: Mmmm no becus you haf to wate (Mmm, no because you have to wait.)
Mom: What do I have to wait for?
First grader: Mane But I want to go to Lago land. (Money. But I want to go to Legoland.)
Mom: Okay, let’s go. Where is it?
First grader: In Kala foneu (In California)
Mom: How far away is California?
First grader: Aaaaa I dowt no (Aaah, I don’t know.)
In 30 minutes we did three pages like this. It gave him lots of practice with capitals, letter formation and spacing between words.
With my 3rd grader, I focused on handwriting practice. Handwriting detached from meaningful use was frustrating for my kid. This provided a way to practice in a meaningful way. I also used handwriting worksheets on topics of interest. Here is a page from my 3rd grader’s journal. My 3rd grader’s responses are longer and we usually complete several pages like this in 30 minutes.
Here is the transcript:
Mom: So maybe you will like microbiology just as much as astronomy. My favorite planet is Earth, what is yours?
3rd grader: Saturn. Did you know that Venus is so bright that it is oftenly mistaken for an UFO?
Mom: Why would people think a planet is a UFO? Does Venus move around?
3rd grader: Yes, very slowly so slow you don’t even notice it.
Mom: Then why do people think it is a UFO if it moves so slowly?
3rd grader: because everything in space moves. so Venus moves slowly so they sometimes they mistake it for an UFO.
Mom: Don’t UFOs move fast – hypothetically that is. Do you believe in UFOs?
3rd grader: No, and maybe they think it’s a new kind of traveling
Both of my kids really enjoyed this journaling. Plus, it makes a great keepsake. I still have them and it is fun to remember those early years now that they are now writing essays all the time!