During one of my MANY summer brainstorming sessions spent pondering the question, "What should I do differently this year to make sure it sucks less than last year?" (okay that's a little dramatic, last year hardly sucked! it was just a little rough!), I entertained the idea of starting my mornings with journal writing instead of morning worksheets. I'm not a big busy work person, but I started having the kids do a morning work page as soon as they came in very morning because it settled them down, got the class quiet and in work-mode, and gave me a minute to check in hw, greet the kids, etc. Anyways, when I was reinventing the Daily 3 this summer and trying to come up with more options for the Work on Writing piece, Mrs. J suggested I try morning journal writing. That way, the kids would always have the option of continuing an entry during Work on Writing, and would also be in a stronger writing routine. I decided to go for it and compiled a list of about 100+ prompts from various locations.
I typically have the kiddos write a letter to me about their weekends Monday morning, a miscellaneous prompt Tuesday and Thursday, (Wednesdays we do DOL instead) and write on a prompt connected to our weekly literacy theme Friday mornings. This weekend, I took home a crate of journals to peruse. I have collected them a few times previously, but hadn't for about two weeks. The prospect of reading and responding to entries in 24 journals was a bit daunting..I don't reply to every prompt, but I do read them all and try to respond to the ones that really show their best effort especially.
As exhausting as it is to respond to that many journal entries (I know, shame on me for waiting too long to collect them, but there are always SO MANY other things on my mind at the end of the day...), I am SO GLAD I am doing the journals this year. It's amazing how much I learn about my students from some of their entries, and I feel like it's a great opportunity to build relationships. Also, I found a few true "gems" among the journals:
Fabulous student entry 1:
One of my girls, in response to the prompt, "Something that bugs me is..." wrote about her older brother. She told me that her brother bugs her because he will always put on his "Jason mask" and sneak up on her and her friends when they are playing. I almost DIED laughing because that sounds EXACTLY like the way my older brother used to bug me! Actually, it was the Freddy Kreuger mask that really got to me...I mean seriously, I'm 10 years old, I turn around, and THIS GUY is standing behind me, knife-claw and all. SCARY. Anyways, I loved writing back to her and telling her about MY brother and how he used to love to bug me. :)
Fabulous Student Entry 2:
In response to the same prompt (Something that bugs me is...), one of my "diva-ish" girls wrote the following entry:
:-D I was DYING laughing!!! You go, girl :)
In any case, I am loving the journals. Today I implemented a new system though to avoid getting bogged down with the journals on the weekends. I'm collecting journals from 1 team every day, and two teams on Thursdays (my stay-late day). Ex. Monday collect team 1, Tuesday team 2, etc. I figure this way I will have less to respond to at a time, less to cart around with me, and most importantly, I'll be able to spend more time reading and responding since I won't be overwhelmed. I hope I am able to keep up with them!