Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Journaling with Preschool Children

During the day, the children and I use our kitchen table for many things.

We color at it. We bake at it.

We paint at it.

We craft at it.

It is our mecca for group projects. The warm yellow walls and sunny area found in our breakfast nook make the coziest place for the three of us to sit down and work on something together. This blog is usually penned from there, often times in the dark and quiet of the early morning hours.

Lately the children and I have been journaling from our kitchen table. In my teacher days, the elementary school where I taught kicked off a huge writing initiative. EVERYONE wrote...teachers, kindergartners, and older kids as well. The idea was to start the process of writing early on and get kids to practice, and hopefully love, the task of putting thought to paper.

A while back I took two ordinary composition books and covered them in scrap book paper. I told the children these were their journals and that we would write our thoughts in them on occasion. Here are a few tips for journaling with young children:

*Explain the process, using terms they understand. Before you begin a long lecture about recording personal thoughts on paper, stop. Explain to children that they have to the ability to write down their thoughts and stories on paper,which they can do with words and with pictures. That, dear readers, is journaling!

*Create a special space to hold these thoughts. As mentioned, our journals are simple composition books. Although simple, these books are kept in our crafting cabinet and not left out with other coloring books or notebooks. We keep them tucked away until writing time so they remain special and unique.

*Provide a prompt. As of now, I am guiding the children's writing. We have written about Halloween, about Fall and about themselves. Give children a topic to write about to guide their writing and prevent a detailed (and confusing) tale that no one understands in the end.

*Encourage illustrations. Because Evelyn is just learning how to write her letters, she has no grasp on "writing" per say. In her journal she draws a picture about the prompt and then I write a sentence for her about the picture (she dictates the sentence). Isaac can write quite well and understands the concept of a sentence. He too draws a picture and then writes a sentence about his picture.

*Don't strive for perfection. Sometimes it is hard for me to sit still and simply allow the kids to create in their own little way. However, if I expect them to actually own their own work (and not want me to one day complete their science project in its entirety) I have to allow them to do so from the very beginning.

*Set an example. One of the reasons I began journaling with the children is because of the large amount of time I spend writing these days. I simply wanted them to understand exactly what I am doing behind the glow of my laptop (although Isaac still questions if I am playing games on Noggin.com). Show your children your writing, read some of it to them and let them see how you put thought to paper.

*Practice, practice, practice. Writing is a skill that requires practice. Perhaps set a goal of journaling with the children every Monday morning, writing about something that happened over the weekend.

Pull out a kitchen chair, grab a notebook and some crayons, and start writing!


Stephanie said...

I would love your tips on how Isaac learned to write so early! Natalee regularly makes letters, but she has no interest in learning to write her name even though she can spell it and has written each of the letters individually. She can spell several words but we just don't push it too much at home. Do you use workbooks?

Phillips Family said...

I give a lot of credit to Isaac's writing abilities to his preschool. They use the "Handwriting without Tears" cir. and it is wonderful...especially for boys who usually are not as interested in such things.

We do use workbooks...nothing fancy, just Wal-Mart finds. A lot of practice helps as well.

Stephanie said...

Thanks! So guess what Miss Natalee asked to do first thing this morning? Practice writing her name! And she did well! I knew she could do it, now maybe she will believe it too. What is the "handwriting without tears?"