Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce you to this week’s guest blogger: Renee Abramovitz of School Sparks. She has some great tips for you on using journals with young children. If you like what she has to say, please feel free to stop by her website and check our her cool worksheets.
Helping your child keep a journal
As early as the second day in my kindergarten classroom each year, I introduced my young students to their first journal. I explained that this was a special book in which they would put their own thoughts, ideas, and feelings. I emphasized that their entries could take many forms, including pictures, pictures with labels, descriptive sentences or stories. I always marveled at the creativity and growth that was evident in the journals as the year progressed and I always encourage parents to foster a love of journal writing in their children when they are young.
The value of journals
A personal journal can be a very empowering vehicle for a young child. It provides an opportunity to “talk” without having someone “talk back” immediately, so children are able to explore ideas and feelings without interruption, feedback, another person’s opinion or judgment.
It is personal work that allows children to experiment with different avenues of written expression. Often pictures become the basis for self expression at first. Then words are added in a variety of ways. Some children report on what is happening in their lives at the moment. Others draw or write about what they hope for or what they expect to happen in the future.
Keeping a journal feels like “grown-up work” to children, and they value their efforts. They may have seen an adult write his or her thoughts down, or heard about a journal or diary through television or the movies. But it always seemed to me that children instinctively understood this was important work and they took their job as “journal writers” very seriously.
Journals provide opportunities for children to challenge their skills in many areas including writing, drawing, using inventive spelling, expressing feelings, reporting events accurately, and using their imaginations.
Tips for keeping journals at home
- Find a blank book or make one yourself by binding about 25 sheets of paper between two sheets of colored tag paper with a plastic comb.
- I recommend drawing a horizontal line across the middle of the blank page to create two sections. (This is how I created the journals for my kindergarten students.) In the top portion, I encouraged my kindergartners to begin their journal entry by drawing a picture that depicted their ideas. This gave children a chance to flush out their thoughts and become clear about what they wanted to put in their journal that day.
- Encourage inventive spelling. Ask your child to record his ideas in the bottom portion of the page using inventive spelling. (I instructed my student to “show” their word with letters, rather than “spell” their words, since young children are very aware that they cannot spell the grown-up way.) Direct your child to slowly say aloud the word he wants to record and to write the letter that makes each sound he hears. At first, your child may feel more comfortable if you slowly
and clearly say each sound in his word. Try to say the word deliberately without chopping it up by isolating each sound and distorting the word. Your child does not have to hear each sound in a word to represent it in writing in his journal. (For example, a child may show the word school at first with an S, then later with SL, then SKL and finally SKOOL.) Remember, journal writing skills grow and develop through time and practice.
- Ask your child to “read back” his words to help you decipher his inventive spelling. To enable you and your child to read this at a later time, it may be advisable for you to write the words underneath your child’s letters or on the back of the page after he has finished. I always asked my student’s if they wanted me to do this, and without exception, they agreed. But it is important to get permission from your child. This shows that you respect his efforts and reinforces that this journal is his creation.
- Write the date in the top corner of each journal entry your child completes. In this way, you can keep track of his growth and also remember at a later date how old your child was at the time of his entry.
Renee Abramovitz is a retired kindergarten and preschool teacher and she is passionate about helping children start school prepared to succeed. Visit her at www.schoolsparks.com for hundreds of free kindergarten worksheets to help children develop critical skills and begin school.