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.
If you’ve seen my Friday Game Night Posts, you know how much of a game-aholic I am! So for the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight just some of the games I love in my Top 10 posts. Last week, we looked at games to use in math. This week, we’re going to look at the Top 10 Board Games to use in Grammar and Writing Lessons and Literacy Centers. Often, I will introduce a game in Small Group Writing or Guided Reading, as a way to get students interested in a topic, and then put the same game into Literacy Centers to reinforce the topic in a more independent setting.
9. Chutes and Ladders – The game board on Chutes & Ladders is an inspiration to me! There are so many cute “picture” stories on it. I love to pull it out in guided reading when we are talking about inferences or guided writing when we are talking about describing and creating a picture with words.
8. Boggle – Boggle is the ultimate word game! I love seeing kids look at all those random letters and then see the words just start coming. It’s a great, easy center. As an extension, I like to have kids take the words they found and make a story out of them.
7. Very Silly Sentences – Whenever I’m ready to start talking about parts of speech, Very Silly Sentences is the go-to game. The color coded cards are such an easy way to talk about where each part of speech goes in a sentence and why each sentence needs all these parts of speech.
6. Taboo – Do you get sick of hearing those same tired words in your student’s writing? In order to show kids that they can say something, without saying those words, I love to pull out the game Taboo. It gets students in the frame of mind, to say “Hey, I can say that in lots of different ways!” After playing, we will make a list of words that are “Taboo” in our writing!
5. Scategories Jr. – Whether you are teaching or reviewing beginning consonant sounds, Scategories Jr. is a great way to have fun doing it. It’s easy to modify this game and play it with your whole class, or just that one group that needs a little more time! Then, send it to centers for a good regular reinforcement.
4. Pictionary – I know it sounds counter-intuitive to put a game with no words into a Guided Writing lesson, but Pictionary is a great way to get kids thinking about what needs to go into a story. If it’s in the picture that’s needed to describe the topic, then when we write, it should be in the words too!
3. Apples to Apples – Students have the hardest time explaining their answers in reading and writing! Apples to Apples gives them the chance to justify their answers, by explaining how it could be that volcanoes would fit into the category of “juicy things”. Good for categories and persuasive writing.
2. Rory’s Story Cubes – The easies brainstorming activity ever! Rory’s Story Cubes stop the “I don’t know what to write about” complaints real quick. Let your kids roll the dice and use the picture to get writing!
1. You Gotta Be Kidding – I have the adult version of this too – Would You Rather – which I use with older kids. You Gotta be Kidding is a great way to start talking about persuasive writing. Kids get to persuade their friends why they should also believe that “it’d be better to eat worms than bettles” and other truly gross things!
P.S. I write a Top 10 post every week. Here are some past Top 10 posts: Top 10 Board Games for MathTop 10 Toys I Steal From My Kids, Top 10 Educational Toys, Top 10 Educational Movies, and Top 10 Indoor Recess Ideas. Check back each Sunday or Monday for more Top 10 Lists.
I LOVE to play board games at home, but I also enjoying using them in my classroom. In addition to encouraging cooperation, turn taking and a variety of other social skills, I find I can often use the games to work on math and literacy skills. So, every Friday, I am going to post a Friday Game Night post, giving tips on how to use a particular board game in your classroom. Here’s this week’s Friday Game Night Tip:
Chutes and Ladders – Part 2
Who doesn’t like Chutes and Ladders (also called Snakes and Ladders)? It’s a classic game that is a part of most primary classroom and home game collections. It’s also a great way to work on both math and literacy skills. Last week, I talked about how to use Chutes and Ladders to work on math skills. This week, I have a list of ideas for using this game to work on literacy skills. Next week, we’ll take a look at how to use Yahtzee in different classrooms, but for now, how can we use Chutes and Ladders in the classroom?
1. Cause and Effect – On the game board for Chutes and Ladders, there is a picture story going on. For example, at the top of one of the “chutes” there is a little boy who has broken a mirror and at the bottom, there is the same boy pouring out the money from his piggy bank. These pictures cues would be a great way to talk about how one part of a story (the cause) makes another part of the story (the effect) to happen.
2. Write the Story – Another way to use the picture stories that are all over the Chutes and Ladders game board is to let the students create the stories that go with the pictures. What really happened? How did the mirror get broken? This entire board could work as a variety of story starters!
3. Spelling Words – Place sight words or spelling words on index cards. Have students draw a word and read or spell it before taking their turn in Chutes and Ladders. Then, the students can move how ever many letters there are in the word. Easy, simple review, with a game built in, and very little to create or manage!
4. Describe It! – Isn’t it funny how one person see something that can be so differently than another? To illustrate this for students, and to help them work on adjectives and writing descriptively, assign each child one of the “stories” on the Chutes and Ladders board. Have students write a description of their assigned story, using picture words, but no numbers. Then, have students read their descriptions aloud (or with other students let them read each others’ descriptions) and see if the others can guess which story they were assigned.
I hope some of these suggestions will allow you to use Chutes and Ladders in a new, interesting way in your classrooms. Keep playing games and watch your kids learn!
Happy Holidays to you all! It’s amazing how fast it flies, huh? Already, I’m on my way back to work. I go back on Wednesday, January 4th, so my first week after winter break is only 3 days long. I know that at least 3 of my students won’t be back that week, as they are traveling internationally, and I don’t want to start anything brand new with that many out. So, I decided to work on New Year’s stuff all week. There are so many holidays that get taught in the classroom, but for some reason New Year’s often gets overlooked, even though there are some great content connections. I have a New Year’s Center Packet available on Teachers Pay Teachers for those of you who teach 1st or 2nd grade, but here are 10 ideas to use with New Year’s that could be used with almost any elementary grade level.
10. Resolutions & Goal Setting – New Year’s is always time for a fresh start. It’s a great time to let your kids make resolutions and set goals for the rest of the school year. Not only can this be a writing activity, but it also allows your kids who haven’t been angels behaviorally to start out with a clean slate!
9. Making Predictions – New Year’s is a great time to look back and look forward. Talk about where students were last year at this time, and where they think they’ll be next year at this time. Have students draw a picture of what they think they’ll look like next year, or write a letter to themselves for next year. The kids can then take those home and have their parents put them away for NEXT New Year’s!
8. Create your Own Top 10’s – Around this time of the year, you start to see all the Top 10 Lists. Top 10 Movies, Top 10 Books, Top 10 Political Events. Allow students to make their own Top 10 lists. Older students might be able to choose their best movies, books, etc. Younger students could just as easily choose their Top 10 books read in class or Top 10 games played at recess. Either way, students get a chance to reflect on the previous year and work on writing at the same time.
7. Talk Tenses – With all the looking back and looking forward – this is a great time of the year to talk about past test and future tense! Older students can get into the verbs, younger students can talk about the words “yesterday, today, tomorrow, this year, last year, next year etc.” No matter what level they work on tenses at, it’s a great time of the year to find that “teachable moment”.
6. Calendar Time – Another great “teachable moment” at this time of the year is using calendars, last years and this years! Older students can take a look at what day important events (like Election Day, the first day of the school year or Thanksgiving) fell on last year, and how it will compare this year. Younger students can take time to talk about the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons, etc.
5. Yearly Math – My son loves to ask me questions like “When I’m 20, how old will you be?” With the turning of the new year, this is a good time for kids to use those math skills on Yearly Math. Come up with problems based on the year – like how old will you be in the year 2020? Or, let the kids come up with the problems and swap with a partner!
4. Counting Down – Whether you drop a ball or not, all kids love a countdown! Count from 10, 100, 1,000, whatever your kids are up to!
3. New Year’s Around the World – We often study the Chinese New Year, but how else is New Year celebrated around the world? Did you know that according to the Islamic New Year – celebrated November 26th this year (date changes due to the Lunar Calendar) – the year is 1433? Or that according to Hindu Tradition, the New Year will occur on April 12th his year (date changes due to Lunar Calendar) and the year will be 5113. Not only are these fun facts that your students might enjoy, but it’s a chance to broaden their horizons! Older students could even work on a group research project on one of the New Year traditions celebrated around the world.
2. Confetti Art – Take all that leftover confetti and let students make art! Have students put glue on their paper (in random order, or on the outside of a design), then sprinkle confetti like you would glitter. Students could also write about what they have made.
1. Party!!! – Take some time to have a New Year’s Eve party with your students. 20 minutes at the end of the day, use some noise makers, have a count down, and a small treat, and let kids “start the year” with you!
P.S. I write a Top 10 post every week. Here are some past Top 10 posts: Top 10 Holiday Read Alouds, Top 10 Educational Toys, Top 10 Items for Your Winter Holiday Work Packet, and Top 10 Indoor Recess Ideas. Check back each Sunday or Monday for more Top 10 Lists.
It’s time for the Wednesday Website suggestion!!
This week’s Wednesday Website suggestion was brought to my attention last year from my son’s first grade teacher. (How many of you have ever stolen ideas you’ve seen your kids do? I know I’m not the only one!!) It’s called Storybird, and it’s made a HUGE difference with my reluctant writers. I do a lot of writing in my classroom. We do Free Write every week during centers, to allow students time to write for pleasure. I use the Primary Narrative Writing Journal during Guided Writing to model my writing expectations, and I do Modeled Writing anytime I can fit it into a mini lesson. However, Storybird is the one thing that finally got one of my stream of letters writers (you know lkjaoicmslikeis says lion) to write to write 4 true sentences (His story, about rabbits was: I see rbts. I see 8 rbs. I see 2 rbs hop. I lk rbs. – For those of you with beginning writers, you know how much that can mean!)
Storybird allows students to choose from real illustrations, and put them into a virtual storybook. Then, they can write the words to go with the picture. When they are finished, you are able to share their online stories with your class, parents, and even embed them on your blog! It’s a great resource, and the basic version is FREE!
Hope you enjoyed this Wednesday’s Website suggestion – check back each Wednesday for a new Wedensday’s Website suggestion. Also, feel free to check out previous Wednesday Website suggestions including: Find the Dog’s Bone and Math Magician.