Daily Elementary Journaling

journals gr.K-3

Daily Elementary Journaling

30-45 minutes daily

I believe that the best way to produce confident and ready writers is by daily elementary journaling. Provide expectation, opportunity and support, for writing to happen everyday.  I recommend 30 to 45 minutes of journal time daily beginning in first grade or end of kindergarten.

10-15 minutes drawing time

For first journaling months or years, my prescription is, first give them 10 to 15 minutes to draw a picture.  After 15 minutes require for them to WRITE.  When writing is completed, then he or she may finish the artwork by adding more color as desired, while they wait to be conferenced with.

Writing Conference in Daily Elementary Journaling

Conferencing  with students over their writing everyday, is the perfect opportunity to provide specific praise, and individualized instruction. Point out and praise any and all GROWTH that you see. Praise and point out good effort. (More on this later<) In conference encourage one point for focus of improvement or growth in the future. (More on this later<)

Ways to Support Reluctant Writer


In the beginning when a student is not confident and does not know how to write a word, (see pics below), then I either allow them to “dictate” to me as the teacher-secretary, what he/she wants to write.  I write it for them, either in small print above where they need to copy it, or on a page beside where they need to write it.  Then he or she copies it.

Sentence Stems and More

Sometimes, reminding them of words in the room or starter sentence stems, is enough simple encouragement  to get reluctant early writers going.  Saying, “Spell it the way you think it might be spelled, and then I will help you,” can be a tremendous boost. If doing the secretarial work (writing their thoughts for them, as dictated),  talk to the student about:

~beginning the sentence with a capital letter,

~meatball spaces between words, spaghetti spaces between letters, (Thank you Mrs. SG for your fun vocabulary there)

~point out simple words that are visible in the classroom like maybe on the Word Wall, chalkboard or white board, or another source

and model SPELLING by sounding out. Slowly sound out the word and let them “help”  spell the word.  When their one or two sentences are written by the secretary, then they copy, and are praised for that accomplishment.

Penmanship Matters

Model and Prescription

Assess penmanship during daily elementary journaling. If improvement is needed, choose one letter a day to provide corrective feedback on.  If/when a letter is sadly misformed, model the right way, and maybe the wrong way, *pic* and I have the student write it multiple times for good form practice.  I would prescribe tracing the proper letter form. Watch the direction of writing strokes to verify “properness,” of formation and give individualized feedback accordingly.

>>A post about some tricky aspects of writing and reading, here<<

Hearts Around Good Examples

Draw HEARTS around their best work. (More on handwriting later.) Hearts drawn around letters that demonstrate his or her best, nurtures pride and confidence. It represents something to aspire to again. In daily elementary journaling I tell students that generally, the more they practice proper letter formation, the easier it gets.

See Growth in a Year of Daily Elementary Journaling

Examples of Student Work

Here are examples of early writer’s work over a year.  For reference I am calling the students by performance, LOW, MIDDLE, or HIGH.



Same HIGH #1, on grade level, beginning of 1st grade, 8 weeks into the school year, had mastered all of his sight-words and began the Accelerated Reader program.  7 months later was reading and independently passing quizzes on 2.8 level books.  From a 1.2 to 2.8 in 7 months, is something to celebrate!

I am convinced that journal writers advance in reading more quickly than non-journal writers.


Still high #1: Here is his/her writing at the end of first grade.  Compare it to the beginning of the year, above. This growth is what made the hard work rewarding!

A MEDIUM #2 student, writing sample:


LOW #3.  You can see where I wrote what was dictated, and the student then copied, at the beginning of the year.


Low #3: He/she did grow significantly in writing skills as you can see.  In the beginning he/she would not even attempt to write a sentence on his/her own.  End of the year, he/she filled the page!  HURRAY!


HIGH#4 (seen below), beginning of year- end of year.  Look at that reading growth, from 1.0 to 3.9 in one year.  This means that the student began first grade reading at 1.0 (appropriate for beginning of first grade) and ended first grade on almost FOURTH grade reading level!!  Another HURRAY!!


High #4 student, but still he/she needed to start journaling with “dictation,” assistance, which made accomplishment at the end of the school year, all the sweeter (above).

Low :


LOW #5 student, very social.  See all the names she included at the end of the year (names blocked out).  Still we celebrated.  He/she worked hard and made progress!!!


LOW #6 student who started out dictating, a lot:


Some Growth in High (student example)

HIGH #7 student.  Look how he/she grew over the year:


HIGH #8 student above and below.  I like the way you can see improvement in students handwriting, and how I “heart,” words and periods.  With each of my hearts would be a verbal compliment, because I conferenced with students over their journal every day.

Same HIGH #8 student as above, END OF YEAR:


Medium Example Work


Wow!! Love that growth! MEDIUM #9

More ideas about investing PRAISE and instruction into the journals >>

4 Important Take-aways_

link to >> SmARTsy Reading Teacher facebook page<<


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