Journal writing success with a 4 and 7 year old

a little juice with your literacy this morning?

Having a mama who is a poet, a writer, and a literacy professional is not always seen as a good thing to my boys. Where it’s cool to have contact paper all over the house identifying things like the “toilet”, it can be a drag when you have to write in your summer writer’s journal again this week. For Sam, this has often been a real tough sell, and has involved bribery on occasion.  So far this summer, Sam is into it. Or maybe he knows it is just something you do. With “adding details to your writing” being a identified goal for him (he is my one sentence equals a complete paragraph guy) I felt the stakes were a little higher this year than last. By 2nd grade the writing standards are clearly looking at a paragraph as the norm, not the exception.

this is how you spell it, and don’t forget to FLUSH

For Marcel, my story teller, who can write his name, and “m-o-m” and “n-o” the goal is to help him record his stories, and to begin to incorporate some pencil holding skills, and the desire to write. I am not expecting him to craft a sentence independently.  If he chooses to, great. Below, I’ll show a fun way to simultaneously introduce ten common Kindergarten sight words by the end of August: a, at, an, and, am, can, do, go, I, me, we.

Materials: two notebooks, two pencils, a few crayons, and a bowl of letter tiles. I picked mine up from a Scrabble set at a thrift shop, and was also gifted a set from a Montessori teaching friend when she saw the bowl. Art stores sell them for crafts too. There are a zillion uses for them, but today I will just focus on how they help us with our journaling.

Keeping a journal-the Pre K version

1.  Any notebook is fine. Designing a picture, or using a post card from a favorite spot for the cover is a good start. Ownership of YOUR BOOK.  This is after all, a memoir in the making.  Using words like autobiography, memoir, and journal are all power vocabulary words too.

2. Once a week on either a set day, a rainy day or the morning after an exciting adventure- we sit down and journal. I have mine out too, making it a family event.

3. Collecting a ticket stub, or printing out a photo can be an added treat, but really is not necessary. It is the writing, and the telling, and in Marcel’s case the drawing that is the focus here.

4. I prompt Marcel with simple questions like; “Tell me one thing you never ever want to forget about yesterday?” Or I simply have him start on a drawing of a memory in his head. He then describes to me the the scene.  After he finishes his drawing, and I record the story, I have him craft a sentence using one of his sight words.  I give him a few tiles to choose from

It is…

to see if he can remember how to spell the word. In this case he wanted to say “It is…” and then think about what it is. He found the tiles, checked in with me, and then copied the words. Then he wanted to add the word loud. He found the first letter, and I added the rest.

Keeping a journal the rising 2nd grade version

1. We used last year’s journal which is a big boost to Sam’s ego.  Having tangible evidence of your progress is very important to all learners. So keep this in mind, and store this year’s journal in a safe place, or keep it going all year. (I failed there, but hey, he was writing in school.)

2. Sam is keen on having me print a photo of him doing the thing, like arm farts, and writing with the picture to help him to describe the event.

Summer Ballphoto, because I was too lazy to go all the way to the basement to connect the laptop to the printer. I did manage to do that today though, and will add the picture as a surprise next week.

2. We are working towards:  a) a title that “captures the reader’s attention without giving it all away” b) Using upper case and lower case letters appropriately c) adding details d) Finishing with a “wrap up” sentence.

Spelling is not important. He spells words the way he thinks they should be spelled phonetically-example; “peopol” for people. If you focus on spelling, it can shut down the young writer immediately. They don’t know how to spell. His kindergarten teacher told me last year, that Sam’s keen phonetic ability, allowed him much greater confidence as a writer. He is not prolific, but he is confident. That is huge! (And, now because he is reading more and more on his own, he is learning how to spell words that way.)

When he senses a word is misspelled he will ask. I will start the word with the tiles, and leave the end letters turned over. He can look for a clue, or just check after to see if he was right. He loves the challenge. I  try to prompt him to add details, by asking questions about color, size, texture, smell, and sound (adding the senses into his writing is great modelling too).

His passage reads; “Summer ball is fun because I met new peopol. I struck out #4 players. i had so much fun. love sammy”

How do you spell struck Mommy?

3. When we are all finished we “read” our entry out loud. Marcel was really PUMPED to be able to READ his sentence;”it’s loud”. He was anticipating the the fireworks that got rained out last night.

Sam then went back to last years journal and reread the entire thing. this generated a great conversation about memories from last summer, and what we HAVE TO DO AGAIN this summer. He could not believe

I had a lemonade stand and I got ten $ and I got jewleryhe used to write like that!

he used to write like that!

Now that you have your writing program wrapped up for the summer, bounce on over to my all time go to resource for all things literacy related (and more)  Pragmatic Mom for today’s post on teaching young readers to read independently.

Round and round, round, round, round, round round round.

I was looking over the pictures from the week, and noticed that there was something round about all of them. Perhaps it was the approaching supermoon last night, or just the way I am seeing the world today. In the “first at bat” photo, the round is hidden under our amazingly patient coach’s hand. Can you find them all?

We are doing beautifully today. After cooking us the most amazing biscuit and egg breakfast,  Shrek is off playing baseball with the lads, so I can blog exercise. We have been doing some huge relationship growth stuff, and with that comes some big excitement about future collaborations… The coolest part? I am fully in this, and not freaking out about any of it. As he and I consider future plans, and progress I am feeling more and more confident and present in this relationship. How did that shift happen?

Life is magically full. To keeping it light and loving today. Enjoy your week, hope it is full of your own Supermoons!

Read this: Smoooooooch

On Fridays I pick up Sam and we go to the local comic book and video store, before going to get Marcel. It is becoming a cherished ritual most weeks, thanks to the introduction of Miles Morales this fall.  I find that I need to get each issue the moment it comes out, and Sam loves poking around the store. Talk about a literacy teacher’s dream date. Continue reading “Read this: Smoooooooch”

Sammy Saturday: Flash interview with #1 son

Sam when you look at this picture, can you tell me what you see.

Grass, field, goals, and kids.

Where are you going?

I am going to Florida.

Why Florida?

Because Florida has Disney World.

What are you best at in the world?


What would you like to be best at in the world?

Gymnastics. Continue reading “Sammy Saturday: Flash interview with #1 son”

Linky love: books & kids & diversity & adoption and…

Reading with the pro!

I am always inspired by Our Little Tongginator’s Linkage post on Sundays. She does an amazing job searching the net, and providing the readership with links that she may or may  not agree with, but find worthy of note (almost all  of which have some major adoption/race related connection).  Whenever Mama C makes the cut, my readership jumps by a 100 or so for a few days. That tells you how valued her word is! Continue reading “Linky love: books & kids & diversity & adoption and…”

Reading to your fans on Black Friday (video)

Here is Sam giving Black Friday a new twist: the day you as a young early reader do something very very very impressive the Friday after that Thursday.

OK so he is more recalling here, than reading. Yesterday he read-read it. Today he remembered reading it for the most part. For all of you parents of younger kids who wonder the merit of reading the same book over and over again? Here is the payoff. A child “reading” a book, and feeling every one of his pours dancing in that accomplishment. Yes he remembers most of it, but when he gets stuck, notice how he sounds it out, and arrives (sometimes with his brother’s unrequested assistance) through his very real efforts.

I can’t imagine a more fitting post to bring us 1000 hits away from 30,000 views. Soon Sam might need his own blog with all the literacy going on around here!