Pre-K Journals

Prewriters Journal, Preschool Journal

UDL 3.3 UDL 5.3

In Pre-K Journals, students draw pictures, scribble write and write strings of letters about a provided or self-selected topic in individual notebooks to build early literacy skills (e.g. phonological awareness, narrative skills). First, the teacher models writing by “thinking aloud” about what to write about and draws a picture or writes words to display to the whole class (e.g. on an easel and large writing pad). Next, the teacher writes a sentence about the picture and models how to "sound out" the words, copying any sight words needed from the word wall. After teacher modeling, students practice recording their ideas in individual notebooks. Young learners benefit from frequent modeling, daily practice and the freedom and encouragement to take risks and express their thoughts through journaling.

Implementation Tips

Constructing Journals
Make individual journals to keep the pages organized in one place. Staple blank pages of paper between a construction paper cover. Or, create a journal page template that includes space for an illustration, writing, name and the date. Make multiple copies of the template page for each student and staple the pages between a construction paper cover.
Encouraging Prewriters
Model different examples of student writing. Explain that some students will write by drawing pictures while others will make marks (i.e. scribbles). Some will write strings of letters, the beginning and ending sounds of words and alphabetic writing. Then, model teacher writing and explain that it takes time and practice to write this way. By showing many different ways to write, students gain comfort about writing and are free to take risks.
Responding with Frequency
Respond to as many students as possible each day. Have students point to their entries and narrate what they’ve “written.” Take dictation under the picture or writing. Then, write a response at the bottom related to the student’s entry (e.g. If a student writes about a pet, write about your pet or ask a question.). Teacher responses motivate students to write each day. If you run out of time, finish responding during free choice centers.
Generating Ideas
Use a [[|circle map]] as a prewriting activity to help students generate ideas about a topic. Write the topic in the center circle and have students share ideas as you record them in the outer circle. Consider adding pictures or icons to help students remember what is written. Finally, model how to use the map to write a journal entry, sounding out words and using environmental print.
Reading Entries Aloud
Prompt students to read their journals aloud to a friendly audience (e.g. friend, parent, or stuffed animal). Model first by showing students how they can read their page by pointing to their writings and/or drawings from left to right. Practice with the student first, asking him to explain his journal. Remind him that by telling his audience what his letters, pictures, or scribbles says, is an example of reading. Provide ample positive feedback for this difficult task.
Integrating in Content Areas
Integrate the Pre-K Journal strategy during language arts, math, science, or social studies to ensure daily writing practice. For example, during language arts, write about a favorite version of a story. During math, draw and label pictures of objects found on a shape hunt. During science, write about planting seeds in the class garden. Finally, during social studies, write about a favorite place at school after going on a school tour.
Encouraging Letter Knowledge
Challenge students to practice letter-sound connections by making them alphabet books (e.g. My Letter Bb Book) out of stapled sheets of paper. In a small group, brainstorm words that begin with a certain letter. Draw a picture of one of the words and have students draw it in their books. Demonstrate how to write the beginning letter sound under the picture. Encourage struggling students to use a finger to trace the strokes in the air or on the table.


Whole Group Modeling
At the beginning of the lesson, the teacher models how to choose a topic by “thinking aloud” (e.g. “I made brownies with my kids yesterday. I’ll write about that today.”). The teacher then draws a picture and writes a corresponding sentence by sounding out the words on an easel chart pad. Next, the teacher calls on student volunteers to “share the pen.” Students take turns adding to the story. They add pictures, write the beginning and ending sounds of some of the words, and some write sight words. When done writing, the teacher points to each word in the sentence and reads it with the class. Then, the teacher has students put on their “thinking caps,” turn to a neighbor, and state their journal topic. Finally, the teacher instructs students to begin "writing" in their own journals. As students complete their work, the teacher begins listening to students read their entries aloud and writes a short response.
Science Journaling
On a sunny day, the teacher tells the class that they will be taking a nature walk through the playground and recording observations in their journals. Prior to leaving the classroom, the teacher models a pretend nature walk, narrating sensory observations (e.g. I see that there is a big pile of leaves. I am going to pick some up and see how they feel. They are dry and brittle and crunch when I squeeze them.”). The teacher then demonstrates recording the pretend observations in the journal. Once modeling is complete, the teacher escorts students outside with their journals. At the start of the nature walk, the teacher offers several verbal cues to help students make observations (e.g. "Wow! I see a big spider web with a spider in it. Let's all take a look."). After several minutes, the teacher asks students to explore on their own. As students are exploring the teacher rotates through the group to offer support and provide additional prompts.
Responding Individually
On student has completed a detailed journal entry. The entry includes simple, colorful drawings, scribbles and the letters "C" and "F." The teacher approaches the student and says, "It looks like you've included a lot of details in you journal entry today. Please read it to me." The student points to the journal and says, "I went to a farm. Here is a cow, a goat, a pig and some ducks." The teacher reinforces the students' letters saying, "I see that you included F for farm and a C near the cow." The teacher then uses a pencil to respond to the entry (e.g. "Which animal was your favorite?").

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