Over the summer, as I sat planning how my school day was going to look like, I wanted to provide my students the opportunity to start their day strong. When I taught Kindergarten, I would begin my day with students writing about a picture I projected on the ELMO. For the most part, they were quiet and seemed to enjoy this time. I considered this a success, so why not repeat this in my third grade classroom?
The first day of school arrived, I had a prompt on the board, classical music playing in the background and their journal notebooks laid out for them. The students came into the classroom with such a high of excitement from it being their first day, I was shocked at what I saw next. They quietly found their names at their tables, grabbed the pencil provided and quietly began to write. What??? Coming from the world of Kindergarten, I thought this was some sort of an anomoly. This really exists? Students come in and know how to hold a pencil and write a sentence? I was immediately smitten with this grade level. From that day forward, I would have never predicted the way these morning journals evolved into something much deeper.
Each day, my students enter the classroom, excited to see what they will be writing about. I must admit, some prompts are better than others, but coming up with 180 days worth of prompts proved to be fairly difficult. I was amazed to see my goal of providing students an opportunity to begin their day focused was a success. I’d like to think all of my prompts were amazingly written but the truth of it was, they lacked one key component, the chance for kids to be CREATIVE. It wasn’t until day seven, I saw an unexpected shift. Students walked in and saw the following prompt:
There was a stir of excitement. I have never seen third graders be so eager to continue writing. I typically give them the first 15 minutes of class to complete their journal entries but they just kept writing. My kids who are typically writing two and three sentences, suddenly exploded to a half page! Did I just unintentionally find a way to bring passion to writing?
When I saw the passion these kids were developing for writing, I STOPPED grading them. Yes, you read that correctly…I’ll give you a moment to let that marinate. Why am I going to put a score on something they are passionately writing about? From my experience in the classroom, getting students to transfer their thoughts to paper, is the all-time struggle. Why am I going to hinder this progress with a score because they did not use proper capitalization or punctuation? I do however, read them all. Each day, I read a week’s worth of journal writing for five of my students. Instead of telling them what they did wrong, I write notes to them about how amazing their ideas are, while I silently take notes to guide my writing lessons.
The journals have also become a powerful formative assessment tool. After delivering lessons about writing techniques, how to respond to prompts, and even just basic fundamentals of writing, I can see these skills transferring in my students’ writing. While I am reading their entries, I am also looking for students who are still struggling with the focused skills. I pull these students for a small-group writing conference to provide additional supports.
Looking for a meaningful approach to bring passion to writing? To promote the launch of my new TPT store, I am giving 20% off your first 60 days of writing prompts. Sale ends Wednesday, September 19th!