One way I build literacy skills with my preschool daughter is to dedicate time to journal writing. Our journal time is inspired by what I learned when I facilitated Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop with my former students. My daughter is a pre-writer because she writes only a few words and no sentences, but she can develop language skills by composing her thoughts into a writing journal. Through journal writing, she learns the ideas she talks about can be put onto paper.
We begin journal writing by reviewing what we wrote about the previous day. Then, I model one simple writing idea in my own journal. When I first modeled journal writing, I drew a picture and wrote. I observed that my daughter was very hesitant to write anything in her journal. Now, I only draw pictures in my journal, and she has become more confident and independent in creating her own ideas in her journal.
Below are some writing ideas that I have used for my daughter, but when you model writing for your child make sure the writing is relevant to your child’s life.
- How To’s – brush teeth, do laundry, bake cookies
- People and Pets – Mama, Papa, grandparents, cats
- Events – parties, trip to library, holidays
- Their World – rain, home, school, grocery store
- Likes – food, clothes, places, television shows
- Feelings – sad, happy, angry
- Learning – topics of interest such as planets, wild animals, weather, numbers
After I have modeled writing, my daughter begins to write about her idea. She is free to write about a topic that interests her, and she doesn’t need to write about the same topic I showed her that day. During this time, she works independently for about five minutes. She often writes about a new topic, but I do notice she has other typical behaviors displayed during journal time.
- writing name over and over
- letter writing practice
- copying Mama’s work
- a lot of family and pet pictures
Once she has finished writing, she tells me about her writing. I transcribe her words on the page. Sometimes she doesn’t want me to write directly on her page, and I will write her ideas on a sticky note. I stay positive about the work she shows me even if she has spent the entire time scribbling. I know she doesn’t end up scribbling every day, and there may be some days she has hard time figuring out what she would like to write in her journal.
Journal writing builds children’s confidence in their writing ideas. It allows children to learn to stay focused on writing tasks. As children develop, they will start writing more words in their journals.
Rebekah is a former elementary school teacher who now is a stay at home mom. In her blog, The Golden Gleam, she shares art, play, and learning ideas to light up kids’ lives.