Jun 25, 2013

Free Write Journals ~You just have to turn on the FOUNTAIN! {Tried It Tuesday}

Confession time-I've never been much of a writer!  I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself! (SURPRISE)

This pressure was holding me back! Once I gave myself the freedom to simply get my thoughts on paper, without the stress, I became a FREE FLOWING FOUNTAIN OF WORDS!  Who knew??  Granted, I would not have tried journaling this summer if a professor had not required it.  Which leads me to my "TRIED IT TUESDAY" with Fourth Grade Flipper.  I apologize in advance for the long post...Apparently I have turned on the fountain again! ;)

{Tried It Tuesday} Free Write Journals
Turn on the FOUNTAIN and let the words flow!

I am currently in the middle of NWP. (National Writing Project Summer Institute)  We begin each class with journal time.

Here's what I have learned about myself:
  • I actually do like to write.  Again, who knew?
  • Getting started is the hardest part.
  • Once the flood gates are open, writing flows very freely on most topics.
  • Talking a lot DOES translate into writing a lot if you have freedom to choose your topics!  (Tells you a little about me, doesn't it?) :)
  • Some days I just need to write what I'm feeling on that particular day and have the freedom to keep it to myself.
  • And believe it or not, it is okay if I don't want to finish it the next day. 

In the spirit of CONFESSIONS, these reflections on myself as a writer, sure are going to be GAME-CHANGERS for my classroom!  As a teacher, I have tried to use my classroom as a place to create lifelong readers and writers, and in turn lifelong learners.  I don't feel that my top priority needs to be feeding prescribed information to them, rather I would like to think that I have tried to inspire them to gain knowledge for themselves.   BOY HAVE I MISSED THE BOAT WITH CLASSROOM JOURNALS!  Sure, we had them.  From time to time my students wrote in them if they finished their work early. (Sigh....)

These confessions have led me to my PINTEREST FILES where I have discovered a few posts from my blogging buddies on journal writing.  Collaboration Cuties has a great post here and Magic Mistakes and Meyham's post can be found here.  I am sure there are lots of fabulous resources out there, and I am certainly going to look for them this summer, as I begin totally revamping my journal writing plans.

For now, here are my thoughts.
  • PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING!  If I present this time as a gift that I am giving them and sneaking for myself, eventually they will buy in! (This is how I approach reading, why not writing?)
  • At registration, I will explain my plan for this treasured journal time, and suggest parents encourage this by helping their child select a journal that will be special to them. (I will make sure every child has this opportunity if their parents do not.)   
  • I will find at least 10 minutes a day everyday, with a plan to INCREASE time as students increase stamina, that my students AND I will write about whatever we want on that given day.  Slowly but surely, the stories will get longer and more in depth.
  • I will have a daily topic, in case someone has writer's block.  Sometimes I will choose random topics to encourage and increase writing STAMINA...thanks Collaboration Cuties!
  • I will NOT hold them to this topic.  If they are in the mood to write about the moon, they can GO FOR IT!  I just want them to write.  There will be time for required topics during our Workshop.  This is totally free write time.  No grades, no corrections, no rewrites unless they want to, no pressure at all!
  • In time, they will begin to apply writing skills they have gained from our Workshop time to their journals without me pointing it out for them.  APPLICATION of skills is powerful stuff!
  • Just as reading makes you a better reader, writing makes you a better writer!  I am convinced that as students increase stamina, they will be self motivated to become better writers.  Day in and day out, they will begin to give in and just write!  And when they do, they will begin to pre-plan what they might want to write about, and critical thinking will be happening about their writing without them even realizing it. :)
  • I will change the lighting for comfort, but also to signal a change in mood and to mark the importance of this time.
  • I will play quiet music to solidify that this is not a time for conversation with each other or with me.  I WILL BE WRITING AS WELL. :)
  • At the end of the week, I will ask them to flag one item that I can read and respond to with the promise that I will not criticize, correct, or disrespect their journals in any way.

Don't misunderstand me, I will enforce PENCIL TO PAPER, so to speak.  Technology counts too when available.  They WILL be writing...but what they write, and how they write, will be totally up to them. (We have an overarching rule in our classroom that everything must be school and age appropriate.)  

What do you think?  I would love suggestions.  I truly want to mark this as a celebrated time of freedom and choice. We can all find 10 minutes in our day if we truly think it is important.  I will share my personal writing experiences from this summer with my students on the first day of our journal writing time.   I will also share my metaphor of a "free flowing fountain of words" as our mantra for the experience, and I hope it sticks.  :)

How do you use journal time in your classrooms?  Do you have any special strategies for marking this as a special time of day?  All suggestions and ideas are welcome!  Also, if you have written a post related to this topic, feel free to leave a link in the comments in case others might want to read your post as well.

I've tried out lots of new readers lately, and BLOGLOVIN'  seems to be my fav!  If you don't use a reader to follow blogs, it is a very simple way to make sure you don't miss any posts by your blogging buddies.  You don't have to be a blogger to set up a FREE account!  :)  
Try out it...it might just be your new favorite addiction professional development tool! ;)
Keep in touch and enjoy your day!

* Update: I just found this great Blog Hop to help you find some great blogs to "follow" if you've decided Bloglovin' is the reader for you!  Hop on over and find a few new friends! :)


  1. I love this idea! I will be teaching 4th grade for the first time in the fall and we have our BIG writing assessment. I am definitely going to try and incorporate journal time into our day! I love the ideas that you shared from Classroom Cuties as well. Thanks so much for everything!!!

    :) Nicole
    Tadpole Tidbits

  2. I love that you are discovering all of these things! They are all things that I also discovered when I did my Writing Institute as well. One of the biggest things I try to do is give my students as much personal choice as possible in all of their writing activities. I will give them the assigned mode-like persuasive, but I let them choose what/who they want to persuade. The other thing I have done is I set aside a full hour for writing workshop. I keep my mini-lessons short and I have the kids write for 30-40 min. each day. We have to build up to that-but the students learn that "I'm finished" is never true...there is always something else they can write about.

    I'm looking forward to hearing more about your journey.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  3. I have to admit that I was a huge slacker in the journaling department this past year. My students struggled so much with reading comprehension, that I just didn't give writing the attention it deserves. Partially, that was because it was such a fight every time I asked them to write ANYTHING (even if they were copying things from the board). I like the idea of using this as bell work. It sets a routine and quiets students down as they enter the classroom. I love that you're changing the music and lighting for this sacred time, and I think students will respond well to that. Great post!

  4. Brandee, Thanks for your long post! I love it! Soooo much great information! Thanks for keeping up such a great blog- New follower, Tara

  5. I think you're right on track, Brandee, with what you want to do. When you make writing important and carve out time for it, students see that it means a lot to you, and ultimately, to them. Good stuff!

  6. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing! I like to give my students free writing, where they can write about whatever it is they want. Since they are just 6 I always remind them to stick to one topic! =)

    Just Wild About Teaching

  7. I am so on the same page as you!! It is amazing how much growth the students make in their writing when they are encouraged to write for enjoyment when they "choose" to during Daily 5. I try to provide many choice for work on writing and make the topics "easy" to write about. One area I need to improve on is reading all their writing! Between writing in their personal journals and shared writing journals, I can't keep up. However, your post made me feel better that maybe I shouldn't need to keep up! They probably appreciated it that I wasn't critiquing each and every entry:) Thanks so much for your thought provoking post!!
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  8. It's so ironic that I love to write, but I DISLIKE teaching writing! Seriously DISLIKE!! What has helped me immensely is having my students blog. It gives them a judgement free place to "write" and they love using technology! They don't have to keep up with notebooks because they're electronic! Blogging has been the most useful addition to my writing program.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, I'm glad I found you!

    Your newest follower!
    Surviving Sixth Grade

  9. As I was reading your post, I felt like I was back in my classroom again! This is pretty much exactly how journal time looks in my room. The one thing I have added is time for students to share (voluntarily) what they have written. I found that the students learn a lot from listening to others. They also tend to catch their mistakes as they read. It takes some time, but I devote about 15 minutes a day for author chair. It is worth it!

    Creative Lesson Cafe

  10. I have my kids do their journal at home each night. Occasionally I give a topic (like tell me about your break) but most of the time it is wide open. I have provided a variety of prompts (picture, comic, text) if they need some inspiration (some are posted online and others are kept in their binder). All are intended for me to get to know them a little better. I read them each day but I don't critique or edit. Sometimes a comment or ask the child a question in person and other times I write it on the page. I do allow the student to keep t in one of the diary/journal apps and well and several go that route. This has probably been the best way for me to find out what about the kids and what is going on in their lives. Sometimes it is a hassle to read them daily in my afternoon class but I think it is important enough to fit it in.

    It sounds like you have really thought out a great way to have it work in your room. Thanks for sharing.

    room 4 imagination


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