New and Improved in 2015: Journals!


My Writers Notebooks! The first one dates back to August, 2005! If I counted right, I think I’m working on #13 or #14 right now….:)

One of my VERY favorite thing to do with 5th graders (ok, anyone!) is teach them how to write.  It starts from the very first time I show them my own notebooks and talk about my writing journey, and continues through when they get their own (which is a very special occasion, indeed!), and then on through everything else they do (which for the last 4 classes has included blogging, too!).  I have a passion for the written word (well, and the spoken one, too; I talk WAY too much!), and want my students to see the power they have to change the world with their words!

So…as you probably know, I’ve done many of the same kinds of things with my first graders that I did with my 5th graders (the list-group-label, for instance, that I wrote about last week), and in writing, this continues to be true.  So…since one of the biggest things I miss with younger writers is the whole Writers’ Notebook thing, I had to figure out a way to do something similar (both for them and for me!).

When we came back after Winter Break, it was time to start some new things.  This is my FAVORITE time of year because of the fresh feeling there is all around–it’s cold outside, the year has just started, your kiddos are more than half-way to the next grade (so they’ve grown up a ton since Day 1!), and there’s a renewed energy because of the well-deserved rest you’ve just had.  One of the first “new and improved” things for 2015 for my kiddos was journals.

Ok, now the idea of a journal wasn’t new–they had them in kindergarten.  But they hadn’t yet had a journal with ME and learned MY definition of how to use them (which I was hoping would take on some first-grade version of the Writers’ Notebooks I love!).  I let them get really excited on our first day by reminding them of that big ‘ole zebra-print box of my notebooks.  We looked at them and read through some entries, and admired all the pictures that tell about my life over the years.  And just as I heard them say how much they wanted to have a notebook like that–VOILA!–I gave them their very own 1st grade version!  Now they knew (because I explained) that they’d be using these in a little bit different way then when they were in WNBs in future years, but they were excited nonetheless.  It was theirs, it was new and it was…ready to be decorated!  Check out what our journals look like now, all spiffied up!



After the cover was taken care of, we talked about what should go inside.  Like with many new adventures, I asked them what they thought writers put in their journals.  We talked about why people keep journals.  We brainstormed a list of possibilities.  I have to admit–I was impressed!  They had many of the things I’d hoped they’d say, or that I was thinking of teaching them about, and heck–they mentioned many of the things 5th GRADERS put in their notebooks. Geniuses, I tell ya!


Our brainstorming list of ideas for how we could use our journals. This is a GREAT list already, and we’re just getting started!

Before they left to officially write on their first page, I modeled what an entry would like, with the date and their thinking.  Then they were off!


My hope in sharing this particular story was that, even at 6-7YO, they’d see how “journal-worthy” things happen to them all the time. A story doesn’t have to be spectacular, or big, or even special to be remembered. Even a trip to Target can give you material for your writing!

They have had a chance to write in them many times over the last couple of weeks and I LOVE how enthusiastic they are about filling them up with their thoughts!  There are times when we have official “journal writing” time, but often kiddos will get them out during a break or at choice time, which I love!  The best part was when a friend asked me the other day if he could take it home to write in it there!  He didn’t know how BIG of a deal it is to learn that writing takes place EVERYWHERE–not just at school–nor did he know how he’ll be the subject of a lesson soon when yes, indeed, they are allowed to take these babies home to work on their writing lives outside our classroom!


Teaching Others with Non-Fiction Text

During 2nd quarter, we spent MANY HOURS working on how to effectively write teaching books for our readers.  We worked on countless moves smart writers make to ensure that their readers are interested, as well as informed, when they are finished.  We talked about what questions to ask, how to add details with twin sentences, how to put details in the pictures and diagrams to help further inform our readers, how to include important text features like a table of contents and a glossary (and some even had an index!), as well as the importance of making our reading legible, understandable and readable by our friends.  We worked on capital letters, ending punctuation, spelling word wall words correctly, spelling other words with enough sounds that our friends could figure them out, as well as making sure we didn’t have reversals or parts that were messy.

Once we were FINALLY finished with our masterpieces, we had an AMAZING writing celebration with our friends from Ms. Turken’s room next door.  We often do things with them (including our recess every morning!), and we’re glad when they join in on our fun.  Actually, we took turns with each others’ books–we went to their class and they taught us, then they came to our room and we taught them!  What a great chance to share our expertise–and our amazing writing work–with our friends!  This was a meaningful and exciting experience!

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Happy Holidays!

I hope it’s not too late to share pictures from our Winter Party!  I don’t have many, but they’re too cute to share.  Thanks to Mrs. Fitzhenry and her many helpers for making it a super duper fun way to spend our last afternoon together before a long (and well deserved, I’d say!) Winter Break.  You can tell by the smiles that Rm. 202 friends agreed!

Do You See Letters in Pretzels?

Thursday was an important day in our room.  It was Charlie’s 1/2-Birthday.  And yes, I am regretting now that I don’t have pictures of everyone’s birthdays that we’ve celebrated so far.  SORRY FRIENDS!  And honestly, the reason I have pictures of this celebration is because of what happened.

Long story short is that we were given YUMMY soft pretzels from a local shop near our school.  In true 1st grade fashion, letters started appearing everywhere.


Look, an A!


Mine’s an O!

Then kids started seeing all sorts of other amazing things, too!


I’m pretty sure that Evan’s lifting weights here. 🙂


Say cheese!

Then Charlie showed us that 7 1/2 really means he's an old man now, and he needed a cane to help him walk!  Silly!

Then Charlie showed us that 7 1/2 really means he’s an old man now, and he needed a cane to help him walk! Silly!

What a fun afternoon!  This is another one of the millions of reasons why I LOVE spending my days with first graders!  You just never know what’s gonna happen. 🙂