When this post idea initially occurred to me, I thought, “Oh, summer is a bad time to post this because no one is homeschooling right now.”
But then I realized that right now is the perfect time to post about homeschooling ideas because most homeschoolers are in the plan-for-next-year phase.
This is a really simple, inexpensive idea, but it’s one of my favorite things to do with grade-schoolers. And I think there are some educational benefits from journaling that go beyond writing practice.
All you need is a spiral-bound notebook and a pen or pencil.
And a kid, of course.
I start doing these as soon as my kids are in kindergarten. At this point, their handwriting skills are fairly non-existent, and even when they do have some handwriting practice under their belts, writing a whole journal entry is way too much work. So, I have them dictate journal entries to me all through kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
Children will be more wordy if they don’t have to struggle through the pain of writing the words themselves, and heaven knows they get enough practice with handwriting while they’re completing other subjects.
Every day as part of our schoolwork, I sit down with the journaler and have them dictate an entry to me. At first, this is a little bit hard, so they need some prompting from me. I ask questions (if they’re describing a toy, I might ask them what it feels like or why they like it so much), and when they offer up sentence fragments, I say, “Can you make that a whole sentence?”
All four of my kids have gotten the hang of this after a while, though, and the entries start to flow more effortlessly.
Why do we practice journaling?
- It gives them early practice with writing paragraphs on a particular topic.
- It lets them compose paragraphs without being weighed down by the work of handwriting.
- You can tie in other subjects, like science (more on that later).
- Journals are really fun to look back on. They’re the one school item I always keep from year to year.
Here are a few different types of journal entry ideas.
1. Tell about events/daily happenings
This is probably the easiest type to start with because most children have had at least a little bit of practice telling about things that happen.
Here’s an example from Joshua’s journal, back when Zoe was a baby.
Just for fun, here’s a photo from one of our evening walks way back then!
More recently, Zoe chose to write about an encounter with an avocado.
That entry cracks me up.
2. Describe someone or something
This is good for giving children practice using adjectives. We describe friends, siblings, toys, rooms, or whatever else comes to mind! Usually I tell the kids to imagine they’re trying to help a blind person “see” what they’re seeing.
Here’s Joshua’s entry about Zoe when she was a baby (about the age pictured above, actually):
“This is what Zoe looks like. Zoe has a lot of straight black hair. Her hair is short. Her skin is sort of red. Her eyes are kind of blue-ish grey. She’s a very grunty baby. Zoe mostly sleeps and drinks milk. Zoe is all right except for when she cries. She’s cute, but I don’t hold her when she’s crying.”
Sometimes we describe what someone is wearing (either the journaler or a sibling). Often, my kids need some help in making their descriptions more…descriptive. So, if they tell me to just write down that Zoe is wearing a red shirt, I ask questions like, “Is it short-sleeve or long-sleeve? Are there any decorations on it? Is it soft? Smooth? Bumpy?”
3. Do a weather report
For these entries, we report on the temperature, the wind (the winds are calm, or the wind is blowing hard, for example), the type of cloud in the sky (cumulus, nimbo-stratus), and what sort of precipitation we’re having.
These entries give children practice observing weather, help them to become familiar with terms like precipitation, and give them practice identifying cloud types.
4. Write a “5 Senses” entry
For these, we go through the five senses and tell about each one, thinking about what we’re currently seeing, hearing, touching, and so on.
We’re not usually eating in the midst of journaling, so we generally tell about whatever we ate last.
Here’s one that Zoe wrote herself:
We’d had Beef Au Jus sandwiches that day, and I love that she spelled it “Beef Au Juice”. Kindergarten spelling is just the best.
5. Write a Favorites (or Not-Favorites) entry
My kids like to write about the foods they love or hate, the toys they like best, or their favorite books or games. The possibilities here are nearly endless.
6. Write something imaginative
Joshua used to write stories about Lego Bionicle adventures and Lisey wrote stories about Peeps. 🙂 Sonia and Zoe come up with some pretty creative stories too.
We also sometimes start with a prompt like, “If I had a million dollars, I would….”, or, “If I were the President, I would….”
Of course, there are a lot of other types of journal entries you could do, but these are the six mainstays of our journals, and hopefully reading about them has started the wheels turning in your head.
If you need a simple composition tool for your early grade-schooler, you should definitely give this a try!
Lisey and I ran into some problems when we were trying to make cute animal cupcakes. So, we gave up and made some ugly ones instead. Go check ’em out!
Today’s 365 post: Water from the sky
Joshua’s 365 post: Cute Alert! Cute Alert! Cute Alert!