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After a busy week in the classroom, Friday evenings were a quiet, delightful treat: Delightful because I got to curl up on my living room couch with cookies and tea and read through my students’ journals. Delightful because the brightly colored pocket folders held the written thoughts of my kids, as they experienced classroom life in real time. Delightful because each student and I kept a written, running conversation in the pages of those folders.
Conversation journals, we called them.
Every afternoon, students penned brief summaries of:
- their observations about each day’s class.
- what they wanted to remember.
- what they found difficult.
- what they would seek assistance on to understand better.
- what attitudes they had about learning in different subject areas.
They addressed their entries to me, and I responded, thus often beginning written conversations that would last weeks on many topics!
Not only did I gain insight into their struggles with long division, enjoyment of O.Henry’s short stories, or thoughtful concern for environmental issues, but I gained insight into my students’ growth as writers.
Conversation journals are also a handy tool in the homeschooling classroom. Simple spiral notebooks, passed back and forth between parent and child, provide a non-threatening context for kids to write at their own proficiency level. Mom or Dad writes back, modeling appropriate language use, but not correcting children’s language.
Such journals allow opportunities for kids to see growth in their own writing ability. And while a parental response should not result in corrections, an adult can examine a child’s writing for topic initiation, elaboration, variety, use of different genres, expression of interests and attitudes, and awareness of the writing process.
The bonus for a parent: insight into which academic concepts need to be taught to a greater depth, how a child is developing as a writer, and a shared journaling experience. That last item is the most precious of all.
Join the conversation!
Related link: Becoming your child’s pen pal
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Janet Wagner is a regular contributor to In Our Write Minds. For over two decades, Janet was an elementary and middle school teacher in two Christian academies, a public district school, and a public charter school. She also had the honor of helping to homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. Currently, she enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students and training dogs, and learning how to build websites. You can view her web work-in-progress at www.creative-writing-ideas-and-activities.com.
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