I belong to a wonderful group of writers and authors with a common interest, that is, encouraging kids to learn to read through new and interesting children's literature. This month we have a theme to post suggestions on book making with kids. Mine was all about collaborative class journals that produce oodles of opportunities for kids to both read and write. What more could you want from a making books together? The project encourages reading and writing for all students from the most basic level, that includes those beginning Kindergarten in the earliest pre-writing stage up to independent writers in classrooms in years 2 or 3. As the year progresses, the journal entries develop and intrigue each student who participates, consequently encouraging them to share their stories and adventures. Students are eager to open the pages of the journal each day to read the next anticipated entry.
Kids writing a class journal was a project I worked on several years ago when I was teaching kindergarten, however as mentioned above it can be used in classes ideally from K-2. It encourages both learning to read and write. The premise begins with introducing a new member to the class, (or a class pet), someone that the students have to learn to take care of. The animal in question is a soft stuffed toy that they can cuddle and take anywhere. In our case, our class was given a soft cuddly lion cub which we named Caesar.
To introduce our class pet I wrote a book about his adventures on our property trying to search for kangaroos. The kids loved the story. I made it into a laminated spiral bound book and a power point presentation to read on the smartboard.
I then showed them the cover of the journal with the class pet's photo on the front with plenty of blank pages for each class member to take turns in writing something about the pet that they did with him when it was their turn to take him home. Each night the students wrote in the journal, read the previous entries and read my story. At the beginning the students had help from their parents who would take photos and write a sentence or two as dictated by their son or daughter. The kids loved the part of the day in class when we read each new entry in the journal. As the year progressed they drew pictures and as their confidence in writing grew , they began writing their own entries. To encourage their imagination I took our class pet on other adventures throughout the year and wrote several other books too. Some students wrote about their trips to the snow with him, sharing family meals and celebrations, while others about adventures on their bikes together or simply laying on the floor reading together.
The journal gradually became a much loved piece of writing that even some years later when I taught the same students again, they asked me if I still had Caesar and if I still kept the journal so that they could re-read some of their favourite entries. I have recently had the suggestion made that I should have made copies of the journal at the time to be placed in the school library. This is a wonderful idea especially as the journal was so loved it became very dog-eared from over-use. I would recommend perhaps making a copy for the library once a month rather than waiting for the end of the year. Perhaps laminating the library copy as well.
Collaborative class journals are a brilliant tool for engaging young students with the reading and writing process as the expectation to write may be as simple as one line under a photo or drawing or up to a whole page depending on each individual's ability level. As the entries are all from class members they are all keen to read too. With the new school year due to start next month here in Australia why not consider introducing a class pet and journal in your classroom? I guarantee it will bring oodles of fun and imagination to your students days and they will learn all about sharing, caring and co-operation. It really is a win-win opportunity.