One of the mos intentional activities that my students do is community journals. They provide my whole class with fun, engaging, and differentiated writing activities that build community and sharpen their writing skills.
What Are Community Journals?
The community journals are a class set of 36 journal covers. Each journal cover has a different prompt on it, that my students use to write about. These prompts explore personal narratives, how-to writing, informational, opinion writing, or letter writing.
Look at the following image, so that you can get a better idea of how the journal covers look like:
Each journal cover has:
- A prompt number to keep track of where students have written.
- A prompt that can be about anything, really. Each prompt for each cover is different and it can be for a narrative, or an informational prompt, opinion, letter writing, and more!
- Each prompt also gives the teacher the opportunity to differentiate according to his/her students’ needs and strengths.
- An illustration that provides guidance in writing with accuracy.
How Did I Come Up With the Idea of Community Journals?
Initially, I created the community journal covers to be used as homework.
Let me explain a bit
A number of years ago when I was teaching first grade, I had a parent conference in which the parent mentioned about how much her child loved to write at home. She mentioned that her child made little books, wrote on the walls (oh boy!), helped her make grocery lists, and wrote cards of every sort to everyone. After the conference, I kept thinking about a way to extend the writing standards and further support the love of writing for each one of my students. So the idea of traveling journals started to take shape.
I know not everyone is a fan of homework. After all, there is not a big body of research that supports homework as an indicator of student success. So yes, I feel you.
I also know that there are a lot of mixed feelings about prompts for writing. Some teachers love them, some teachers can’t stand them. So, I feel you too.
However, I wanted to provide my students and their families with writing activities that were standards based, and a true extension of the writing that we did at school during our writing workshop.
After using the community class journals for a while, I realized a number of things:
- My students were reading each other’s writing and getting to understand and know each other better. They left notes and feedback for each other. The range of emotions and relationships were eye opening!
- My students’ parents had a better idea of the type of writing that goes on at school. Writing became a more serious topic of conversation during parent conferences, and parents truly began to see the reciprocal relationship between reading an writing.
- I would be in complete denial if I said that every single student loves to write. Far from it. The traveling journals allowed parents/caregivers to see the children as writers. It was totally eye-opening.
- My students were also so eager to share! They found an extra purpose for writing and an authentic audience as well.
- I realized that the community class journals could be used for more than just homework!
How To Use the Community Journals?
When you purchase and download this resource, you will see that there are two journal covers to page. You will cut the page in half and place it on the front cover of a marble notebook. Of course I sometimes use spiral notebooks too, but they have a tendency to wear off faster throughout the year. Not to mention that they get tangled up with each other too.
I use contact paper to attach/glue the journal prompts to the cover of the notebooks. After that I organize them numerically in a crate.
I also explain clear expectations and how-to use instructions.
So how do we keep track of who has written where?
Truth of the matter is, some students may want to write more than once on a journal. And hey, in my book that is perfectly fine. However, I personally like to keep track and give the children some variety. Inside this resource you will find a checklist to easily keep yourself informed!
Now you can be set with the class journals! They can be used for literacy centers, morning work, homework, after school clubs, and more.
Is this Resource Offered in Spanish?
You can also purchase the bilingual bundle if you are in a dual language setting.
How To Purchase the Community Journals
Thank you so much reading, until next time!