Magic Journals: Emergent Writing in K

Each time I think of embarking on the journey of having my students become writers, I remind myself that locating one of my eyelash extensions in my the shag area rug of my living room would probably be easier. But over the hurdle we go!

I give credit to the following idea from another teacher. Her name is Giselle and I took over for her while she was on maternity leave. This is one of the few ideas I have kept (actually maybe the only idea) from my first year teaching. My friend Veronica and I use these religiously each year. This activity is not Reggio inspired. It’s not inquiry based. It’s not challenged based. It’s good old school French Immersion fun.

Each student in my class has a Magic Journal. And I make up some rainbows and butterflies and unicorns story each year about how these books are special for my students. These ideas have ranged from putting glitter on them so they sparkle the first time I take them out, to pulling them out of a magical bag, to saying they SMELL like magic. I don’t like lying to my students, but getting them excited about writing is the first step!

The Magic Journal is one of those scribblers you can get at Staples, with 1/2 lines and 1/2 blank at the top. You can see a picture of it in the photo below. The photo below is the letter I send home/post on our class website for parents to know what all this dang magic is about.

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On the front of the book, I also stick a little explanation of what it is.

For each entry we do, I write a sentence starter. In French of course. Some sentence starters I have used have been:
“Bonjour, je m’appelle…” (“Hello, my name is…”)
“Je vois…” (“I see…”)
“Dans le forêt, il y a…” (“In the forest, there is…”)

Basically anything that works with something the students can add at the end of the sentence.
And then. We. Practice. Every. Single. Day. Over. And. Over.
We learn how to say the word nice and slowly and listen for the sounds.
We learn how to guess what letter comes next.
We learn how to put any letters we think are correct.
And we do these examples on the smart board. This year, I have really focused on scaffolding my lessons in my teaching. This year we focused on “Merci Dieu pour” (“Thank you God for”) during various activities that lead up to Thanksgiving. This was the perfect sentence starter to practice writing.

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We did three different objects a day for a whole week. And in the goodness of #wtdk, that means I got to do this activity a fantastic 8-10 times. YIPEE!

Then the students started their first entry. Major outcomes of the French Immersion program include: the ability to write the approximation of letters and drawings, being able to relate words to a picture, the function of letters, knowledge that there are spaces between words, and knowledge that many words make up a sentence, to name a few.

Here are some samples of student work.

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As you can see, the abilities of the students are drastically different.
This is a perfect activity for students to practice their writing skills, be OK with making mistakes, gain confidence in writing, learn French vocabulary, and share their learning with their families.
We also learn right from day one that the end of a sentence needs a period.
After they have finished, they stamp the date, I snap a picture for their Evernote ePortfolio, and they take their book home. Their parent or guardian write a note back, send it back to school, and we share the students’ work and note from their family as a class.

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