To understand the value of journal writing and the suggested classroom
procedures for effective implementation, it is important to understand the
philosophy that underlies the process. Once this is understood,
teachers can adapt procedures to the particular conditions of their
classroom without straying too far from the essential pedagogical elements
of journal writing. The key premises of our philosophy are as follows:
|Children learn to read and
write best through gradual approximation to adult conventions.
|Children learn best in
risk-free environments with high levels of challenge and support.
|Children need many
opportunities to write about topics of their own choosing.
|Children learn best through
social interaction with a more knowledgeable peer or adult.
|Children need frequent,
ongoing opportunities to play with written language and investigate how
written language works.
|Teachers need to provide
frequent and varied demonstrations of writing in full-group situations in
order to model the knowledge and thinking processes involved and to show
that writing is an important and integral part of the classroom culture.
|Teachers need to help children
do their own phonics-based writing or kid writing, rather than take
dictation from children. Teachers' expectations of children's
writing send the empowering message, "You can do it!" Taking dictation
sense the self-limiting message, "You can't, so I will do it for you."
The last point, expecting
children to write rather than to dictate, is the one in which we differ most
dramatically from previous recommendations from the field. Our
premises place emphasis on the teaching and learning relationship of social
interaction rather than on the teaching materials. These ideas combine
Vygotsky's 19780 notion of the zone of proximal development with Bruner's
(1981) notion of scaffolding: What a child is potentially ready to do
and learn today with adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable
peers, he or she will be able to do independently tomorrow. Our
beliefs are grounded in the theory and research of Anne Haas Dyson (1989)on
the importance of the social interaction in children's writing development
and on work by Donald Graves ( 19830, Lucy Calkins (1986), and Nancy Atwell
(1987 on the writing workshop approach to writing development, which
emphasizes the importance of students' choices of topics and writing styles.
It is the creativity and quality
of children's work and the endless possibilities for teachers to
systematically focus children on phonetic concepts that provide the
strongest arguments for incorporating a writing program in the early years.
Examples of children's work come from our urban Kindergarten classes, in
which most children begin the school with very little knowledge of letters
or sound-symbol relationships. The examples represent a full range of
children's abilities in the classes. All of the procedures and many of
the projects have been successfully adapted in preschool through grade two