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Each morning, as part of our morning work, my kiddos write in their journals. All of them are at different levels with different expectations. Dinomite is a first grader. It is a goal to have him write a four sentence composition by the end of the year. At the beginning of the year, he was writing single sentences. Now that we are in our third quarter of the year, he's writing three sentence answers. Princess, is a preschooler, however, with an IQ of 131 (tested at age 3), she is above and beyond preschool work. I would say she's more of an advanced kindergartner. During the first half of the year she practiced copying a one line sentence. Now that we're into the second half of the year, she's answering very simple questions with one sentence answers. Bulldozer, though a kindergartner, really struggles with writing. His skills are that of a beginning preschooler. His morning assignment is to copy one or two words in his journal. When all three kiddos are finished writing in their journal, they're asked to draw a picture that corresponds to what they write. This ensures they're always practicing their art skills.
I love our journals. They've been a fabulous way to find out how much Dinomite is retaining in other subject areas. Usually, his questions are based on our current unit of study. Part of journal work is figuring things out by yourself. Mommy and/or Daddy do not help with spelling words. We may prompt kiddos to sound out words, but that's as far as we go. There are no corrections made to the journal work. It stays in original form to show a natural progression of the kiddos' knowledge, and to help them build confidence in their own abilities. I have loved watching Dinomite's spelling improve over this year in a natural way. Princess' journal is a way for me to see how much she's understanding about letter writing, creation of words, and sentence structure. Bulldozer's journal helps me know if he's finally conquered how to write a specific letter, and if he can follow directions.
As great as journal writing is for our family, it definitely comes with it's challenges. Writing is despised by the kiddos, so any work that involves writing, is not well received. Dinomite suffers from extreme anxieties. Anything that's new and unknown comes with significant meltdowns. Bulldozer is a perfectionist. At the same time, he struggles with motor planning and fine motor skills. Writing is so hard for him. There are days when he just can't get his hands to do what his brain thinks they should do. Those days are rough days for him. Princess seems to be the only one that enjoys writing, however her emotional handicaps make it very difficult for her to follow directions, and at times remember what she's capable of.
In an effort to make journal writing more successful, I created a system that works for us. I call it Rainbow Writing. My kiddos need step by step instructions presented in a visual way. They need incentives to complete their work and reinforcers when they finally do complete it. We're finally at a place where they're old enough to use a token system to help them along the way, but there are some days when an instant reinforcer is still needed.
Each kiddo has a laminated copy of their Rainbow Writing Checklist. I have created three levels, based on the abilities of each kiddo.
Bulldozer completes the Rainbow Writing Checklist Level 1.
A successful day of journal writing for Bulldozer looks like this:
Princess completes the Rainbow Writing Checklist Level 2.
A successful day of journal writing for her looks like this:
Dinomite completes Rainbow Writing Checklist Level 3.
When each of the kiddos finish their journals, and check them over using their Rainbow Writing Checklists, they show them to me. If writing tasks meet the checklist criteria, they each receive one token.
There are many ways to create a token system. You can use actual money, which I did think about. You can use plastic coins or fake money. You can use any type of cards or anything really, as long as it's something the kiddo has a passion for.
I had each kiddo help me make special tokens. Dinomite wanted snake and reptile tokens. He didn't really need this many, but he was convinced he did.
Tokens are collected to earn prizes.
Since I have three very different children, and I wanted to ensure the success of system, I had the kiddos pick out their own prizes. One token prizes were items found in packages as the local dollar store, costing no more than $0.15 each. Five token prizes are those that cost about $0.50 individually, usually coming in tubes or packages. Ten token items on average cost about $3.00.
One Token Items
|From left to right: Dinomite's 1 token items, Bulldozer's 1 token items, & Princess' 1 token items.|
Five Token Items
|From left to right: Dinomite's 5 token items, Bulldozer's 5 token items, & Princess' 5 token items.|
I was super excited about our five token items. We picked things up after Christmas so there were a bunch of girl's make up Christmas packages on clearance. Score! All three kiddos each chose their own Safari Toobs, which I had 50% off coupons for.
Ten Token Items
|From left to right: Dinomite's 10 token items, Bulldozer's 10 token items, & Princess' 10 token items.|
Dinomite has been all about collecting the Imaginext Superhero Figures. I found a great sale that was buy one set and get the second 1/2 off. I had a $20 gift card that helped with the rest. Bulldozer will do anything for a new monster truck or ball. He has over 25 of each already. There's just something about them. I'm guessing he picked out the cone because it's purple, his favorite color. Princess loves to collect the mini My Little Pony Figures. The mystery is always fun.
And there you have it! The system is working beautifully! Obviously it can be applied to any type of work, but for my kiddos, writing is the worst, so that's what we use it for. I'll continue to replenish the prize boxes as we go.
For those of you who would like copies of the Rainbow Writing Checklists. Click on the links below!
If you are interested in a free copy of any of the homemade tokens, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can not believe the changes in my kiddos' journal writing since implementing this system. Just the checklists alone have done so much. I hope obtain the same results!