Rainbow Writing

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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.
Other than white board work (practicing 5 letters and/or numbers), and two worksheets they're asked to complete as part of their morning work, the journal assignment is the only writing I require each day.  Writing is very difficult for my special needs kiddos.  When I have tried to incorporate it into afternoon learning time trays, the trays are left untouched.  If an unknowing kiddo does select a tray with writing, they almost always end up melting down before the completion of the work, if for no other reason than it's taking too long, or there are too many steps.

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:
Bulldozer worked so hard to make his letters fit on the line.  He erased and tried again several times.  His letters in this entry are the best I've seen.  Bulldozer struggles with understanding where the picture belongs on the page, so his icicles, a representation of an ice storm, are under his words instead of above.

Princess completes the Rainbow Writing Checklist Level 2.

A successful day of journal writing for her looks like this:
Princess was able to identify words in the question she needed for her sentence, and copied them correctly.  She does not know how to spell the word "white" nor does she know the rules for Long "i," so she sounded out the word, and wrote it using the knowledge she has.  This is her best.  She worked extremely hard making sure her letters were close together and that there were spaces between each words, erasing several times until she thought it was good enough.  When it came time to draw her picture, she told me snow was white, which was already the color of the paper.  Gotta love her!

Dinomite completes Rainbow Writing Checklist Level 3.
A successful day of journal writing for him looks like this:
Dinomite did a fabulous job writing three sentences, although I had to laugh at their shortness.  He's definitely known for finding the easiest way to complete a task.  I love the progression of his explanation. It shows he has a great understanding of the subject.  The difficult words he's spelled correctly, shows me our spelling activities are paying off.  The more simple words that are spelled incorrectly shows me he's still having a hard time slowing down to sounds words out.  This has always been difficult for him.  Overall, it's a great entry.  I love his picture too. It's a branch from a tree, bending from ice.

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.
Bulldozer wanted extreme weather tokens.
Princess wanted horse tokens.
The reason I had them help me was because I wanted to make sure they wanted the tokens more than anything.

Tokens are collected to earn prizes.
All prizes in the blue bin are one token each (for those who need an immediate reinforcer).  All prizes in the purple bin are five tokens each. This works perfect to cash in at the end of the week.  All prizes in the green bin are ten tokens each, for those who want to save and earn something big.

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.
The items are in baggies because the kiddos were super worried that someone else would choose their prizes.

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 renaemarienae@gmail.com.  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!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post! I really like the idea of journaling to visually see progress and I commend you for not making corrections or having them spell correctly. I find that my son is much more joyous about writing when we focus on what he has created and the story, not the grammar (which he is too young to know all the nuances of our language)!


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