Monday, November 29, 2010

An Illustrated Life

While we were in California, I was talking to my in-laws about the girls, and I mentioned that although Willow is a natural and avid reader, I was a bit stymied in my efforts to encourage her to write more.

I'd like the girls to be able creative writers, but the mechanical skills that I was attempting to de-emphasize in order to focus on the act of creation were the very skills that Willow, because she reads so well, was focusing on to great detriment. She couldn't get so much as a single sentence down because her writing looked wrong to her--misspelled, imperfect punctuation--but the effort to have every word spelled for her, to even know what capital letters and periods and commas are, not to mention where they should go so that the sentence would look like it was supposed to...could a child even remember what she was writing about with all those distractions?

I'd introduced invented spelling to Willow quite a while ago, but I was having trouble getting her to use it, and I told my in-laws that what I really needed was a way to get Willow excited enough about writing that she'd be willing to try out invented spelling long enough to learn that she liked it, because I thought that she'd like it.

"Journaling," said Grandma Janie. "Willow would like to journal."

And you know what? She does.

During my big Lakeshore Learning shopping spree (I did have a coupon, but still...that may have been January's grocery budget that got consumed there), I bought one journal for each of the girls. Each page of Sydney's journal has a big space for a picture, and a couple of lines underneath it for writing. Each page of Willow's journal as a smaller space for a picture and more lines for writing. The girls began to journal on our trip and we've continued it at home. I keep the journals and some fine-point markers at our living room table, and every evening after the girls have finished dinner and have cleared their places, but while we're all still at the table on account of Matt and I haven't finished gossiping, I pass out the journals and the markers and the girls begin to think about their day.

They write about what they've been reading:

Magic School Bus, by Sydney
 Where they've been that day:

I Walked in the Petrified Forest, by Willow
 Who they've played with:

Grandma Beck, by Sydney
What they've seen:

I Saw the Stars, by Willow
What they wish they'd seen:
This is Gracie Doing a Cartwheel, by Sydney
Their pets--they write a LOT about their pets:

This is Spots and Gracie, by Willow
And their greatest accomplishments:

We Cooked a Turkey, by Sydney
Lakeshore Draw & Write JournalWhen I first introduced this activity to them, back in that hotel room just south of the Grand Canyon (the subject of Sydney's first-ever journal entry), Willow asked why we were doing this.

I did not tell her that it was to improve her writing skills.

Instead, I said, when you're great grown-up ladies, you'll want to know what your life was like back when you were a little girl. You'll look through this journal then, when you're all grown up, and you'll remember.

You'll be so happy, then, that your mother made you keep a journal. Now get to it!


Meg Nickless said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meg Nickless said...

What a great idea! And a beautifully written post. I've kept a journal (many journals, actually) throughout my life thus far and I love to look back over them and remember what I was like when I was 11 and when I was 18.

julie said...

I kind of can't stand to look back over ANY of my old journals, but I certainly didn't tell the girls that!

Meg Nickless said...

There needs to be about a decade between writing and reading to avoid cringing, I think.

cake said...

so awesome! i love syd's entry of gracie doing the cartwheel.

Anonymous said...

Her drawings are amazing! And her handwriting will catch up. I'm glad your MIL's suggestion worked.

I can't stand to read my journals from back in my teen/early 20s days, but I enjoy my more recent (in the past 2 decades) ones. :)

julie said...

I might make myself a four-decade rule. If I can still cringe remembering junior high and high school, I DEF am not ready to read myself writing about it. I'm so glad that I have those journals, though.

My MIL's suggestion worked really well. Now that Will has spent enough time to unlock invented spelling, she's writing on her own a lot more. Goal achieved!

Anonymous said...

Good rule! :) I still cringe a little when thinking about highschool, but the nice thing about growing old is that my memory ain't what it used to be, so with each passing year, I remember less and less. Heh


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