ELA · ELL · relationships · RTI

Supporting All Students

Good Monday morning, friends!

I hope everyone had a great weekend!  It was the first really spring feeling weekend we’ve had; Saturday afternoon and Sunday were both so nice.  It was great to be able to spend some time outside with the fam.

Today I want to talk to you about a topic close to my heart–supporting all students.  I’ve always taught in inclusion classrooms, and while I am not a SpEd teacher, I think that it’s the responsibility of teachers to support all their students.  So I’m going to share a few of my best support strategies over the next few days.

One of my favorite ways to support struggling readers/writers, and/or ELLs is with a dialogue journal.  The basic way a dialogue journal works is that it’s a written conversation between 2 people–2 students, or a teacher and a student.  Because I’ve always taught early elementary and I’ve been working towards a specific goal, I’v always done mine student/teacher, but I could easily see in upper elementary grades pairing 2 students together.  (You can read more detail about dialogue journals hereor here.)  It’s so satisfying because you can really see growth over time, as students start to write more, as their writing becomes more “conventional”.  Here’s a quick snapshot of one of my favorite dialogue journals:  a young scientist.

Here’s the meat.  How I managed dialogue journals in my classroom:

  • I tried to have no more than 4 students using dialogue journals at a time, so that I could make sure I had time to journal with them daily and I could write meaningful things.
  • I always did my portion of dialogue journals during Quiet Time, which was the first 10-15 minutes back in our classroom after lunch and recess.
  • I would give them to students as I finished and they could either write back to me during Quiet Time or Choice Time.
  • When they were finished, they went in a specific drawer only used for journals.
  • Students had to write before they could draw.
  • Students always select the topic to write about; it doesn’t have to correlate to anything being covered in an academic subject.  Generally, when I start a journal with them I’ll write to them about something I did outside of school and ask them about something I did outside of school, and then we move on from there.

I know what you’re thinking:  “oh my gosh, I already have so much to do.  How would I ever find the time for this?”  Honestly, that’s how I felt when one of my grad professors first talked about dialogue journals.  But when I saw the level of engagement from my lowest writers/ELLs my mind was blown.  Kids think it’s so cool–it’s something special they get to do with their teacher, and the contents are a secret from the rest of their classmates.  The buy-in is high and immediate.  Even if you only start with one kid, I would encourage you to give it a try for 2 weeks.  And if you forget a day of journals your kids will remind you.  =)  #thatcertainlyneverhappenedtome When I was managing several journals at a time, I would add dialogue journals to my daily to do list, and then cross it off (the best part of a to-do list) after I wrote back to the kids.

What do you think about dialogue journals?  Have you ever tried them?  What’s a roadblock you think you might have?

xoxo, Rachel

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