Shared Journal

A curriculum designed by Janet B. Taylor

With assistance by Debbie Blackmon, N. Amanda Branscombe, Denise Dark, Rosalind Fuller, Jan Gunnels, Lilli Land, Sandy Little, Rhonda Peacock, Misty Sanders, Brenda Sharman, JoAnn Terrell, and Barbara Thompson

Shared Journal: The Process

The shared journal (Branscombe and Taylor, 1988) uses interactive talk within the context of the classroom as an incentive and a vehicle for drawing an event from experience and reconstructing it into modes of discourse and for developing perspective taking. Through the process, children learn to reflect not only on their own experiences, but also on those of their classmates. This is accomplished in the following way.


Signing in on the sharing board. Each day children come to school with experiences they want to share with their teacher. Through discussion of the event, the teacher suggests that the child's classmates may like to know about this event and invites the child to put his/her name on the sharing board. Sometimes the event is not appropriate for sharing and the teacher empathizes with the child, but does not suggest putting his/her name on the sharing board. The number signing the board should be limited to three children a day. The teacher or children should monitor the sharing board so that over time all children have had opportunities to share.


*Sharing with your classmates. During sharing time these two or three children tell about their experiences. These events may relate to happenings in the classroom, such as a visit from a local doctor; they may be specific to one individual classmate, such as the losing of a tooth; or they may be family experiences, such as a grandmother having a heart attack.


*Questioning to learn more about the story. After each child has shared, the children are free to ask any questions they might need to have answered about the event that was shared. Their purpose is to get as much information as needed to make a good story in their journal. Teacher judgment determines how long the questioning should continue.


*Titling the story to remember its plot. After all questions have been addressed, the child decides on a short title that will help us remember what the story was about. For example, a child might title her story about how she cut her finger, “Getting cut.” They write the title on the board using their invented spellings or getting help for another classmate.

5. Negotiating which story to record. After all of the stories for the day have been shared and titled, children exchange points of view about which event to record in the journal. They argue, negotiate, and collaboratively select the topic to be recorded in the journal for that day. Sometimes they have to vote to decide.


* These three events are repeated for every child whose name is on the sharing

for that day.


Recording the event in the journal. Children get their journals and find a place to record the shared event in their journals. They use the forms of representation that they know, such as drawing, invented spelling, or conventional writing. This varies depending on their age and ability.


Reading the record to classmates and the teacher. Once children have completed their writing, they are encouraged to “read” their record to the teacher and at least four classmates, or to have them “read” it for themselves. The teacher guides the development of writing through this interaction.


Journal celebration. At least once a week the teacher celebrates children’s work in their journals. The teacher carefully selects aspect of individual growth and development for celebration.

9. Sharing the journal with the parents. At each month’s end, the children take their journals home to share with their parents. Journals are to be returned within two weeks. Parents are encouraged to ask questions about the classmate’s stories and to enjoy reading the journal with the child.


Using the journals as reference materials, After their return, the journals are placed in the classroom library for use in a variety of problem solving situations, such as determining the number of days from the time a tooth is lost until the appearance of a new tooth, determining how many children shared stories about a bike accident, or trying to remember when Mary’s baby brother was born. Children love to look at the other children’s journals to see how their classmates recorded their story.

Shared Journal: The Product

The shared journal is a chronicle of events in the lives of the children in a particular classroom. It is a record of the experiences they have shared and discussed with each other. It is designed in the following way.

1. At the beginning of the year the teacher requests that parents provide two three ring folders. These are prepared by putting the child’s name on each folder so that it reads, “Mary’s Journal” on each folder. For the first two months, the teacher fills each journal by putting in one page for each day of those months, including the weekends and holidays. For example, September would have thirty pages and October would have thirty-one. Preschool and kindergarten paper should be unlined, while first and second grade paper can be the half lined-half unlined. The teacher should date the first day of the first journal. The date should include the name of the day, the month, the day, and the year. Monday, September 1, 2000 Once the date is recorded, the teacher should continue to write the date until the child is ready to assume the responsibility. When the September journal is complete, it is sent home for parents to read and the children begin writing in the October journal that had already been prepared. As the September journals are returned, the pages are removed and put in a wall-paper cover and placed in the classroom library. Then the folder is prepared for November. This process continues throughout the year. At the end of the year, the journals of each child are bound together in a book form and are sent home. Either the children or the teacher can write an introduction to the book.





Shared Journal: The Outcomes

Through the shared journal process, the children construct deeper understandings of the following concepts.


History. Children construct notions about history as they revisit their own records of past experiences. This reading allows their thought to move backward in time based on their own experiences.


Conventional time organizations. Through the recording of the day and date, children begin to make connections between days, weeks, weekends, months and years.


Knowing their classmates. Children get to know their classmates in a more significant manner as they listen to the stories of their lives. Additionally they are able to determine how they are like them and how they differ from them.


Counting and number. Through using a one to one correspondence of page and event, children construct notions of how number can be used to quantify time and events. Through assignments like finding how long it took for Tommy’s new tooth to grow in or how many stories were about skinned knees in October, children begin to think about number and time

5. Story. As children reexamine their experiences, they begin to differentiate those that hold possibilities for entertaining, informing, or moving others. Through the process, the children construct a variety of different hypotheses about what makes a good story.


Audience. As children participate in the negotiation, they begin to understand that others are interested in hearing good stories, and they begin to learn how to tell their stories so that others want to hear them.

7. Fairness, justice, and moral rightness. As children negotiate and vote on the issue of

which event to record, they learn to consider other points of view, to argue and to co-construct higher levels of moral reasoning.


Sense of community. As children get to know one another through the sharing and negotiating process, they come to appreciate and respect their sameness and differences. They move through different levels of understandings of friendship, citizenship, and responsibility to one another.

References Branscombe, N. & Taylor, J. (2000). “It would be as good as Snow White”: Play and prosody. In J. Christie & K.Roskos (Eds.), Literacy and play in the early years: Cognitive,ecological, and sociocultural perspectives. Cleveland, OH: Erlbaum. Branscombe, N. & Taylor, J. (1996). The development of Scrap’s understanding of written language. Childhood Education, 72(5), 278-281. Taylor, J. & Branscombe, N. (1992). Scooter and Chanell: “What can I make in a book?” In M. Casey, S. Hudson-Ross, & L. Miller-Cleary (Eds.), Children’s voices: Children talk about literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Branscombe, N. & Taylor, J. (1988). “I wanna write jus like in dat book”: Talk and its role in the shared journal experience. In M. Lightfoot & N. Martin (Eds.), The word for teaching is learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.