Grammar Journals

By Mary Blow on March 1, 2012
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Grammar journals get my students writing every day, increase their motivation to write, and teach grammar through practical application. Lately, we have been consuming more class time on Common Core writing, which is good, but I started questioning myself. Were my students writing enough to develop the writing fluency skills they need to pass state assessments? Was I teaching the pleasure of writing?

Grammar journals provide a risk-free zone where students can experiment  with new grammar skills in the context of their own writing. I introduce them in a manner similar to the way I introduce warm-ups or bell ringers. Sometimes the students engage in free writes. Other times, when I am setting them up for a specific grammar lesson, I provide a prompt. My 6th graders love the journals! On the last grammar assessment, 97 percent of my 110 students scored 80 or above on pronoun questions similar to state assessment questions. The questions covered subject pronouns, object pronouns, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns, which are part of the CCSS focus for grade 6. My 6th graders were successful because they could apply the rules they had learned in their own writing attempts.

 

Grammar Journals Overview

For our journals, we use single-subject spiral notebooks. I teach one grammar rule each week, or 40 grammar lessons a year. I introduce the rule on Monday in a 20–40 minute lesson and return to it throughout the week.

The right-hand page of the notebook is for journaling. I give my 6th graders one minute to think and three to five minutes to write. It prepares them for writing under timed conditions. Later, if they choose, they can go back and write more.

The left-hand page is reserved for recording grammar notes. This way, by the end of the year, they will have a grammar reference guide and a journal to illustrate how much they have grown as writers.

The journals are introduced creating what Ralph Fletcher calls an “expert list,” that is, an idea bank or a list of topics that you know something about. This supports those students who get the deer-in-the-headlights look when asked to come up with a topic. A picture of my “expert web” from my own journal is pictured above.

 

Right Side: Journal Entries

On Monday, we begin each grammar lesson with a journal entry. I like to give them free writing time with very few stipulations. For example, students may like to write nature journals, weather journals, diaries, or stories. These are exemplars of journals they may keep as adults.

However, if I want to teach subject pronouns, plural and possessive, I would have them write about something they did with a friend or family member. Or, if the goal is to teach reflexive pronouns (myself, himself, themselves, etc.), I may ask them to write about a time when they went shopping with friends or family. Their goal in this case is to write in detail, describing what each person bought and for whom they bought it. This sets them up for the forthcoming grammar lesson. If I want to teach a lesson on prepositional phrases, I might have them describe their favorite room in the house, identifying where everything is located. My goal, in addition to teaching grammar, is to help them develop writing fluency, motivate them to write, and foster a love of journaling that they will carry into adulthood. During the rest of the week, my students continue to write, but I also post bell ringers that reflect state test assessments.

Students are not required to share their entries, but I do allow them the opportunity. You would be surprised what students will share. It is important to create a risk-free environment. In the upper right-hand corner, we code each journal entry. An open eye means it is public. A closed eye means it is private. My students know that I will honor their privacy and not share their entry with the class. One unplanned benefit is that you get to know your students on a deeper level.

 

Left-Side Grammar Lessons

After students finish writing, they take grammar notes on the left-hand side of their journals. Sometimes, in order to save time, I create half page notes, like the ones to the right, and the students glue them in. Each lesson contains a title, a definition, examples, and an interactive component. Sometimes the interactive component is a blank space, where students add their own examples, or a state test type of question. Feel free to download my subject and object pronouns notes.

The most successful lessons focus on the errors that the majority of the class is making. Once the rule is taught, students apply this knowledge to their own writing. They highlight samples of their writing that illustrate that they can use the rule correctly or samples they have edited according to what they have learned. It takes 20–40 minutes to introduce a grammar rule and apply it. The rest of the week we review and apply the rule to journal entries and academic writing.

 

Review and Reinforce Bell Ringers

Throughout the week, students write in their journals and complete one bell-ringer or warm-up exercise. We focus on the new skill, but also spiral prior skills that caused students to struggle. Most bell ringers reflect state assessment grammar questions. I walk around the room and quickly assess who has mastered the skill and who has not, and briefly meet with those who are struggling. A short class discussion closes the bell-ringer activity.

 

Grading the Journals

How do I grade all this writing? Ha! I am a busy person. I do not have time to grade 110 journals every week, especially if students are writing every day. My goal is to maintain the sandbox, risk-free atmosphere. I assess bell ringers daily, so I know whether or not my students are mastering the grammar skills. However, to foster accountability for journal writing, I walk around the room with a checklist every five weeks, while students are reading or writing an assignment, and grade journals with the following rubric:

  • Journals are labeled and neat (10 points)
  • Five grammar notes recorded completely and accurately (25 points)
  • Five journal entries (25 points)

Since introducing grammar journals, I've noticed that the intrinsic value my students place in grammar has increased considerably. In my classroom, we now have major grammar discussions. When students first acquire a new skill, they often overcorrect, and grammar journals give them the opportunity to explore and practice the newly learned skill. If they are proficient in their personal writing, they will be more successful at transitioning the skills to the high-level academic writing that is required from the Common Core. It also preserves the love of writing.

 

FREE Grammar Resources

If you have a grammar reference book, most of the work is done for you. You can simply have students copy the rule in their journal and add examples, and provide a section for interaction. A great time-saving option is to use Scholastic Printables and Scope magazine’s grammar resources for notes and bell ringers. Sometimes, they have the rules in a box at the top of the page, so students can simply cut out the rules and examples and glue them into the journals.

I love the grammar lessons that Scope magazine offers on its companion Web site. Yes, this is new. “The Lazy Editor” provides an opportunity for students to practice and review skills beyond the grammar journals. For instance, Scope’s January 30, 2012, Lazy Editor includes lessons on capitalizationavoiding run-on sentencescorrect placement of modifiersword-variation, and sentence-structure variation.

Scholastic Printables has many grammar handouts, many of which are aligned to the Common Core. For example, according to the CCSS, 6th grade grammar should encompass an in-depth exploration of pronouns. Printables offer a differentiated pack on pronouns (grades 4, 5, and 6) to support the different level of learners in the classroom. To help introduce the different types of pronouns to my 6th graders, I used the handouts "Subject and Object Pronouns," "Indefinite Pronouns," "Possessive Pronouns," and "Pronouns Test Prep" (a bell-ringer resource).

 

Do you use grammar journals in your classroom, or have questions about how they work? Comment below.

Comments

I'm teaching math this year and have not been using a grammar journal. In the past, I've used a journal but mostly for free writes. I like the idea of incorporating grammar lessons into the journal while continuing to allow the students to write freely.

Excellent ideas. I would like to purchase a copy of your 40 lessons if you have them available.

Grammar Journals it is the interesting way to teach grammar lessons. Left side is the grammar lesson with rules; right side is their attempts at using it in their own way with a writing prompt.Thanks for such a nice article on grammar journal as it very tough to find the correct one.
literary devices

Hi Mary,
Thank you for the 2 free downloads. I am looking for more. Do you sell your 40 grammar lessons? I would love a copy!

Guila

Hi Mary!
I've seen so many people ask about getting a copy of the 40 mini lesson plans. As a first year teacher I would love to get a copy and am willing to purchase as well. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience.

I would love for you to send me your 40 mini lessons if possible.

Hello,

I love this idea and want to incorporate the grammar journals into my classroom this year. I too I am interested in getting a copy of your 40 lesson. Are you sharing them?

Thanks!

Hi,
I love your ideas! I teach 6th grade writing workshop, and am looking for a better way to incorporate grammar. I would be interested in buying your stuff too!
Thanks for sharing :)
Christie (cellis@ecsd.us)

I would also love to obtain a copy of your 40 lessons, if possible. Can I purchase these from you?
Thanks so much,
Marie Feliz
mfeliz@thehallenschool.net

Dear Mary, I am about to begin teaching grammar in the inner city of Cleveland. This idea hits on so many of the issues that I have been worrying about. Is it possible to purchase the 40 ideas? Thank you so much.
Lois

I would like to purchase the 40 lessons. I teach 7th grade Language Arts and 7-8 combined English only. Please contact me. spfarley@q.com

Seems like a lot of people have asked the same thing.....are you sharing or "selling" your 40 week lessons? I would love to try this with my 6th graders this year as well. I definitely have a few lessons in mind to start but would love to see what you did and the handouts you used.
XoDeb307Xo@aol.com

Are you providing teachers with the 40 lessons? I would love to have them as well!
cheryl.fleischman@lcsdmail.net
Thanks!!
-Cheryl

Hi Mary, Love the grammar journal! I am interested in purchasing the 40 lessons you created (if this is possible). My email: ksheehan@nashobabrooks.org. Thanks! Kristen

This is exactly what I want to do with my 6th graders next year! Are you willing to share your lessons? I would be so grateful & willing to purchase them!

alisha8@bellsouth.net

Thanks!

I would love to have a copy of your 40 lessons and am willing to pay. My email is tbecker@shcknox.org.
Thanks!

Hi Mary, I tried to look you up to see if you had a unit of this on Teachers Pay Teachers, but didn't find anything! If you are sharing and/or selling, please let me know! Thanks!

I have been looking for a fun and easy way to get the kids writing on a more daily basis. I too would be interested in the 40 lessons that you teach and how you incorporate them into your classroom. My email is mnix@mailpa.com. I would be willing to pay! Thanks so much for sharing such a great idea!!!

I love your idea! I am a college professor and I teach developmental courses. I think this would be something I can incorporate for my ESL students. They often struggle when it comes to grammar, spelling and writing. Thank you for sharing! I would love to see your 40 lessons.

This is exactly what my fellow sixth grade English teachers are looking for! I was hoping you had a couple more examples of what the journals look like and how you used them. If you could email me more information or another example of a minilesson and prompt, that would be great! afitzgerald@londonderry.org

This is exactly what I am looking for! I am starting my first semester of teaching right in the middle of the school year and feel completely lost! I would love to also get the lessons if they are available and would be willing to pay for them.
Thank you!
Heather
hsiddens22@gmail.com

Grammar has been a struggle for years. I've tried so many ways;-
I like this idea. I'd like to see a few of your lessons, mostly to see the order in which you approach the skills. If that is possible could you send more details? It looks like you have opened up a can of worms as you have interested so many people.
Thanks!

I really love this idea. I have been struggling to make grammar feel applicable to my students. I would also love if you are sharing or selling. Please let me know. meaganlord@isd837.org

Hi This is a great idea. I am a resource room teacher and I am going to try this. I as well would love a copy of your 40 lessons. I would be willing to purchase.
Thank you for ahring your idea.

I would be more than happy to pay you for your grammar lessons! Please email me.

I use grammar journals as well, but I like way yours are set up much better! I would also like a copy of the 40 lessons if you are sharing. Thank you!

Love the idea of grammar journals. Could I have a copy of the forty lessons?

I would love for you to send me a copy of the lessons. Thaank you in advance

I didn't want this to be the format for our grammar journals. Instead, I want them working with their journals for about 15 minutes a day

Would love to get these lessons if you're sharing!

I would love a copy of your lessons as well. Ktbuff@yahoo.com. Thanks for great tips!

I love your grammar journals! It looks like a lot of people are interested in the 40 5th grade grammar lessons you teach throughout the year. If you are sharing those, would you please send me a copy too?
Thanks so much for sharing your ideas!

I would LOVE a copy of your 40 lessons. Where can I find them?

Are these lessons available? I would love to have a copy.

This is fantastic! I love the idea! Are you sharing your lessons? I'd love a copy!

I am implementing your grammar journal into my 6-8 ELA classes this year. I am interested in your 40 grammar rules/lessons. Are those available?

I saw this last year and tried to implement it in my ESL class, but I couldn't really get it started. I loved the idea and thought it was one of the best ways I have seen to show the correlation of grammar and actual writing. I see that a lot of the responses has asked for a copy of your 40 lessons. If you are sharing those, I too would like one. Thank you.

Would love to know how I could get a copy of your lessons. They look great!!

Are you sharing your lessons? If so, can I please have a copy! No grammar curriculum at my school :(

Thank You!

I too, would love a copy of your 40 grammar lessons! Please let me know if there is a website where I can purchase them.
Thanks,
Carol

Hello!

Along with all the other people commenting I love this idea! I am a brand new teacher (started mid years last year) and am very nervous and looking for all the help I can get. If you are willing to share your lessons and have wih anyone it would be greatly appreciated

Email: dana_nglsh@yahoo.com

Or, If you are selling ???

Thanks!

I LOVE this idea. Working on creating my own grammar notebook for gifted and talented sixth graders. May I have a copy of your 4o lessons?

Are you selling your 40 lessons anywhere? Would love to buy them if you are!

Hello Mary,

Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas! Do you sell your 40 grammar lessons on TPT? I would love to get them!

Kirsten

May I please have a copy of the 40 lessons?
Thank you, and have a great year!

Hi,
I LOVE this!! May I please have a copy of your 40 lessons?
Thank you, and have a wonderful year!

Thank you for the tips on grammar notebooks, as a science teacher teaching a section of Language Arts, I am a little out of my area of expertise. Your writing journals will be a tremendous help. I would love a copy of your 40 lessons if possible.

If you are sharing your 40 lessons, I'd love a copy! Your idea is brilliant :-)

I've noticed a lot of comments about your 40 lessons, but I don't see a reply from you. Are you willing to share your lessons. This would be a great help for first time teachers (including me). Thank you.

I love this idea!!! Fabulous and a great way to integrate writing and grammar. I would love the 40 lessons, are they available?

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