Notes on the Elementary Journal

This blog post supports the Elementary Journal Workshop scheduled for Thursday, April 17th. More information on that workshop by clicking here.

Montessori adult: “Did you write in your record book?”
Montessori elementary child: “I forgot.”

This scenario plays out in Montessori elementary classrooms everywhere.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  The record book can be so much more than just one more thing that the adult has to remind the children to do.  When the child’s record of her work is implemented as a vital part of the work itself, then this record is approached the same way as other work:  with enthusiasm, joy, responsibility, interest, and love. 

Montessori elementary teachers have been requiring a work log from students for over 50 years; it’s a standard suggestion on AMI training courses.  But virtually all of the research about the suitability of this practice for elementary children has happened in conventional classrooms.  The most obvious theme to emerge from the research is that learning journals can be used to promote and support learning, not just record it.  Martinez and Roser (2008) found that even children as young as first graders would stay engaged longer with literature and literary concepts while writing or drawing in their journals about a chapter book than when being instructed in other ways.   The fourth graders in Glaser & Brunstein’s study (2007) learned and retained more about story writing when they wrote about their process.  Fourth and fifth graders whose teachers were instructed in how to implement journal writing did better on the unit test than those students whose teachers were not instructed (Aschbacher & Alonzo, 2006).  Similar results were found for seventh graders and social studies; journal writing was more effective as a learning tool than summarizing (Cantrell, et al., 2000).

Even though our pedagogy is different from what’s practiced in conventional classrooms, we can still learn from this research.  Even without testing or grades, we can all appreciate that longer periods of concentration, deeper engagement, and stronger retention are desired outcomes.  Perhaps most importantly, a strong journal practice informs students’ choices and empowers them to take initiative in their own learning.  Join us to learn more about how to support these outcomes for your students. 

This blog post supports the Elementary Journal Workshop scheduled for Thursday, April 17th. More information on that workshop by clicking here.

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Posted on March 12, 2014 .