In Their Words: Reflections From First Graders

“We are educators who believe in passionate and playful practice.  W value inquiry and exploration.”  A Mindset for Learning, Mraz and Hertz

It’s Friday afternoon. There are 4 1/2 days of school left.

The room is quiet.  The lights are off.  First graders are scattered all over.

They are writing reflections.

“We are curious.  We need to know from you what you discovered during Journal Time.  We need to know from you what your journal is to you. We want to know from you what Journal Time meant for you as a writer.”

All eyes are on Leigh-ann and I.

“Close your eyes. Think back to all those Friday Journal Times.  When you think back, what words come to mind.”

We waited as the closed eyes slowly began to open and the hand began to go up.  One by one, kids shared their words and we collected them.


“Now, you are each going to get special lined paper to write on.  Use one of the invitations here to get you going.  Are you going to write what you discovered about yourself as a writer?  Are you going to write about why you liked or loved Journal time? Or, are you just going to write about your journal?  It’s up to you, and again, there is no right or wrong, just write about what you think and feel as you reflect.”

Leigh-ann and I put thought into how we would word the invitations to reflect.  We knew we had to keep them open enough so that the children would be able to explore what they experienced with their journal throughout the year.

One by one, with little questions, writers took their “special lined paper” and began to write their own reflections.

Honestly, we weren’t quite sure what these first graders would be able to produce in a written reflection.  We knew they were capable of reflecting orally, but would they be able to capture the essence of their individual experience as a writer during Journal Time?

We weren’t sure, but we were willing to find out.  We had embarked on this shared inquiry with the question “What happens when a group of teachers reads Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher?”  In summer 2017, 12 teachers, including Leigh-ann and I met three times as teacher researchers and teacher writers.  As teacher researchers, we were working to synthesize the ideas in Joy Write with our curriculum.  As teacher writers, we were exploring our own writing and stories through words and pictures.  Throughout the year, Leigh-ann and I devoted Friday afternoon for Journal Time.  It was, in Ralph Fletcher’s words, a greenbelt time.  I time for choice, play, and discovery.  Each week, invitations were given.  The invitations were opened ended choices that would, we hoped, inspire each writer uniquely.

We observed writers at work discovering ideas, voice, and habits through pictures, observations and words.  We watched as each child became one with their journals through words and pictures.  We watched as children made mistakes and worked through them, independently.  We questioned children about their choices, about their thinking, because we were curious.  We wanted to learn from them what they wanted their journal to be.

So this past Friday, they reflected, they told us exactly what Journal Time did for them.

These reflections are evidence to me that these young writers valued Journal Time and experienced the purpose of a Journal.   In Bring Life Into Learning, Donald Graves wrote, “Without an emotional attachment to learning, lasting learning simply doesn’t happen.” These writers had an emotional attachment to their journals.  I can only hope their attachment remains and they continue to draw, write and discover.

13 thoughts on “In Their Words: Reflections From First Graders”

  1. Love! You were so committed to this work this year and had a strong following of kids and teachers. This is what happens! I’ve loved every piece about journal time this year. You have showed these kids what it means to live like a writer and to find JOY in the process. This is a piece to cherish. Those reflections!!!


  2. I love that quote from Donald Graves, and I love that “We weren’t sure, but we were willing to find out.” We need teachers who are brave and take risks in front of our children! Their reflections are great.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you sharing your inquiry journey and the pieces from students.
    This resonated:
    “The invitations were opened ended choices that would, we hoped, inspire each writer uniquely.”


    Liked by 1 person

  4. You and your teacher colleagues went on such a powerful journey with your students. I love the way you ask questions and stand back and watch what happens. These reflections are all you need to know how powerful this work was.

    Liked by 1 person

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