For 5 years now I have been keeping "Conversation Journals" with my class. They absolutely love it! I begin in September. As a teacher of 2nd grade, and having a class of all boys, it is important to get them to enjoy writing. Having a conversation journal is a safe way to encourage your class to enjoy writing for just the sake of it. It is just between the 2 of us. Correct spelling is not important. As long as I can read it, it is fine! The important part is keeping up the conversation. I begin with an entry like this. I use a spiral bound notebook 5 1/2" by 4 1/2".
I am so excited to start this conversation journal with you. We are going to have a great year.
I see that you like to read the Magic Tree House books. Which one do you like best?
That goes on the left side of the book. (For lefty students I write on the right side and they write on the left. Tough to write over the hump in the middle.) You see that we are teaching them letter writing, modeling and more. The student is then expected to write on the right side (we limit each entry to one page.) and respond in the same format.
"Dear Mrs. B,
Yes, I do like those books. I like the one about volcanoes.
Do you like them?
As with any activity, some are into it more than others. Getting them to ask me questions can be tough. The easy way is to ask me the same questions....
Should they fail to ask me a question, I will keep it going. Especially if they gave me long detail in their response... But I only do that for so long.
After a while, I just respond with,
Trust me when I say they come running to my desk very quickly. "What is that?"
Oh, I don't know! I guess I forgot to ask you a question. Hmmm, wait, let me look back...
It seems you did not ask me question for a while. Sometimes they get quite upset, I just quickly ask them a question and then they usually never do it again.
Some students have a tough time and it is not meant to be a gruesome task. I offer (in writing) to write a story. "If you start it, I will follow.." That is great fun. At the end of the story, we share it with the class... Some years it inspires others to ask me... and so it goes.
Be sure to use, P.S and P.P.S. They LOVE that!
At the end of the year, I wrap the book with a ribbon and write a final special note to them. We really get to know each other. I know they are a treasure they will always have. It is a big commitment on my part. But there is great reward.