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Buddy Journals 1 Buddy Journaling and Building Community in the


									                                               Buddy Journals 1

Buddy Journaling and Building Community in the Classroom

                     Nancy Vidlak

          Shoreline 07-08 Writing Institute

          of the Puget Sound Writing Project

              Rational, Vision, Question
                                                                     Buddy Journals 2


         My application project presented the possibility to create a strong caring
classroom community during the year by having buddy journals. Also, my project asked
the question, how will 3rd and 6th graders relate to one another if they were to be buddy
journal partners?
Every school year I begin with a philosophy and strategies that are intended to create a
classroom where everyone is accepted as they are and that children “do no harm to each
other”, learn to be compassionate, and trust each other as classmates.
I would like to create such an atmosphere with the use of “buddy journals” Also; I would
like to extend this project by including one 6th grade room in the school.
To accomplish this I provided simple “buddy journals” for all in my classroom. I began
having the children write with their buddy once –a – week on a specific topic. I then
extended this project by having them become a buddy with a 6th grade classroom.
My long-term hope is that over time the children would learn and care and talk to each
other respectfully on an every day basis. Will it be possible to create a caring and
compassionate group of children through buddy journals?
The evaluative process will be in the form of the children writing about what they learned
from doing this and how they felt responding to their classmates and the 6th graders
writing. As the facilitator of this project I will be keeping a “diary” of observations and
indications I might witness that show companionship and compassion while children are
        When starting this project I have had two sets of journals. I made classroom
buddy journals, and a separate set of journals for both the 3rd and 6th grade buddies. I
have found this to help identify the two journals quickly. During the now eight month
long project we have been writing with our classroom buddies weekly and our 6th grade
buddies every other week, on various topics such as, who is an important person in your
life? What is a favorite place or favorite food to eat? What would the world be like if
everyone looked the same? We have been responding to each other about our thoughts in
free writes. My journal observations have described times when sixth graders where very
complimentary toward third graders and how well they wrote. Other observations
described how I noticed new friendships developing within the classroom between the 3rd

                              Review of Resources:

        I supported my topic with three resources from the Internet and trade books on the
topic specifically discussing buddy journaling in the classroom. I read a section from the
book, Journals in the Classroom, a complete quide for the elementary teacher By
Judith Ann Issacs and Janine Brodine. Two main points made in the book were, taking
the “onus” of having children write “off of the teacher” for responding to each and every
child in their individual journals but also gives opportunity to provide a real audience
                                                                           Buddy Journals 3

         with their peers, build interest and confidence, and allow students to share insights
and provide opportunities to support one another. This book has affirmed my idea that
buddy journals can slowly create a communicating community in the classroom. The
children take time to write what they feel and ask questions of each other within their
         My second resource, were the “googled” words “Buddy Journals” and I came
across several teacher web sites that discussed doing buddy journaling. One that “caught”
my eye as being similar to what I am doing was from Mrs. Autrey’s 5th grade class at
Greenwood Elementary at Grand Ledge Public Schools in Michigan.
         She is furthering her knowledge base by participating in a study through the Red
Cedar Writing Project at Michigan State University. Her research question is, “how does
her community of writers change over the course of the school year?” She is keeping a
digital portfolio on the subject. Her class is paired with another class of the same grade in
a girl, girl, boy, and boy fashion. In her class they write daily, sometimes with a prompt
and sometimes as their own choice.
         I check in with the site every few weeks to see any changes. I am getting ideas
from some of her displays of the children’s journals and prompts given. Although our set-
up is different, and I do not journal as often, I have found this helpful with my own
journaling process.
         The Book Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook by
Aimee Buckner, was my last resource. It is a compact guide on how to create and sustain
a “Writer’s Notebook” within a classroom setting. It encourages and gives a teacher
many strategies, lessons, and samples of students writing, and helps create an atmosphere
for a child to have a collection of pieces within a notebook of their own that can be used
later for revising and editing with a possibility of publishing selected pieces. It naturally
takes the writer through a process of brainstorming ideas and testing out different genres.
I have found this book to be helpful in my working with “buddy journaling” because it
has given me different ways to think about brainstorming topics or having children come
up with their own ideas for buddy journaling. I continue to be in process with this guide
encouraging writing in a more natural way. Aimee Buckner, a fourth grade teacher at
Brookwood Elementary School in Gwinnett County, Georgia, is clear and concise when
sharing her ideas and what has worked with children.


        Although my journaling observations are not as scientific as pretesting and
postesting a topic I have found that my children have displayed moments of kindness and
caring that with experience I do not always see this time of year. I believe that this
exercise has brought them closer. This closeness has shown itself in subtle ways by the
way they play; by inviting each other out to recess, talk; several compliments have been
given, and helping each other; girls and boys alike will help with work and tasks such as
                                                                   Buddy Journals 4

cleaning out their desks, on a regular basis. There continue to be disagreements,
arguments, and hurt feelings but I have found that they are willing to talk out those
differences with me as mediator because they have made a connection through writing.
On a weekly it has helped “open doors” of communication that sometimes has a way of
breaking apart as the year ends.


        I have felt this has been a worthwhile project and definitely one worth repeating
and perfecting. I plan to continue having my class buddy journal until the end of the
year. I would like to think of a reflective type question for them to journal about and
hopefully gain more insight on how they felt about buddy journaling and if it is
something they have felt has made for a better experience being with classmates. I have
strong feelings in this day and age of technology that is making us a society of non-
communicators. We must provide personal avenues for children to become closer with
their classmates. What better way than writing from personal views and understandings?
                                                                      Buddy Journals    5

                              Annotated Bibliography

Issacs, Judith A., & Brodine, Janine. (1995). Journals in the Classroom: A Complete
Guide for the Elementary Teacher: Winnepeg: Portage & Main Press.

This resource honors the management of buddy journaling by suggesting how to begin
and how to pair buddies.
the main points made about buddy journaling are taking the “onus” of having children
write “off the teacher” and gives opportunity to provide a real audience for the writer.

Online Document:
, . (). . . 4 May, 2008 from .

This online website of Mrs. Autrey’s 5th grade class at Greenwood Elementary at Grand
Ledge Public Schools in Michigan provided an opportunity to” follow” Her buddy
journaling experiences with her class over the course of a school year. Mrs. Autrey
shared her management strategies and suggested prompts.

Buckner, Aimee E., (2005). Notebook Know How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook:
Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.

Although not directly related to buddy journaling, this book is filled with strategies and
successful lessons helping children build a “working” writing journal that takes them
through a natural writing process. Lessons from this book are encourage children to
think of their own writing topics to work on and later come back to revise and edit.

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