Adjusting Activities for Age and Experience

All activities on this site are appropriate for students in fourth grade and up (unless otherwise noted at the beginning of the activity). There are no adjustments needed to use journaling activities with older audiences. Older students or more experienced journalers will engage with the same activities at a deeper level. 

We do suggest scaffolding and adjusting journaling activities to set up younger students (in this context, third grade and below) for success. If your children or students are too young to write, or emergent writers, let them dictate their observations and questions to you or to another student. Transcribe what they say word for word. This catches the freshness and beauty in the way children describe the world and demonstrates your respect for what they notice and wonder. In most journaling activities in this book, the teacher gives instructions, and this is followed by extended time for student journaling and discussion. With younger students, we break instructions up into subtasks and complete each step along with the group. For example:

Journaling Activity, Instructions as Written

 “Using words and pictures together, make a labeled sketch of a leaf in your journal.” [Instructor models making a quick sketch and labels on a whiteboard.]

“Try to include a few different views of your leaf and add written observations and Questions.” [Instructor adds a side view to their whiteboard demo, then adds horizontal lines to
indicate written observations and questions.]

[Students spend ~10 minutes sketching leaves, adding written notes, labels, and different views of their leaves.]

Journaling Activity, Scaffolded Instructions

“We are going to journal about leaves. Start by sketching your leaf. Draw the outside shape and any shapes or holes on the leaf.” [Students and teacher spend a few minutes sketching leaves.]

“Now let’s include a side view. Take a moment and draw your leaf from the side on your paper.” [Students and teacher spend a few minutes sketching the side view.]

“We want to use words and pictures together on our journal pages. Let’s add labels. What are things we might label?” [Students respond: stem, holes, colors.] “What are questions we have about our leaves?” [Students respond.]

“I’m going to write ‘stem’ and add an arrow to show where it is. Then I’m going to add labels for holes that I see on my leaf. 

[Teacher adds labels on sketch.]
I’m also going to write my questions. Now you add some labels for stems, holes, or other interesting features, and write questions.”
[Students write.]

Discussion Question, Instructions as Written

“Look back at your journal entry. Discuss with a partner: What were some differences and similarities between the two kinds of leaves you studied? What are some possible explanations for the differences you noticed? How might the different shapes or structures of leaves help the tree survive?” [Students discuss.]

Discussion Question, Scaffolded Instructions

“Look at your journal entry. With a partner, talk about how the two leaves you drew are different from each other. They might be different shapes or colors.” [Students discuss.]
“Keep looking at your journal entry, and now discuss similarities between your leaves. Maybe the stems or veins are the same size, or they feel similar to the touch.” [Students discuss.]
“Pick one difference between the two leaves, like how one is fuzzy on the outside and the other isn’t. Talk to your partner about why they might be different. What would be helpful for a tree about having a fuzzy leaf?” [Students discuss.]

Observation Activity, Instructions as Written

“Observations are what we notice through our senses. They’re not our opinions like ‘I notice the leaf is gross,’ or identifications like ‘I notice it’s a leaf.’ Observations might include ‘I notice the top is smooth and the bottom is rough. There’s a hole in the middle. It’s a grayish-brownish color.’ Take two minutes to make observations out loud about your leaf with your partner.” [Students take turns making observations about leaves with a partner.]

Observation Activity, Scaffolded Instructions

“Observations are what we notice through our senses, like ‘I notice there is a hole in the center of the leaf’ or ‘I notice it is brown and green.’ Let’s practice together, starting with colors. What colors do you notice? Greens, reds, grays? Share with a partner.”
[Students notice colors and talk with their partner.] “Now let’s focus on textures. Use your sense of touch to notice different textures on the leaf. Is it rough? Smooth? Bumpy? Smooth in one place, but rough in another? Share with a partner.” [Students notice textures and talk with their partner.]
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