This month I started a "My First Writing Journal" with my son who is in kindergarten. Writing was something I always dreaded in school, so I'd love to help him learn to enjoy writing from a young age.
We started by letting him pick out his own journal at the store, he chose one with a Camaro on it. Each day I give him a small rectangle of paper with a prompt, which is the beginning of a sentence. He glues the prompt in his notebook, writes the date, copies the prompt and finishes the sentence however he wants! Right now I am just having him do that one sentence. As he feels more comfortable, we'll increase a little more.
I also have told him that I'm not worried about punctuation or spelling, because I just want him to practice getting his ideas on the paper. This has caused a little strife because he keeps asking me how to spell EVERYTHING! I have just been saying to say the word aloud, listen to the sounds, and spell it the best he can. We are still working on his response when I say this :-)
I know we all have our opinions about inventive spelling, and honestly I'm not a strong proponent for or against. Like most things in life I feel it's about balance. If I correct every single thing he does, he will be so uptight while trying to write that it won't be fun and he will be more worried about getting it "right" than getting his thoughts on paper. But there's also a place for learning correct spellings and punctuation along the way. (We do word sort activities every week, so he is learning and practicing common spelling rules too!)
So my tips for a child's first writing journal would be:
1. Get a fun notebook.
2. Use short prompts that they can copy.
3. Pictures with the prompts can also help at first, to give them somewhere to start from.
4. Don't correct spelling and punctuation, but make their ideas the focus of journal writing.
"When children use inventive spelling, they are in fact exercising their growing knowledge of phonemes, the letters of the alphabet, and their confidence in the alphabetic principle. A child's 'iz' for the conventional 'is' can be celebrated as quite a breakthrough!
It is the kind of error that shows you that the child is thinking independently and quite analytically about the sounds of words and the logic of spelling."
Burns, Griffin, and Snow (1999)