Friday, February 6, 2015

Working the Work Journals

The buzz about the work plan seems to have died down a bit, so I thought I'd share a bit about our Work Journals. (I am not going to propose that this is the way that others use their work journals, nor that this is the correct way to apply Montessori theory regarding work journals. Please see the disclaimer below. This is just how we've been working our work journals.)

Same disclaimer as last time: the following are my interpretations and opinions and mine alone. I am not a formally trained Montessori guide and the following description is entirely my own interpretation of the texts I've read and the conversations I've had.
In our classroom, T and S's work journals are personal records of the works they accomplish over time. The journal's function and level of detail are still evolving, in baby steps.

My children usually don't do well being thrown off into the deep end water. We generally freak out and head for the bottom. So, for us it is baby steps using that zero entry end of the pool. (Even as an adult I need to get temperature acclimated. A cold water plunge makes my chest feel like it's seizing up.)

At the beginning of the school year, we started our work journal using a loose list format. T and S would choose a work, complete the work and then write that work down in their journal. They used a new page each day to create a journal list of works completed. 
In the beginning S was drawing her works. (My best translation: noun; bells lesson; life timeline)
(My best translation: Korean Stories for Children is favorite stories, 100 bead chain, help with D, stamp game, the sandpaper letters, the Daily Math Word Problems, the bells, plant seeds, Ammy and Gramps)
(My best translation: teen beads and boards, snake game, sound objects with D)
T's work titles were simple things like "grammar," "beads," and "pin map" and he didn't include too much in the way of a description. (I keep my own lesson log, so his lack of descriptive specification wasn't an issue for official record keeping.)
Sometimes he'd note down a discovery he'd made during a work like what to do with certain types of plural nouns. Occasionally, we'd write a note to our "tomorrow-selves" as a reminder to do something.
Their lists have progressed a lot since the beginning of the year. T is now writing full sentences, like, "I did the bank game." S is now simply naming her works and only occasionally includes illustrations.
On the left, is S's daily work log. On the right is S's Work Plan.
A couple of weeks ago we switched our order, so now, T and S choose a work and write it down before they start working. They both add the time they started and then go back to their journal after they have completed the work to note down their end time. And then S wanted to start writing in cursive. This made things kind of hard to read, for me anyway.
(My best translation: measurement cards 2:42, bead chains, biome readers, fractions 3:27, daily word problems, suffixes. Dictation, geometry, daily word problems, geography, readers, addition strip board 2:06-3:15, microscope. ) 
(My best translation: Dictation 9:15-9:35, geography 9:37-10:25, addition strip board, tie a bow 10:25-11:10, readers, biome readers. Addition strip board 9:26-10:00, biome readers 10:03-, bells??, dictation 11:26, bow tying, prayer 12:14-12:21, change flags 12:23, daily word problems, geography 4:35.)
T also started writing in cursive. Writing in cursive has helped him not put capital letters in the middle of words. But I can see that we need to learn to capitalize the letter at the beginning of our sentences.
 Here T also added a thought or two about a work.
This is a sample of T's work plan list. 

We are still working to fully utilize this organizing tool. For right now, T and S are getting into the habit of organizing their activities on paper, in one location. Hopefully in the future, T and S will be able to use their work journal tool help them organize their daily activities in a way that over time enables them to achieve the larger goals they feel drawn to pursue in their lives.

In the short term, I plan to encourage T and S to add more specific descriptions of their work. Like for example, instead of simply writing, "checkerboard," we'd elaborate a bit and write something like, "multiplication checkerboard problems using 3-digit multipliers and doing the math in my head." Also, I plan to offer the option that they can note down what they thought about the work and what they plan to do as a follow-up work. And perhaps still later on, we will start doing some more FranklinCovey-esque planning and begin to develop stepping stone goals that include a timeline to help us accomplish still larger goals. 

The other part of utilizing this planning tool, as I see it anyway, is the analysis of what is "time-worthy." Not only is this a forward looking tool, but a journal can also be a reflective tool. I also hope to encourage the kids to examine what they've accomplished, the works they've started, and reflect upon the works they feel drawn to do. In this manner, I hope to help them examine the activities and goals that feel are meaningful to them and help them devise a plan to pursue these areas of interest.

These are just the Work Journal ideas floating around in my head. I have a certain way I use my work journal, and so I suspect that T and S will come to find their own way they want to use their work journal which may include, or not include, what I have described above.

Finally, this is process is something I've designed. I don't remember reading about this in the Montessori theory texts I've read (and I haven't read all of the Montessori theory texts out there.) Much of this is based upon my personal planning nature and what I do know about Montessori theory. This works for us. This may not work for you, but I do hope that if you are reading and need some inspiration regarding your work journals, you are able to take from my process the parts that fit your family.
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Goodness, this was a hard post to put together. I couldn't see what was in each tiny thumbnail photo and I didn't "organize" them before drafting the post text...You can probably "see" me right now sitting at my computer, squinting at thumbnails. And then after uploading everything, I realized that both T and S had written someone's name in their journals so I had to go back and digitally erase this, upload those altered photos and then figure out from the thumbnails again, which images to re-insert...anyway, I hope this information can be helpful to someone.


  1. And once again you have hit the nail on the head! :)

    I love S's curly cursive too!

  2. This is how we always did work journals in our Montessori school...

  3. Please clarify something for me... Are work journals and work plans the same thing? To me a work plan is where you jot down what it is to come. The kids and I use work plans to organize what we would like to do that day. I would love in the future to use work journals in a way similar to your kids' learning records. I think my kids being 5 and 3 are too young for that. We have a diary type of journal. They write about what we do but it is not necessarily related to what we do at home. In their journals they write about playdates, outings, and, once in a while, something we are studying.

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    2. Our work journals and our work plans do not serve the same purpose. The Work Plans really precipitate from our weekly, or biweekly, conversations. I sit down and talk with T and then with S separately about what they liked doing last week, what they intend to revisit and continue this week, and what gaps I am seeking to fill in as their guide. This is our guiding plan for the week. Things usually get in the way and priorities change, but T and S always have somewhere to go to look up a work if they are wondering what to choose next. The Work Journals help us create our work plans for sure, but they also are, and will become, a written illustration of our homeschooling path. Right now, T and S's work journals look a little more like a map of where we've been. In the future, I'd like to add to that map which parts we found hard, which parts we found particularly compelling and which parts we feel we can let go. As T and S progress, the journal will become a document that is less a list of works we did, but more of an illustration of how we spent our time and a tool we can use to assess how well we are working to achieve our goals.

      I guess I would sum up by saying that work plans are more of a weekly plan of action that contains mini-goals we hope to achieve in working toward a larger goal. Our work journal is a reflective tool we use to assess whether or not we are working toward the goals that matter to us most.