Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Work Journals - Starters

(I re-posted this because it wasn't showing up in blog readers and I know some people were waiting for it it show up! So I've copied everything here to a new post and deleted the original (there were no comments yet) ;) ).

A work plan goes hand in hand with a work journal, but the ideas can be mixed and matched to suit any individual child's purposes.

Some people just use a checklist, which has benefits and drawbacks, more or less so depending on the style used.

Other use movable cards - in or out of baskets or plastic pockets.

Others only concern themselves with keeping any generated physical work, such as math papers and the like, stored in binders or folders or notebooks.

Others might add photographs.

These are what I would personally call starter journals - and they are great! They get the child thinking about his day, what he has accomplished, reviewing his work, collecting it into a notebook or binder - being able to go back and see his progress. These are fantastic!

Ultimately a lot of that can become something a portfolio for the child's work, and the above processes, in one form or another definitely continue throughout their school years and perhaps into life (family photo albums and scrapbooks, for example ;) ).

When I can wrest them from my son's bedroom, where he likes to horde his favorite stuff, I'll post a photo of a couple of his own portfolios.

Here are two articles from elementary Montessori schools that use work journals:

The work journals described in the above links are what I personally typically see in an elementary classroom - or some form of it.
The child writes the starting and ending time of his work, along with the name of the material and sometimes what it is he is doing with that material.

This is where I suggest (based on my son's recommendation!) to parents of children who are just not wanting to write - to draw something related to their work. I did this with my co-op children this past year - they did not have to write the times, but anytime they did geography/science experiments, they had to illustrate or write out the results of what happened or something interesting related to it.

Work Journal: Noting how time is spent
Those of you with a clock stamp could offer it to the child to put in his work journal to record the times.

Honestly, I didn't have my son start recording times of his work until 2nd year in elementary and then only sporadically. Now that he's 3rd year and a half, I am requiring it. He really needs the habit formation of consistency, tracking how his time is spent and more appropriate planning of his time - we can only DO so much in one day ;)

Since the stamp we have is rather large, it also means that he has more space to write - the start time on the left; the end time on the right; with the words in-between - so I have him write what he practiced or learned during that time --- basically, what value did that spent time just have for you. And hey, that could be "relaxation" or "reviewing past math skills." I'm good with that. But I want HIM to be cognizant of it, hence he selects the words and writes them down.

He can then also note what he would like to do next with that area if/when he comes back to it. Just a quick note for himself - then when we plan the next work plan, or when he is looking for something to do, he can check his work journal and see where he's been and where, at the time, he wanted to go from there. I don't always hold him to those ideas, because they are just that: ideas. But many times, the "idea" is an upcoming presentation anyway.

As he completes any of those past "ideas", he placed a check-mark with the date that he did do it. Then he can flip ahead to that date and see the progress of his work. And sometimes he discovers he has already done the next steps, or that he is no longer in need of what he previously indicated. So we mark those accordingly (either indicating date done, or NLN (no longer necessary)).

This part is still a work-in-progress for our own household, but it really seems to be working quite well - even though it does need several reminders until the habit is formed.

I wish I would have required the time-marking sooner. My own regret for our personal situation. It is REALLY good for him. He says, "Especially when you tell me that I've not done any math this week and I can show you that I have worked on math a total of 5 hours and 40 minutes all week!"

As with any of the work plan (work contract) or work journal posts here - everyone will get different mileage with each idea - consider the options, consider making up your own, and see what works with YOUR elementary child right now. Next year, it might be something different. So PLEASE share all of your ideas :)


  1. Work journals are absent here. I like the idea of reviewing what work has been accomplished that gives satisfaction as well as new plans to the next work session. We currently do something similar, except it is just oral, when my daughter reports what she did during the day to her dad! I love recording it formally though! It would be great to look back. I might have to start doing it now for my daughter though!

    1. If she is doing it orally, you're doing work journals ;) it's just not a hard-copy format is all.

      Orally is where it start - when the child can articulate, "what did you do with school today?" with an answer beyond "I played with the red rods" or "nothing" when indeed it was a very productive day!

      Definitely around age 6, there should be something a bit more formal (even if still oral); the written form allows you to review more later. :)

  2. Thank you for your posts on elementary montessori. I am planning to implement a work journal and work plan for my first grader. We have been struggling with staying on track and he seems to never know what to work on. We also loose track of how long he has spent on certain subjects over the course of the week.
    I would LOVE to see some photos of your son's journals!