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Grammar Journals

By Mary Blow on March 1, 2012
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

Grammar journals get my students writing every day, increase their motivation to write, and teach grammar through practical application. Lately, we have been consuming more class time on Common Core writing, which is good, but I started questioning myself. Were my students writing enough to develop the writing fluency skills they need to pass state assessments? Was I teaching the pleasure of writing?

Grammar journals provide a risk-free zone where students can experiment  with new grammar skills in the context of their own writing. I introduce them in a manner similar to the way I introduce warm-ups or bell ringers. Sometimes the students engage in free writes. Other times, when I am setting them up for a specific grammar lesson, I provide a prompt. My 6th graders love the journals! On the last grammar assessment, 97 percent of my 110 students scored 80 or above on pronoun questions similar to state assessment questions. The questions covered subject pronouns, object pronouns, possessive pronouns, and reflexive pronouns, which are part of the CCSS focus for grade 6. My 6th graders were successful because they could apply the rules they had learned in their own writing attempts.


Grammar Journals Overview

For our journals, we use single-subject spiral notebooks. I teach one grammar rule each week, or 40 grammar lessons a year. I introduce the rule on Monday in a 20–40 minute lesson and return to it throughout the week.

The right-hand page of the notebook is for journaling. I give my 6th graders one minute to think and three to five minutes to write. It prepares them for writing under timed conditions. Later, if they choose, they can go back and write more.

The left-hand page is reserved for recording grammar notes. This way, by the end of the year, they will have a grammar reference guide and a journal to illustrate how much they have grown as writers.

The journals are introduced creating what Ralph Fletcher calls an “expert list,” that is, an idea bank or a list of topics that you know something about. This supports those students who get the deer-in-the-headlights look when asked to come up with a topic. A picture of my “expert web” from my own journal is pictured above.


Right Side: Journal Entries

On Monday, we begin each grammar lesson with a journal entry. I like to give them free writing time with very few stipulations. For example, students may like to write nature journals, weather journals, diaries, or stories. These are exemplars of journals they may keep as adults.

However, if I want to teach subject pronouns, plural and possessive, I would have them write about something they did with a friend or family member. Or, if the goal is to teach reflexive pronouns (myself, himself, themselves, etc.), I may ask them to write about a time when they went shopping with friends or family. Their goal in this case is to write in detail, describing what each person bought and for whom they bought it. This sets them up for the forthcoming grammar lesson. If I want to teach a lesson on prepositional phrases, I might have them describe their favorite room in the house, identifying where everything is located. My goal, in addition to teaching grammar, is to help them develop writing fluency, motivate them to write, and foster a love of journaling that they will carry into adulthood. During the rest of the week, my students continue to write, but I also post bell ringers that reflect state test assessments.

Students are not required to share their entries, but I do allow them the opportunity. You would be surprised what students will share. It is important to create a risk-free environment. In the upper right-hand corner, we code each journal entry. An open eye means it is public. A closed eye means it is private. My students know that I will honor their privacy and not share their entry with the class. One unplanned benefit is that you get to know your students on a deeper level.


Left-Side Grammar Lessons

After students finish writing, they take grammar notes on the left-hand side of their journals. Sometimes, in order to save time, I create half page notes, like the ones to the right, and the students glue them in. Each lesson contains a title, a definition, examples, and an interactive component. Sometimes the interactive component is a blank space, where students add their own examples, or a state test type of question. Feel free to download my subject and object pronouns notes.

The most successful lessons focus on the errors that the majority of the class is making. Once the rule is taught, students apply this knowledge to their own writing. They highlight samples of their writing that illustrate that they can use the rule correctly or samples they have edited according to what they have learned. It takes 20–40 minutes to introduce a grammar rule and apply it. The rest of the week we review and apply the rule to journal entries and academic writing.


Review and Reinforce Bell Ringers

Throughout the week, students write in their journals and complete one bell-ringer or warm-up exercise. We focus on the new skill, but also spiral prior skills that caused students to struggle. Most bell ringers reflect state assessment grammar questions. I walk around the room and quickly assess who has mastered the skill and who has not, and briefly meet with those who are struggling. A short class discussion closes the bell-ringer activity.


Grading the Journals

How do I grade all this writing? Ha! I am a busy person. I do not have time to grade 110 journals every week, especially if students are writing every day. My goal is to maintain the sandbox, risk-free atmosphere. I assess bell ringers daily, so I know whether or not my students are mastering the grammar skills. However, to foster accountability for journal writing, I walk around the room with a checklist every five weeks, while students are reading or writing an assignment, and grade journals with the following rubric:

  • Journals are labeled and neat (10 points)
  • Five grammar notes recorded completely and accurately (25 points)
  • Five journal entries (25 points)

Since introducing grammar journals, I've noticed that the intrinsic value my students place in grammar has increased considerably. In my classroom, we now have major grammar discussions. When students first acquire a new skill, they often overcorrect, and grammar journals give them the opportunity to explore and practice the newly learned skill. If they are proficient in their personal writing, they will be more successful at transitioning the skills to the high-level academic writing that is required from the Common Core. It also preserves the love of writing.


FREE Grammar Resources

If you have a grammar reference book, most of the work is done for you. You can simply have students copy the rule in their journal and add examples, and provide a section for interaction. A great time-saving option is to use Scholastic Printables and Scope magazine’s grammar resources for notes and bell ringers. Sometimes, they have the rules in a box at the top of the page, so students can simply cut out the rules and examples and glue them into the journals.

I love the grammar lessons that Scope magazine offers on its companion Web site. Yes, this is new. “The Lazy Editor” provides an opportunity for students to practice and review skills beyond the grammar journals. For instance, Scope’s January 30, 2012, Lazy Editor includes lessons on capitalizationavoiding run-on sentencescorrect placement of modifiersword-variation, and sentence-structure variation.

Scholastic Printables has many grammar handouts, many of which are aligned to the Common Core. For example, according to the CCSS, 6th grade grammar should encompass an in-depth exploration of pronouns. Printables offer a differentiated pack on pronouns (grades 4, 5, and 6) to support the different level of learners in the classroom. To help introduce the different types of pronouns to my 6th graders, I used the handouts "Subject and Object Pronouns," "Indefinite Pronouns," "Possessive Pronouns," and "Pronouns Test Prep" (a bell-ringer resource).


Do you use grammar journals in your classroom, or have questions about how they work? Comment below.

Comments (143)

Thank you all so much for loving the grammar journal lessons. Don't shriek when I say my lessons are data driven. The lessons are selected depending on the data aggregated from students' writing assignments. While reading, make a checklist. Track the most common grammar mistakes. Prioritize them. For example, if students are not referencing titles correctly, I pull a lesson that focuses on titles. If they struggle with citing embedded quotes, I pull a lesson that focuses on embedding direct quotations. I believe that the best lessons are not sequenced from A-Z or September to June, but those that relate to students' writing goals -- authentic live-in-the-moment lessons. I have learned that students will retain and apply the knowledge if the lessons have more meaning or relevancy.

I would also love to get the lessons. I teach an advanced 5th grade class.

I would also love to get the lessons. I teach an advanced 5th grade class.

I teach special education reading and writing and would love a copy of 5th grade lessons. Thank you!

Would love a copy of your lessons. I teach 5th grade ELA.

This idea goes along with something I heard at a conference I went to this summer.

I love your ideas related to the grammar journal!! I want to incorporate it into my classroom next year. I am about to enter my second year of teaching ELA. If you are sharing your weekly grammar lessons, please let me know!

I have been teaching for many years,specifically k-2 however, this is my 1st year in a 6th grade classroom...I would LOVE a copy of your lessons since I feel like I'm starting all over again... would you be able to send me a copy of your grammar lessons? I would be so grateful.

Would love a copy if possible. Can you please send one to me? I teach 4-5 split.


I LOVE this idea about grammar journals and would love a copy of the 40 lessons. I teach 5th grade and this would be very helpful for my students.

Great idea! Is there anyway you can share the grammar lessons? colson@southerntioga.org

Great idea! Is there anyway you can share the grammar lessons? colson@southerntioga.org

I was wondering if you could share your lessons with me. Again, I also teach 6th grade and am in my 2nd year. Please email me.

Mary Blow, this is amazing! I am a second year 6th grade teacher and could really use some help. I have some questions for you. Would you please email me? My email is abolinger@selmausd.org

Hi Mary!

I am entering my second year of teaching 5th grade and have searching for a great system to incorporate grammar into my writing curriculum. We already use an interactive notebook for reading and I LOVE the idea of using one in writing. I know you teach 6th grade, but I was wondering if you would still share your lessons or even let me know where I could purchase them. Also, do you use a spelling component to your writing notebook?

My email is carreen.costello@gmail.com.


I am going to implement this in my third grade ELA class this year. I see where lots of people have asked about the 40 lessons, but I did not see a response from you. I would love a copy and of them if you are sharing them or are you selling them?

I would love to have this for mini-lessons & centers. Great idea

What a great idea! I don't want to do worksheets out of context anymore! Can I get copies of your 40 lessons and bell ringers activities? I would love to try this idea. I already have the notebooks!

Hi! I'd love to have the 40 grammar lessons as well! Please share or let me know where I can purchase them.

If you are sharing your lessons, I would love to have a copy. I teach 5th grade ELA.

Hi Mary, Loved your notebook idea for grammar lessons to get them writing. It truly seems like something simple that would work with my fourth grade kiddos. Can I buy those 40 grammar lessons from you for the year, any handouts along with the bell ringer activities? You've got me excited about doing this. My e-mail is: noellegriffin7@yahoo.com. Thanks so much. Noelle

If you think this could be applicable to my 4th graders, I'd love a copy of your lessons, too.

Hi, I love your grammar notebook idea. How can I get the 40 mini lessons? Also, where can I find the bell ringers to include in the notebook.
Thank you.

I love this! Are you selling the completed 40 lessons? As a new teacher, I would absolutely love to have this in my classroom for next year.

I would love a copy of your 40 lessons. May I purchase them?

I love this idea of grammar journals. I would be interested in the lessons you use. Would you send them to me/may I purchase them?

Hi Mary,
Thank you for the 2 free downloads. I am looking for more. Do you sell your 40 grammar lessons? I would love a copy!


Hi Mary!
I've seen so many people ask about getting a copy of the 40 mini lesson plans. As a first year teacher I would love to get a copy and am willing to purchase as well. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience.

I would love for you to send me your 40 mini lessons if possible.


I love this idea and want to incorporate the grammar journals into my classroom this year. I too I am interested in getting a copy of your 40 lesson. Are you sharing them?


I love your ideas! I teach 6th grade writing workshop, and am looking for a better way to incorporate grammar. I would be interested in buying your stuff too!
Thanks for sharing :)
Christie (cellis@ecsd.us)

I would also love to obtain a copy of your 40 lessons, if possible. Can I purchase these from you?
Thanks so much,
Marie Feliz

Dear Mary, I am about to begin teaching grammar in the inner city of Cleveland. This idea hits on so many of the issues that I have been worrying about. Is it possible to purchase the 40 ideas? Thank you so much.

I would like to purchase the 40 lessons. I teach 7th grade Language Arts and 7-8 combined English only. Please contact me. spfarley@q.com

Seems like a lot of people have asked the same thing.....are you sharing or "selling" your 40 week lessons? I would love to try this with my 6th graders this year as well. I definitely have a few lessons in mind to start but would love to see what you did and the handouts you used.

Are you providing teachers with the 40 lessons? I would love to have them as well!

Hi Mary, Love the grammar journal! I am interested in purchasing the 40 lessons you created (if this is possible). My email: ksheehan@nashobabrooks.org. Thanks! Kristen

This is exactly what I want to do with my 6th graders next year! Are you willing to share your lessons? I would be so grateful & willing to purchase them!



I would love to have a copy of your 40 lessons and am willing to pay. My email is tbecker@shcknox.org.

Hi Mary, I tried to look you up to see if you had a unit of this on Teachers Pay Teachers, but didn't find anything! If you are sharing and/or selling, please let me know! Thanks!

I have been looking for a fun and easy way to get the kids writing on a more daily basis. I too would be interested in the 40 lessons that you teach and how you incorporate them into your classroom. My email is mnix@mailpa.com. I would be willing to pay! Thanks so much for sharing such a great idea!!!

I love your idea! I am a college professor and I teach developmental courses. I think this would be something I can incorporate for my ESL students. They often struggle when it comes to grammar, spelling and writing. Thank you for sharing! I would love to see your 40 lessons.

This is exactly what my fellow sixth grade English teachers are looking for! I was hoping you had a couple more examples of what the journals look like and how you used them. If you could email me more information or another example of a minilesson and prompt, that would be great! afitzgerald@londonderry.org

This is exactly what I am looking for! I am starting my first semester of teaching right in the middle of the school year and feel completely lost! I would love to also get the lessons if they are available and would be willing to pay for them.
Thank you!

Grammar has been a struggle for years. I've tried so many ways;-
I like this idea. I'd like to see a few of your lessons, mostly to see the order in which you approach the skills. If that is possible could you send more details? It looks like you have opened up a can of worms as you have interested so many people.

I really love this idea. I have been struggling to make grammar feel applicable to my students. I would also love if you are sharing or selling. Please let me know. meaganlord@isd837.org

Hi This is a great idea. I am a resource room teacher and I am going to try this. I as well would love a copy of your 40 lessons. I would be willing to purchase.
Thank you for ahring your idea.

I would be more than happy to pay you for your grammar lessons! Please email me.

I use grammar journals as well, but I like way yours are set up much better! I would also like a copy of the 40 lessons if you are sharing. Thank you!

Love the idea of grammar journals. Could I have a copy of the forty lessons?

I would love for you to send me a copy of the lessons. Thaank you in advance

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