Journal writing is not a compulsory element in local Primary School English classes. However, this much neglected aspect of writing can be a useful tool to develop students’ writing skills.
I used to get my students to write in their journals. They had to do it once a week, either on a given topic or on any topic of their choice.
I would usually get them to draw a picture next to their page of writing.
Benefits of Journal Writing
Most of my students enjoyed journal writing. I made it a point to respond to their writing by jotting down a few sentences below their entry. They looked forward to receive their journals to read what I had written. Sometimes, I would ask them a question or two, and they would respond in their next entry. Other times, they would ask me questions and I would respond. It became an on-going conversation.
I’m not sure why our local schools do not place much emphasis on journals. Perhaps teachers do not have the time to do that. Despite the lack of emphasis in local schools, there are actually a few significant benefits of journal writing:
1. A non-threatening way to encourage daily or weekly writing.
Students are not penalised in grammar and spelling errors. Thus, they feel safe to write. For the really weak ones, they can begin by drawing and then writing a few words or sentences to describe what they have drawn. Over months, as they gain more confidence, you will begin to see a vast improvement in their writing ability.
2. Allows teachers to know their students’ competence level.
Teachers can gain insight to their students’ understanding of grammatical rules, writing competence and spelling ability by reading their journals. As students grow in their writing skills over the months, the entries act as a portfolio for their progress.
3. A tool for teachers to build relationship with their students.
I gained access into my students’ world through reading their journals. As I responded to their weekly writing, some of them began to share with me things which I would not have known if not for their journals. It was a great way for me to get to know my students and build relationships with them.
4. A fun way to practise writing.
Children are motivated to write when it is fun. Instead of a dread, writing becomes an enjoyable activity that they look forward to. They are then able to learn the language and apply their writing skills in context. Once writing becomes fun, it becomes easier to get them to write and develop their skills along the way.
5. An avenue for students to express themselves.
Not every student is outspoken in class. I have found that my quieter students tend to write more and shared openly with me in their journals. Some of them would even ask me questions, which is something they would never do in class. I treasure these sharing by the quiet and shy ones and I would always make it a point to encourage them to write more by sharing something about myself too.
Journal Writing at Home
If your child does not get to do journal writing in school, you can create opportunities at home for him to do so. Bring your child to the bookshop to choose a spiral notebook. It helps to create the excitement to write if the book is chosen by your child. Now, get your child to write in the journal daily, on alternate days, or weekly. Establish a routine, make it fun by responding to what he has written, and soon it will become a habit for him to write in his journal regularly.
Some children might feel stuck in the beginning. Their minds might be as blank as the page in the journal book. If that is the case, allow your child to draw a picture before writing. Drawing is a great way for a child to focus his thoughts. Once he gets the drawing done, encourage him to write a few words, or one to two sentences about what he has drawn. You can also make use of writing prompts to help your child focus on a topic to write.
Do not be too anxious about getting your child to write long entries. Make it fun and without pressure. Your child will soon be looking forward to write in his journal.
Journal writing really works and is a great tool to develop a child’s writing skills!