Getting children to write in their journals may not always be easy, but with some targeted journal writing exercises, you'll soon be able to get kids excited about writing.
Some teachers ask their students to go home from school and reflectively write about their experiences during the day. Some parents encourage their children to journal as a way to practice their writing skills. No matter the intent, journaling has a wealth of benefits.
Journal writing encourages creative thinking, strengthens problem-solving skills, and offers moments of reflection. In this way, new teachings and observations can be fully absorbed.
Here are some of the most basic benefits of regular journaling:
You can foster these skills in your children or students today by introducing them to the power of journal writing. You might even want to keep your own journal in order to model good practices.
Before you begin, make sure your child or students have the supplies they need, as well as a set routine. Take a moment to talk about the activity. Explain the benefits that will come from journaling, focusing on the creativity, self-awareness, storytelling, and opportunities for reflection.
Make sure your child or students have a notebook and appropriate writing tool. Some may like to use a laptop but you want to encourage them to keep their writing in a notebook — it's convenient and, importantly in a classroom setting, it’s cost effective. It may also be fun for them to decorate the notebook and make it more personal.
The writing tool will depend on the age group you're working with. The general progression will be crayons, pencils, pens. Whatever the tool, the goal is to encourage free writing. That is, it won't be restricted by perfect grammar, spelling, or penmanship.
Set a consistent time each day as the time for journaling. This will ingrain it into the daily routine and get the kids into the habit of writing without thinking about it.
If you're doing this at home with your kids, a good time might be immediately after dinner. You can ask your children to write about something new they learned today, or something surprising or frustrating.
If you're using journaling in the classroom, the start of class is generally a good time. Make it a concrete part of the routine so that students know to come in, take out their notebooks, and journal for a few, quiet minutes. Have a prompt written on the board to help beat writer’s block.
Journaling exercises will vary, based on the age level you're working with. The goal is always the same though: encourage children to reflect, ask questions and get creative. Writing prompts are a good way to stop the kids becoming frustrated.
At any age they can describe their favorite thing about that day or write a short story to share with a parent or sibling at bedtime.
Here's a sampling of exercises that can be completed at each grade level.
For preschoolers, a journal can be as simple as a few pieces of printer paper folded over. Encourage the children to draw with crayons, they’re best for those still developing fine-motor skills.
Offer prompts like:
When they’re done ask them to tell you about their drawing and write down the story using their own words.
For K-2 students, it might be nice to pre-prepare a journal. Instead of expecting them to pull out a blank notebook and start writing, you can prepare pages with pictures for prompts.
Come third, fourth, and fifth grade, you can encourage the children to write more in-depth entries and try different styles of writing. Still, have plenty of prompts ready to guide them.
Middle school is a wonderful time to encourage journaling skills to flourish. Here, imaginations can soar with creative prompts. Critical thinking will also be fostered with contemplative prompts.
Often, the more children write, the more they seem to want to do it. Since reading and writing go hand in hand, it will also be rewarding to know you're encouraging strong vocabulary and grammar skills. Start your kids with short journal entries today and watch them become more eager to write over time.