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.
Journal Writing Exercises for Kids
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.
Goals for Parents and Teachers
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:
- It encourages kids to read and write with fluency and critical thinking skills.
- It allows children to practice using new vocabulary words that'll enhance their writing skills.
- It encourages children to formulate strong opinions. Through journaling, they'll have a chance to explore their thoughts and feelings, voicing their opinions in a controlled way.
- It increases confidence. The children learn to take pride in their writing and reasoning skills, as they develop a creation that is purely their own.
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.
What Do I Need to Get Started?
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.
Select the Right Supplies
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.
Select the Right Time
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.
Journal Writing Exercises for Kids
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:
- We just read about a boy who planted a seed and watched a flower bloom. Draw your own story about seeds or plants.
- It's snowing today. What do you like to do in the snow?
- Someone had a photo of their puppy at show and tell, what do you know about dogs?
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.
- When summer is coming, you can present worksheets with pictures of the sun or beach. The children can draw pictures and write a few words about the season.
- The students have music class today, use a picture of an instrument to steer them to draw and write about songs and music.
- The kids tried pumpkin pie. Did they love it or hate it? What's their favorite dessert? What's the strangest food you could put in a pie? In this exercise you can encourage them to express feelings or let their imagination run riot.
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.
- If you talked about the President yesterday, start the class with a prompt like, "If I were President, I would…".
- If they're learning about the solar system the prompt could be "Life on another planet."
- For a creative writing exercise, ask them to write about something they wish would happen or something they'd hate to happen.
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.
- To encourage creative thinking, ask the kids to describe a dream where they rediscovered a favorite childhood toy, or the time they saved their friends from…
- If you're reading a book as a class, ask students to reflect on a character and describe what they would do if they were in the character's shoes. Or did they like how the book ends, how could things have gone differently?
- To develop strong reasoning skills ask the kids to write about a person they admire or an invention/innovation that has changed lives.
The Truth Is…
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.