6 benefits of journal writing for elementary students, plus some ideas for making writing lists to spark kids imaginations.
Daily writing in a relaxed format provides a
non-threatening way to be able to explore different thoughts, ideas and
topics without being concerned about audience presentation.
Students need to be given ample opportunities to write because there is much value in writing every day.
Teachers who provide daily practice in responding to journal prompts produce confident writers. This doesn't happen overnight. You have to build up your students stamina for writing.
At the beginning of the year my second graders can barely write for more than 5 minutes before they think they're done (with one sentence!).
Fast forward to May: they write for 20 minutes and produce multiple paragraphs that are laser targeted and include descriptive language. They love it.
We enjoy what we are good at, and we need students to feel confident in their writing abilities.
A critical first step: Build up the excitement for writing.
It's a small thing, but so many students love it when their teacher gives them a journal. It might be just a bound spiral notebook from the store, but to a child it's pure magic.
Tip: Start with drawing a picture instead of adding one after writing. This helps many struggling writers to develop their concept or theme before putting words on the paper. You will be surprised how successful this little change can be!
How often do you have a child who just cannot think of anything to write? This is the ideal time to make a list. Some brainstorming ideas are:
These brainstorming lists can turn into fully developed topics at a later time. Also, a list is certainly a worthwhile writing skill for students to develop!
Builds Student Confidence
Struggling writers absolutely must have opportunities to build their confidence in their writing skills. If they are assessed on every piece they write, they won't want to take risks.
Don't we want our students to apply what we teach them? Of course, and they need practice time without recrimination. Present a mini-lesson on one specific skill before you begin your writing sessions, encourage the students to apply the skill, and then step back and allow them to try.
Research shows it takes at least 28 repetitions of a concept or skill before it is actually solidified in the brain.
Allows the Teacher to Gain Student Insight
Teachers can learn much about their students' development as writers, the stages of spelling they are in and are able to pinpoint weaker areas students may need mini-lessons on.
As well, a journal is often the only place some children will reveal their thoughts, feelings and opinions about what really matters to them.
This emotional connection is not to be taken lightly or overlooked as it can be the foundational building block for meeting the needs of certain students.
A Safe Haven for Beginning Writers
Even non-writers can journal through drawing. Young students can illustrate their responses to prompts and try using labels to show what is happening. After drawing, a teacher can write down what the child tells him or her about the picture.
Students who are just beginning to gain confidence in writing sentences know a journal is a safe place to try new ideas, apply learned spelling strategies and be able to "mess up" without it counting against them.
Indirect Growth in Grammar and Mechanics
By going back and re-reading previous entries, students can begin to self-diagnose their writing skills. They tend to notice their own errors and begin applying new strategies and rules.
The more this is done, the more of a habit it becomes. Of course, if you see a student consistently making the same error, you need to intervene and provide some quick, targeted mini-lessons.
Helps Some Students to Deal with Issues
By paying attention to what is written in a journal, teachers can be more aware of what is really happening outside of school to our students.
Journal writing is cathartic, and often a student will write about something he or she would never say. Getting it on paper alone is very helpful, but for some issues it may be the only warning sign we get that a student needs help.
A Fun Way to Practice Writing to a Prompt
In the age of accountability, it is critical that our students be able to write to a prompt. Daily writing lessons are the best way to increase this skill, and fun prompts can make it seem like it is not work at all.
Learning should be fun - it opens the brain up to receive new information and retrieve stored information.
Don't forget to allow your students an opportunity to share, if they
want to. Most children love to sit in the Author's Chair and read aloud
their entries to the class.
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