Journaling is an important part of an English Language Curriculum. Allowing students to write about something that interests them is a key way to increase writing and engagement in the classroom. However, we know that some students need extra support putting pen to paper and maintaining interest in the writing process. Here are 8 strategies to help all learners find success in their journaling.
1.) Provide a prompt. Lots of students struggle with figuring out what to write about. Providing a prompt is an easy way to start getting their ideas flowing. You can write a prompt on the board and/or start the first sentence for them.
An example of a prompt would be, “If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?”
An example of a sentence starter would be, “The day that I go my superpowers started as any normal day would. I got out of bed and…”
A final way to give a prompt is to use a video prompt. John Spencer had a series of great free ones that can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLzDOGMsmDvev9eeJeNUAJx7N8SOGLRwMJ
2.) Provide a graphic organizer. This could be something as simple as a Venn Diagram, a KWL chart, a brainstorming page, or something else. Check out 5 creative graphic organizers to get your students writing.
3.) Let them talk it out first. Some students are stronger talkers than writers and allowing them to talk out what they are going to write first can help them get their thoughts organized. Simply provide the prompt, let them think about what they might write about, then have them turn to a neighbour and tell the neighbour what they are going to write about. Once both students have had a chance to talk it out, they can begin individually writing.
4.) Use fill in the blank journals. For some students, the emphasis is to just get them writing and completing work to build confidence and the habit of completing assignments. For these students, using fill-in the blank journals can be a great way to get students starting to write and build confidence in their writing. For these, the majority of the writing has already been done and students just need to fill in the blanks with a word or two to complete the sentences. Check out these FREE fill-in the blank journal resources here.
5.) Build it into a routine. Many students thrive on routine. They like the predictability that routine gives. Carve the journaling time into a routine that is done at the same time every day. This will provide a nice, calm, quiet time to help students regulate as well as strengthen their writing skills. Have students write in silence for a set amount of time, usually 10-20 minutes.
6.) Let them write about what they want to write about. For some students, the prompt will be integral to get their creative juices flowing. For other students, they already know what they want to write about and just need to be given the chance to do it. Or they may still be wanting to write about a prompt from a few days ago. Provide the prompt, but don’t force students to write about it if their inspiration is pulling them in another way.
7.) Make it special. We all know the students that love their coloured pens and their fancy books. Let students bring in their own fancy journals or let them decorate their workbooks to make it their own. Have them bring in, or offer, special journal writing pens that are sacred to that time.
8.) Have them compete against themselves. Journaling is all about letting creative juices fly and getting words onto the page. Journals should not be collected and marked based on conventions. This is all about getting words on the page. Have students track how many words that they write per week to see their increase in writing fluency over time.
Want more? Check out Everything You Need for a Rocking Writing Routine