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Effectiveness in Journal Writing

Students writing in journals in class

Journal writing can be done in many ways. Some teachers allow students to write freely about whatever comes to their mind, while some provide writing prompts. Some teachers read every journal entry and others read only excerpts from student writing. Other teachers may not read anything to allow opportunities for students to write about whatever they want without fear of judgment. Some teachers correct the writing skills of the students and some don’t. However you decide to include journal writing in your classroom, many teachers have found there is immense value in journaling.  

Journals Improve Writing Skills and Student Focus

A special-education teacher in Canajoharie has her students begin each class with a journal writing activity. She believes that is helps her students that have difficulty with language arts to have a positive writing experience every day that lets them express themselves without the usual pressure of perfect writing. Even though she chooses to not check the students’ entries for grammar and spelling mistakes, she has found that her students use much better grammar than they did in the beginning of the year thanks to the writing practice they receive each morning.

Journal writing also helps get students focused on English class each morning. They know their routine to grab their journals and start writing right away. It is a great way to get students calm and ready to transition into the day’s activities.

Journaling Improves Student Teacher Relationships

A fourth-grade teacher from Pasadena, Maryland does journal writing every morning from day one to the last. She, like most teachers, chooses to keep the journals strictly confidential between the teacher and the student. These daily journal entries help her develop a personal relationship with her students. There is open communication between her and her students that would have never happened otherwise.  

Confidentiality is the key to successful daily journaling. It provides students an unconscious way to improve their writing skills and it gives them a safe space to let out anything that is bothering them in a healthy way. If they know that their writing won’t be shown to anyone else or read out loud, they will share amazing things.

Getting Students Excited to Write

Many teachers opt for the prompt writing. This gives students who don’t know what to write about, a head start. Other teachers go a little beyond that and will cater to a students’ individual interests. Teachers will write something personal in each student’s journal and the student will respond. It’s like a written down conversation by the end of the year.  For younger kids, it might be simple questions like: What is your parents’ phone numbers? What is your address? What’s your favorite thing to do at home? Motivating students to write starts with having them write about what they want to write about.

Here’s Some Writing Prompts!

 

HIGH SCHOOL PROMPTS

  • Should cameras on drones watch all public spaces to prevent crime, or is that a violation of privacy?
  • Do Americans have it too easy? Why do you think that?
  • What causes racism?
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hires you as a consultant to determine how best to use $20 billion to save the world. What’s your plan?
  • What’s the worst thing about the internet?
  • Now that you are a teenager, that is the greatest challenge you have faced?
  • How much control over your life do you have? What makes you say that?
  • What is the most important thing that someone has told you? How did it make you feel?
  • What would your friends say is your most lovable quality? Describe that quality.
  • What is something scary that you would like to try? What makes it scary for you? How might you overcome that fear?
  • What career are you best suited for? Write about one or two professions where you would excel.
  • By age 18, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders. What is it about television violence that is so compelling to people?
  • Would you rather be loved or respected? Because?
  • Is it important for students to learn in a physical classroom today, or is an online classroom just as good?

 

MIDDLE SCHOOL PROMPTS

  • Which classmate would be the best to lead us through a zombie apocalypse? Why?
  • What does it feel like to be wrong?
  • What does it mean to be a feminist?
  • If the internet were to crash forever, what would the benefits be for you? The drawbacks?
  • Write a scene that features a) a classmate, b) $100 million, and c) magical shoes.
  • Write a poem about your favorite activity or hobby.
  • Is your ethnicity an important part of your identity? How so?
  • You get to take one book, one food item, and one famous person (living or dead) to a deserted island. What and who do you take? Why?
  • Write a powerfully supportive email to yourself 10 years from now. Send that email to yourself using FutureMe.org.
  • You have been selected to be king or queen of your school. What are five rules that every kid should follow at your school? What should the punishment be for rule breakers?
  • Do you make friends slowly or quickly? Describe how one of your important friendships evolved.
  • Are you the last person to speak up in a group or the first to have an idea? Why do you think that is?
  • If a wizard could tell you anything about your future, what would you most like to know?

 

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PROMPTS

  • I wish my teachers knew that . . .
  • What’s the most beautiful person, place, or thing you’ve ever seen? Share what makes that person, place, or thing so special.
  • Which is better, giant muscles or incredible speed? Why?
  • What is your most difficult subject in school? Why is it difficult? What can you do to get better at that subject?
  • What’s the best thing to do on a snow day?
  • What would you do if you were in the circus?
  • Who’s your favorite superhero? Why?
  • You wake up tomorrow with a silly superpower that makes you famous. What is that silly power?
  • What are examples of things you want versus things you need?
  • I wish my friends . . .
  • Describe a how you get ready in the morning.
  • What things do all kids know that adults do not?
  • What TV or movie characters do you wish were real? Why?
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