An article in Education World, titled Journal Writing Everyday: Teachers Say it Really Works! reminded me of my days in grade school. I too journaled everyday for the first few minutes of language arts class. I even remember my teacher saying, "If you don't have anything to write, just write 'I don't have anything to write' until something comes to mind." As a former language arts teacher, I didn't have my students journal daily. However, I did have them participate in free writing exercises or brainstorming sessions fairly regularly depending on assignment. Do you think that journal writing is a valuable tool to use in the classroom? What are some of the pros and cons of this activity for struggling writers?
I enjoyed reading the article on journal writing. It covered many of my opinions on using journal writing as a tool for student expression and classroom management. As a high school English teacher, I used journal writing in many of my classes. It was a way for students to respond to homework assignments, free write on topics of interest, share thoughts about their daily lives, and so much more.
I learned as much about my students from reading their journals as I did from observing and communicating with them during the class periods. They appreciated the time I took to read their ideas and respond to them individually. I sometimes corrected their spelling and/or grammatical errors or made suggestions on ways they could improve their writing.
The journal writing counted a small percentage of each student's final grade for each grading period. However, the journals had a point value as opposed to a letter grade. I provided a rubric for the students to know how their journals were scored. If they completed all the journal entries, then they received the maximum number of points, and this could really help the grades of those who were struggling with other assignments.
An interesting variation on journal writing is to have each student start an entry on any subject and write for a short amount of time. The next day the students exchange their writing from the previous day, and someone else adds to their entry. This process can be repeated for a week if desired. It's interesting to see the responses students share with their peers. It adds variety to the writing exercise, increases student responsibility for the thoughts they share, and offers a comfortable environment for students to write collaboratively.
Since a letter grade was never associated with this activity, struggling writers did their best and received equal points for equal effort!
I encourage teachers in all disciplines to consider using journal writing as a classroom tool. It's not just an activity for language arts teachers. Writing on a variety of subjects helps students develop their writing skills, enhances their ability to think, and teaches them how to organize and express their ideas using written communication.
Hi Lynne Hoffman,
I've used journal writing as a teacher and as an Adult Literacy Tutor. I think it helped the students because it gave them more practice writing. I have two resource books I use for journal writing. They are Oodles of JOURNAL IDEAS (PCI Educational Publishing,1997) and ELP ESSENTIAL LEARNING PRODUCTS Teacher-Tested Ideas for WRITING From Teaching K-8 (2002).