“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
— Anne Frank
At BIS, we follow the highly-effective Talk for Writing approach in English lessons, which enables children to write independently for a variety of audiences and purposes. This half term, it has been wonderful to see the Year 3 and Year 4 students planning and writing entire stories with creativity and confidence. However, writing does not come naturally to everyone. As well as being the last language skill to develop, it is generally the hardest to master. The good news is that writing can be developed through regular practice. Just as reading at home strengthens young readers’ skills and builds vocabulary, so too can writing.
Writing for pleasure in a personal notebook is known as ‘journaling’. It provides a range of benefits, not just academically but also in terms of social and emotional development. The most straightforward way to keep a journal is simply to record the events and emotions of the day. However, journaling can cover any topic at all.
‘Prompted journaling’ involves giving the child an interesting question or mini-task to work on, usually independently, but sometimes with adult support. There are hundred of ideas available online by searching ‘journaling prompts for children’, but here are a few examples:
- How would you spend the perfect day?
- What makes a good friend / pet / teacher?
- Describe yourself using ten adjectives.
- Write a description of a character from a book you enjoyed.
It is important to foster a sense of enthusiasm for writing, and it should not feel like extra homework or a chore. Therefore, aim to choose topics that engage your child. For example, if they enjoy science and the natural world, they could keep a journal about animals. If they enjoy songs and poems, they could keep a poetry journal. Importantly, journaling can be done either in English, your home language, or both.
Here are my top ten tips for successful journalling with children:
- Build journaling into your child’s evening or weekend routine (20 – 30 minutes is sufficient)
- Create a quiet, comfortable, well-lit writing area free from distractions
- Let your child pick out a notebook they like and let them decorate the cover
- Put writing prompts in a special box or jar which your child can pick out randomly
- Get your child to say sentences aloud before writing them down (this is called ‘oral rehearsal’)
- Provide a thesaurus and encourage your child to use more sophisticated words
- Praise creativity, effort and expression before focussing on the accuracy of spelling and grammar
- Encourage your child to take pride in the neat presentation of their work
- Let your child illustrate their journal entries after they have finished writing
- Give stickers or points which can lead to rewards such as a new book or stationery
You can read more about the benefits of journaling in this article. There are 300 fun writing prompts on this website.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and that you will try journaling at home over the weekend or half term break. If you need any tips on writing at home, speak to your child’s class teacher.
John Lee, EAL Teacher and English Subject Leader