First draft chapter of my dissertation just handed in, research study now underway so I’ve got writing journals well and truly on the brain! Here’s a quick run down of what they are and why you might want to give them a go when your children complain that ‘writing is boring’…
A writing journal is basically a notebook or folder dedicated to children’s independent text making- with total freedom over what and how they write.
The journal sessions I am running for my research have with the following rules which the children agree to:
- I can choose what to write about and how I write it in my writing journal.
- I can choose to draw in my journal alongside my writing.
- I can choose to write with friends or on my own.
- I can choose where to sit when its writing journal time. (will see how long this rule stays in!!!)
- I can choose whether to share my writing with my class.
- I will listen to other people’s writing and be respectful.
Writing journal entries are not marked or responded to with written comments by the teacher (imagine!!) and time is allocated on a weekly basis for the whole class to journal usually for around half an hour depending on age group. Writing journals have been trialled through case studies and action research projects from Reception right through to Year 6.
These are the benefits:
- children’s autonomy over their writing- including children choosing to redraft and edit when appropriate
- children writing in a range of genres
- children discovering their voice and identity as writers
- fostering a strong writing community
- increased enjoyment, confidence and engagement in writing
- the opportunity to write for an extended period of time
- marked progress in writing ability as measured by CLPE writing scales for many children (for more on this see Graham and Johnson, 2003/ 2012)
A few useful ideas:
Spend a session negotiating ground rules for journaling and giving children some ideas about what and how they might write before you get going, they could also be given some time to decorate their journals at this point to personalise them and give them a feeling of ownership.
Some teachers journal along with their children! Sounds scary but children then see you as a writer along with them and it gives real value to what they are doing.
If you want to read more, the UKLA do a minibook – Children’s Writing Journals by Graham and Johnson. Go to www.ukla.org/ publications and search for minibook series, there’s lots of other good ones there too and as the name suggests they don’t take too long to read but are packed full of good ideas and some theory behind them.