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Journal Teaching Strategies

Janelle Cox

Journal writing is an excellent form of self-expression. Journals are a way students can process their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and emotions on paper. In this article you will learn how to incorporate journal writing into the classroom, as well as a few guidelines students should follow when keeping a class journal.

The Concept of Journaling

Journal writing has been used for many years in classrooms all over the world. Teachers use journaling in the classroom as a way for students to reflect upon their thinking, and connect information that they know, with what they learned.

For years, research has shown that journal writing is therapeutic, can help people reflect on their thoughts, and also deal with their emotions.

Journal writing also offers students the opportunity to have a place where they don't have to worry about their spelling and grammar, and be accepted as a writer without criticism. Although journals are never graded for grammar, they are known for helping students become better writers. This goes with the theory of “learn by doing.” When a child writes frequently, he or she gains fluency, which gives them the chance to practice important skills that can make them a better writer. 

How to Incorporate Journals into the Classroom

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Journals are a great way for teachers to see what their students are thinking, and they can be an excellent assessment tool as well. Here are a few ways you can incorporate journal writing into the classroom.

  • Use journals as a class start-up activity. When students enter the classroom, allow them time to reflect upon a personal goal or issue. They can also use their journal to respond to a writing prompt that is on the front board.
  • Summarize opinions before or after instruction. Give students the opportunity to write about their ideas, experiences, and what they know about the topic before you teach it. Journals can also be used to reflect upon what students have learned about the topic after it has been taught.
  • Create a personal journal. Personal journals allow students the freedom to write about whatever they wish. They can express their feelings, opinions, and emotions about any topic that interests them.
  • Create a dialogue journal. Dialogue journals are interactive journals between the teacher and student. Teachers can comment on what the student writes, and vice versa. This is a great way for teachers to learn about their students, while students get the opportunity to express themselves to their teacher in an informal way.
  • Double entry journal. Use a double entry journal to improve students' comprehension, and help them organize their thoughts. To create this type of journal, have students fold their paper in half. Then on the left side of the paper have them write down a phrase or sentence. On the right side of the paper is where they write their reaction to that passage.

Journal Guidelines

Have students following the guidelines below when keeping a journal in class.

  • If you are having trouble thinking about what to write in your journal, think about what you would possibly write as a status update on a social media site. Use this as your starting point.
  • Journals are not meant to be published. Remember that this is a place where you can explore your thoughts and ideas without any concern of someone's criticism.
  • If you like to write stories, or poems, it is OK to write them in your journal.
  • It's OK to break all of the rules in spelling and grammar. There is no right or wrong way to write something in your journal.
  • If you don't know how to spell a word, use this time as a learning strategy. Write the word as best as you can, or underline the word that you think you misspelled.
  • Write with a pen, marker, colored pencil, or whatever it is that you like. You can also add a drawing if you want to enhance your journal entry.
  • Date each journal entry, and write in your journal every day.
  • It's OK to go back and revise or add on to a journal entry if you feel you need to add a detail.
  • If you feel comfortable, be willing to share your journal entry with a friend, or classmate.

What strategies do you have for journal writing in the classroom? Share them with us in the comment section below. You never know, you may inspire someone!