Tonya Wright from Literacy Connections writes about young preschoolers who aren’t yet able to write – but can journal. She suggests that journaling can be used as a starting point for literacy. By taking away the constraints of spelling rules, lined paper, writing with pencil while seated at a desk or table…and giving the children freedom to create, will make writing an enjoyable activity instead of a difficult task.
Journaling isn't just for preschoolers though. It can be made appropriate for any child, at any age. First get the students excited about journaling by having them create their own journal book. The book can be make from simple construction paper to more elaborate types of handmade books. Although Wright suggests avoiding lined paper for the very young, an already bound composition-type book with space to draw pictures would also work. (Just because there are lines doesn't mean that we have to use them.) An easy how-to from the Kansas Public Library is here.
Dollar store priced black and white composition books can also be used – and it is pretty easy to alter by making a cover or adding pictures, stickers and drawings, as my son’s teacher Jay Sarath encourages his third-grade students:
For parents, there are so many journals available in stores or online, journaling has lost it's negative "girlie" diary connotations with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and other deconstructive type journals such as Wreck this Journal. Having a place to record ideas, thoughts, and feelings is another way to encourage spontaneous literacy.
Making Room to Write
Where students write is important too – in the reading corner or at the craft station, wherever they feel comfortable will inspire them. And that also means, use any available medium – from markers to crayons. Don’t forget to date journal entries – as it is a great way for teachers, parents and child to see progress!
Writing Without Rules
Allowing the children to spell inventively and phonetically is an important part of the writing process. As any "real-life" author will admit, during the idea-generating step, writers don't pay attention to grammar, punctuation or even complete sentences. We should allow students this step also. So parents and teachers stay hands-off – no correcting allowed. If a child asks to dictate to you, oblige, following their instructions (even if you disagree). Allow the children to use pictures, if they choose to avoid using words, to communicate.
For older students, they can use their journal as a starting point to their own story-telling or creative writing. The can choose one entry and add details, dialogue, and action – and the often-cited hardest part of writing: thinking of an idea becomes the easiest part.
"Publishing" Journals Creates an Audience
The final step to the writing process is a form of "publishing," and even young journal writers can benefit from an audience for their journals. This can be anything from a group sharing to inviting parents and guardians to a class reading.