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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Learning task 1: Journal writing

  1. Brainstorm ideas on why people write. Write down all the different types of writing they know, eg. shopping lists, notes, stories, reports etc. Beside each type of writing give a reason for the writing:

    • Shopping list - to buy the correct items at the shop.
    • Notes - to excuse the child from sport.

    Look at the importance of the reader in all types of writing. Discuss and steer the children towards the idea that writing is communication between the author and the reader.

  2. Write a list of favourite authors and books. Ask why do these authors write, eg. to tell stories, communicate, entertain.
    Ask what do we know about these authors? Can we find out about them and why they write? Would they have good ideas for helping us as "budding authors"?

    The following book has many known New Zealand authors and has comments from the authors. Some are too difficult for the children to understand but others give a good insight into why and how they write, eg. Jennifer Beck, Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley.

    Fitzgibbon Tom, with Spiers Barbara (1993) Beneath Southern Skies New Zealand Children's Book Authors and Illustrators. Ashton Scholastic, Auckland

  3. Getting started with journal writing will need the teacher to explain the difference between a diary and a journal (RTF 178KB) . A diary is a record of actions or what they have done. A journal is a record of reactions. A journal is mostly about the student and as such is writing about themselves, their ideas, thoughts, dreams and opinions.

    Explain to the students they can write in prose, poetry or occasionally draw illustrations. As long as the journal entry reflects some thoughts or ideas of the writer it can be included.

    Allow students ownership of their journal. It is private between them and the teacher. Sometimes they will have written about things they don't want anyone to read, [including the teacher] and the teacher must respect this. Students will label such writing.

    Journals are never marked for spelling, punctuation etc. The teacher can comment by responding in some positive or constructive way to the student's writing eg sympathising with their feelings, suggesting other ideas or just commenting on the mood of the writing.

    Provide students opportunities to write in their journals. It could be 10 mins of a writing lesson once a week or for a few minutes each day.

    Students will be asked to evaluate their journal writing once or twice a term. From their journals they will select a piece of writing to present in their portfolio. This piece of writing will be reshaped so that it can be shared with others.

  4.  After discussing the concept of journal writing give each child a prompts (RTF 20KB) . Teacher models journal writing by recording in their own personal journal. Compare it with a pre-written diary entry. Discuss with the students the difference and discuss how well you, as the writer, have conveyed thoughts and ideas. For the first week attempt journal writing every day, with the teacher modeling and monitoring the student's progress. Students may want to share their journal writing with the class.

    Over the next few weeks use journal writing when appropriate and allow the children opportunities to write in their journals in their own time. Use journal prompts for students who have difficulties coming up with ideas.

    Refer the children to the revise (RTF 23KB) and self_assessment (RTF 390KB) sheet. Model initial reshaping of a journal entry. Talk aloud your thoughts so the children can see how you change your work.

    Discuss changing names to protect the identity of people in the piece of writing. Let them see you work through the process changing your ideas and thoughts several times. Establish the idea that a piece of work full of editing changes is what we aim for, at this stage, not a perfect copy.

    Allow latitude in presenting the work as the children try out different methods for publishing, eg. shaped pieces, small books, word processed etc.

    When the work is published ask the child to fill in the self-evaluation sheet. Stress the importance of evaluating both the journal and the published piece of writing. The first part of the evaluation is asking the child to examine and analyse their journal writing over a period of time. The second is looking at just one piece of published work. The reason for choosing the portfolio piece will have been modelled first by the teacher. This will give the children ideas and help them choose their first piece.

Published on: 23 May 2009