Journal Writing

Effective with students of all ages

  • Reinforces writing skills
  • Provides opportunities to experiment with different writing styles and formats
  • Develops communication skills through written language
  • Reinforces English language structures

Learning logs

  1. Generally, students keep learning logs in their content area classes.
  2. During the last 5 to 10 minutes of a class, students write in their logs.
    • Students may:
      • Summarize the lesson
      • React to class activities and discussions
      • Ask questions about things they did not understand or are not sure they understand
      • Link new knowledge with prior knowledge
      • Reflect on what they have learned
      • Identify problems they are having in understanding the material
  3. Teachers read an reply to the learning logs. They…
    • Answer questions
    • Direct students to resources
    • Discuss with student
  4. Students
  5. can share their learning logs in pairs or small groups or with the whole class. They can help each other answer questions and solve problems that are raised.

Dialogue journals

Reading response journal

Atwell (1987) believed that students’ written responses to reading show more reflection than their discussions because writing gives them more time to think and consider their responses.

  1. Explain that using a response journal is similar to writing letters back and forth except that you focus on responses to what you have read. A reading response journal is a place to share your ideas, express your feelings, and ask questions about what you have read.
  2. Show the students a reading response journal; read to them a few of the student’s writings and the teacher’s responses. Explain that the student then responds to the teacher’s response, if appropriate, and adds more to his/her journal.
  3. Suggest possible content for them to write about, such as:
    • What you liked and disliked about the selection and why.
    • What you wish had happened.
    • Your opinion of the characters.
    • Your opinion of the illustrations, tables, and figures.
    • What you felt when you read.
    • Questions you have after reading.

Students may write either as they are reading or after they are finished, but should understand that their response should not be a retelling of the story. Students may write in their journals 2 or 3 times a week, depending on the teacher’s schedule for responding to each journal.

Student-teacher dialogue journals

These journals are interactive and cumulative and can be on any topic that the student or teacher initiates. Because these journals are an ongoing collection of communication exchanges, they are like having an extended conversation between teacher and student, something that is not always possible in the classroom because of time constraints. The teacher or student can respond to an entry or ignore it and move on to another topic, just as in a casual face-to-face conversation. The frequency of this journal writing depends on the amount of time that elapses between responses—similar to social letter writing or social communications through email.

Buddy journals

Buddy journals are dialogue journals in which students write back and forth to each other. It is a natural way to read and write providing a purpose and a personally meaningful context as students interact socially through writing.

Students select their own topics and write about anything they think is appropriate. Buddy journals are not evaluated or graded by the teacher. In these journals students ask and answer questions, share experiences and feelings, discuss ideas, and develop relationships with one another.

Character journals

In these journals, students assume the personality of a character in a story or book they are reading or the teacher is reading to them. They write entries about the character’s experiences and feelings from the character’s perspective. They write about how the character feels about events that occurred in the story, how the character feels about other people in the story, and how the character changes in the course of the story or book.