Personal Student Writing Aids in Retention and Learning
So you have thought about having your students keep a journal?
Not sure how to go about it? Or you want to do it, but you are
not exactly sure what it will accomplish?
Keeping a Journal is a great learning tool. It is a way to get
students to write down what they think, see, or hear and to promote
both learning and thinking about a subject. Often this is a way
for teachers and parents to help the student learn to self direct
their own learning. Students often write more and more often about
the things that they are interested in, and by facilitating this
type of learning, the student often learns more effectively.
Students will often write about things of personal interest. They will write
what they imagine, what they know, and it's a great way to foster
interconnections between what they know, and what they are learning.
Using journals fosters thinking and learning in a lot of different
ways. Students who learn to journal and keep a journal on a regular
basis have the opportunity to reflect upon what they are engaged
in every day. Thinking in a reflective manner is a great way to
learn to think and speak more clearly, to be more precise, and
more actively aware of what ones own thoughts and ideas consist
Journals are great for thoughts, feelings, ideas, expressions,
things they have heard, things they have seen, expressions about
how all these things are connected, or how they contrast.
Using a journal is a fantastic learning tool. It is most effective
if it is used throughout the day, at different times, where the
student can access and record thoughts on the run, without having
to stop and think deeply before writing. Having an opportunity
to write down thoughts as they occur to the student is a big help
in helping the student feel comfortable and at ease with journal
An important concept in the process of journal keeping is that
the student has to feel safe. Many teachers report that when they
allow students to write with freedom, without any grading of any
sort, that it is then that the real benefit of journal writing
is seen. Journals are a way for a student to share as an individual,
and each entry is very much the product of that individual.
No two people journal the same. And no two entries are the same
Having your students Journal is a good move, but there are different
types of journals, and journal keeping for different purposes.
As a teacher, think about what type of journal you want to have
students keep. Give some thought about what the purpose of the
journal will be, the length of time you want your students to
actively keep a journal, and also what and how the journal can
be used to promote classroom learning.
Then, prepare your supplies and materials. Some teachers provide
loose-leaf notebooks and ruled paper, so that the journal is as
brief or as expansive as the individual students want to make
Some instructors encourage drawing pictures, especially in early
grades K-6. This allows for a lot of expression in a tactile way,
many children are able to express in a drawing things they cannot
find words to convey. This has to be done cautiously, because
one of the main roles of journal keeping is to promote literacy,
written recording of thoughts and ideas. Drawing and sketching
is great, but at times some students see it as Carte' blanche
to not actually WRITE anything.
One way to get started is to write a few examples on the board,
or use PowerPoint or some other method of displaying. This method
of modeling can help students understand the format and the kind
of responses to be considering as they write.
Put aside time in the school day for journal writing. Make sure
that on a daily basis there is a section of time set aside solely
for journal writing.
Normally at least 15 minutes, 30 minutes is perhaps better. Longer
amounts of time do work at times, but especially for young writers,
longer amounts of time can be a little overwhelming, and young
students sometimes struggle with long amounts of time in journaling.
Decide what YOUR involvement will be. While its best not to grade
journal entries, you may consider commenting, or offering positive
remarks, upbeat questions, and encouragement.
It's a fine line, but most teachers are in tune with their students
enough to know how to approach each student individually. Positive
comments, remarks, and a well placed question at times helps students
to focus on what they think, observe,
Last, think about the topic. Some students and learners are reluctant
to write at all, or they see a journal as an assignment akin to
a logbook. They journal ONLY what they see or do each day it often
its not only a dry read but a non-starter in the way of real learning.
Sometimes a suggested topic to help guide observations and thinking
is a very effective tool. Give a topic that is similar or related
to what is being studied, to help evoke a variety of responses
in observation and to guide the learning in a positive vein. Encourage
students to explore a different area or concept that is directly
related to the subject or learning at hand.
There are a lot of different approaches to journaling. No one
way or the other is best for all situations, or all students.
Or, no one approach is good for all teachers for that matter.
Having your student's journal is one way to help them participate,
and self direct their own learning. Nothing is as rewarding as
seeing that special look that comes into a students eyes when
you know they just realized what you are trying to get them to
And, effective journaling is one method to help "turn that switch"