With schools closed because of the Coronavirus, educators are faced with figuring out how to keep kids learning while not burdening parents/guardians with overseeing detailed and complicated activities. In this article, we'll explore how journal writing inside the classroom AND outside the classroom can keep students engaged in writing! Plus, download a list of 33 Journal Writing Topics for Students to share with parents and students.
How To Keep Students Writing While Schools Are Closed Due to COVID-19
A few years ago, a student spoke to me about missing class for a couple weeks due to a family trip. What could she do to make up the work? After conferencing with her, it was decided that she would keep a writing journal about her travels. She was visiting China, Nepal, and India. She could capture the finer moments in each of those countries while producing authentic writing. The journal writing assignment ended up better than I imagined!
I propose we do something similar while schools are currently closed because of social distancing. Below are journal writing strategies and printable resources that teachers can provide parents and students either online or as hardcopies.
Teaching Journal Writing In The Classroom (And During Social Distancing)
Journal writing is an open-form type of writing that can be taught in the classroom. Journal writing can be informal which makes it popular with students, especially those who might not consider themselves writers. Teaching journal writing in the classroom as an open form of writing gives it the following qualities:
Illustrates human significance
Often in journal writing, the author speaks from personal experience highlighting the first person narrator. Journals often contain stories of significance – the author wants to capture a person, a scene, or an experience that left an impression with them. Journal writing has a natural audience with a purpose that ties to that audience.
Remind your students about the features of journal writing with this printable poster! It will add a great graphic to your classroom and support students as they practice multiple types of writing.
Benefits of Journal Writing for Students
There are numerous benefits of journal writing, including allowing students to gain new insights about a culture, problem, or event, providing individuals an outlet for recovery or reflection, and utilizing a life-long authentic writing skill for a specific purpose.
Journaling and journal prompts also allow students to put their grammar skills to practice while engaging in low-stakes writing. To enhance the benefits of journal writing, encourage students to experiment with new grammar skills in the context of their own writing. For example, if students are working on subject pronouns, plural, and possessive, they could answer a journal writing prompt about something they did with a friend. When they are done writing their journal entry, students can go back through their response and circle singular possessive pronouns, underline plural possessive pronouns, etc.
Education World interviewed various teachers who have made daily journal writing a staple in their curriculum. Read what they have to say about the expected and unexpected benefits of journal writing!
Printable Journal Writing Prompts For Students
If you can't make journal writing a daily practice in the classroom, start by dedicating two classroom starters a week to writing in journals. During times of distance learning (like the COVID-19 school closures) students can complete 2–3 journal writing assignments per week. To assist you in getting journal writing started, I've created a simple Journal WritingTemplate you can download for students! This is a great PDF printable for students to complete via Google Drive. Check out Vocab Gal's tutorial for converting PDFs so they can be completed online and submitted for grading.
To ensure students engage in different types of journal writing, teachers can alternate between free writing and journaling prompts.
With free writing, students are provided an opportunity to express themselves without the pressure of having to answer a question, complete a sentence, or tell a story. Free writing can also have incredible emotional benefits for students!
With journal writing prompts, students are provided a variety of questions and sentence starters to start their journal entry. For some students this takes away the pressure of having to choose a writing topic and allows them to just freely write.