Not only are they working- we know the students more closely, they know themselves more closely and the standard of writing and fluency has already improved!
These were the steps we took:
1. Gave them a dedicated journal book with NOT TOO MANY PAGES!
2. Showed them what journalling looks like. I took in my I-PAD journal and gave them a look at how I use the Note-shelf app to keep a locked journal with both words and pictures I draw. In a couple of weeks I will re-invigorate the process by showing them older print journals I have and talking to them about how re-reading them helps us to know ourselves.
3. One child rings the gong and we write for 7 minutes. The children do not share- they can write words, draw pictures about ANYTHING. I tell them that a journal is NOT a diary. It is not just for recording events although they may be in there. It is more about our feelings, perceptions, dreams for our life and is therefore written at a deeper level. We are examining our thoughts and feelings within our journals.
To be honest I thought I would meet with more opposition but so far so good! We do give possible topics e.g. This week is Halloween so they might want to write about something scary, or they can write anything they like. Quite often we will actually model the process in front of them. Last week it was Deepavali celebration so we encouraged children to write about people who are shining lights in their lives. Many of the children selected that option but some of them had other issues to explore and we gave them the freedom to do that.
Try this with your own children at home or with your class. I have used it with students from approximately 4 -16 years with great success. The important thing is to let them know you will be reading their journals and writing back to them. If you do not say this NEVER look in their journals. Some of the older children ask if they can staple paper over their entries so we do not see certain private things. That is fine and we never violate their privacy. Most children LOVE to have comments, questions and reactions to what they are expressing. I find some of them have even started asking us questions so they can get to know us better!
I was working with five rather honest girls last night (7-10 years) and after they finished their journal writing one boldly asked, “Whose idea was this- to get us to write in journals?” “Mine!” I answered waiting for the sharp words that often follow such a question!
We LOVE them, answered the children and then they all told me how they love the little books, writing down their thoughts and reading what we write back to them. This sort of approval is pretty hard to come by so go for it- it might work for your kids as well!