Try journal writing with your child to improve mechanics, grammar and vocabulary

Many teachers ask their students to write in journals daily for a few minutes. Often it is at the start of the writing lesson, while the teacher readies herself for the lesson.

But journal writing needn’t be restricted to the classroom. Journal writing during homework time can achieve many of the same results as writing during the school day.

  • boy writing on a window benchStudents can improve the mechanics of their writing. Capitalization, punctuation, use of apostrophes, use of quotation marks—all can improve through regular journal writing. When the child has completed her five or ten minutes of journal writing, the parent can remind the child to check if her sentences begin with capitals or if she has remembered to spell there/their/they’re correctly. This reminder can be given for a week, and then the next week the reminder can be about another aspect of writing which the child is learning.
  • By writing daily in a journal, the child can gain confidence using certain kinds of writing, such as dialog, extended sentences, or prepositional phrases. Before the child begins her journal writing homework, the parent could say that she wants the child to begin each sentence with a prepositional phrase or to include dialog in her writing. Later, the parent could ask the child to check that the end-of-sentence period is inside the quotation marks.
  • child writing in sleeping bagIf the child allows the parent to read the journal, the child could be encouraged to write a question mark or even a question to the parent asking about something she has tried to write. For example, the child might have tried to use a new vocabulary word, and might want to know if she used it correctly or spelled it correctly. The parent could write a note in the journal to let her know if she succeeded, establishing a dialog between a beginning writer and a more experienced writer.
  • In her journal, the child might relate a private thought which she might not have the confidence to say aloud. She might write about a bullying situation or a curse word used by a classmate. Journals can open discussions about sensitive issues.
  • Sometimes the parent might suggest an open-ended sentence to write about. “If I saw my brother doing something unsafe, like ________, I would. . .” or “The reason I don’t like ________  is because . . .”

To encourage a child to write in a journal, the parent might say that she is going to write in a journal at the same time. The parent might read aloud her journal entry or might say, “Not tonight,” providing the child with permission not to share her writing. Or the parent might give the child her journal entry to read aloud or privately.

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