When I looked at my youngest son’s summer packet of work for First Grade, I saw a note from his Kindergarten teacher suggesting we spend time this summer using his sight words in sentences. Immediately, I thought of having my son journal a few of our day trips during the summer and write a few short notes to his grandparents. Since the teacher had also sent home my son’s journals and handwriting practice book, I didn’t need to buy another book for our journaling project.
Journaling is a tried and true method for practicing handwriting and learning how to write sentences and paragraphs. If you go beyond the traditional method of journaling to include the visual arts, you’ll keep reluctant writers more interested. Ultimately, your goal as a parent to encourage your kids to learn to communicate clearly and concisely in written form. Good writers are born through practice. Elementary kids practice through playing with their words.
Getting Started with Journaling
1. Use a timer, especially if your child is reluctant to write.
If they’re struggling with letter formation, keeping the sessions short and daily will keep them energized and focused. Have them practice their letters at a different time, or as a warm up to the journaling session. You’ll find lots of free worksheets online for practicing letters. Donna Young.org has practice worksheets for penmanship from beginning letter formation to cursive, and they’re all free.
2. Create a writing prompt jar.
While most kids are brimming with ideas, some may feel overwhelmed by the blank page. Ask them to help you come up with some ideas before starting, and toss a few fun ones in the jar yourself. Or, start a serial story by taking turns with your child writing a few sentences daily in the journal; read through the story you wrote together at the end of the summer.
For older kids, check out Dragon Writing Prompts for fantasy and science fictions writers and the Friday Freewrite prompts on the Brave Writer blog. The Writer’s Jungle by Julie of Brave Writer is a fabulous resource, by the way, for parents looking for concrete ways to help their children develop writing skills.
3. Combine writing and dictation for kids who tire easily.
If your child tires easily while writing, have them write the first sentence or two and dictate the rest of the day’s entry to you. While strengthening the handwriting muscles are important, teachers want your children to be able to express understanding of an event or idea in preparation for discussing the event or idea later on.
4. Don’t edit.
Ask your child if they want you to help them improve their work. If they say no, then help when they ask for it. Sometimes if you ask them to read aloud what they just wrote, they’ll hear where they need to improve. Asking questions helps your child see where they need to spend more time explaining something.
5. Take your journals on a field trip.
You could sit at a train station and write about the passengers getting on a train. Sit near a stream and take notes on what you see and hear.
Above all, keep summer journaling sessions fun. While the end game is to practice writing, there are many ways to get there that will get even the most reluctant writer engaged.