If you are looking for how to teach your child to journal, we are here to help. This is a Q&A post where I explain the journal writing process I use with my own daughter. Join us as we share the moments of joy and frustration of daily journaling.
Why Journaling with Kids is Magical
Q: How often do you have your child write in her journal?
A: I have my daughter write in her journal every day. This is a routine and a habit I believe in as much as reading. It’s tied together with our nightly reading; a non-negotiable part of our day that we don’t skip over when we are “busy.”
Q: What kind of journal do you use?
A: Mead MEA09956 Primary Journal K-2nd Grade
The neat thing about this journal is that it has a place for kids to draw or color on the top of the page and lines on the bottom to write.
If you are looking for more structure, I recently found a WONDERFUL resource that combines a child’s reading and writing life. This journal has weekly prompts where your child can draw and write about a book they read. They can record or draw their thoughts or feelings about the book. Fun extras include book wish lists, fill-in-the-blank stories, and more. Click HERE to grab yours today!
Q: How old was your daughter when you started this?
A: My daughter was 3 years old when she started journaling. She started with just pictures and then worked up the stages of writing.
Q: Before she could write, would you have her tell you what to write?
A: Before she started writing, she drew pictures to express her thoughts. She then transitioned to inventive writing where the letters were make believe. Next came copying or tracing words she would dictate orally, and then as she grew in her writing process, she progressed to be able to write herself.
Q: What kinds of skills does this build in your four year old?
A: The Reflection process is key to developing critical thinking skills in a child. Responding to “what is important or significant in your day” is key to understanding and being in touch with her feelings. She is able to communicate ups and downs in her day as a young child and it is important as she grows that she feels safe to communicate these feelings and understand why they are valid.
She also learns discipline by keeping up with journaling daily and the importance of reflection by revisiting her past entries.
Q: Are these any different from the skills you see your 1st graders develop?
This is exactly how I teach my students. In an international school environment, students come to grade 1 at all different levels. The kids in my class are expected to move to a new country ever 1-3 years. They change schools, curriculum, friends, houses, food, everything. They need to process the life changes in a healthy way, and to use journaling to express those feelings as well as an assessment tool for their academic progress, it is vital. Every day in our class, we spend 10-15 minutes journaling with the same journal my daughter uses.
My favorite journal entry was written by a 1st grad child from India in 2008. I was teaching first grade at the QSI international school in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (Central Asia).
Every day we write in journals and I give students a prompt to finish.
On Fridays, the students get to choose their own topic (Friday Free Write).
With this freedom, I will get sentences and pictures about hamburgers, superheroes, sharks, princesses and every silly subject a child finds fascinating.
And then sometimes, I get a topic that I will never forget.
This non-native English speaker had been in my class for 2 months and was struggling. He was completely motivated and had the family support teachers dream about.
It was election time (October 2008), so the news was saturated with the American presidential race. My classroom is full of diplomats from all over the world who were, not surprisingly, up all on all current politics.
I came around the room to see Yashwan’s progress and saw that his “writing” (he was at the illustration stage 7) was a picture of 2 men (Obama and Romney) on a house fighting and then it said below, “I am win.” I asked him to describe his journal entry and got a wonderful, life-altering answer.. This 6 year old said “you know Madam, the Americans talk too much. They must go up on the roof and fight and the winner will be the president. This is best for America, yes?”
This little brilliant, politically savvy journal entry is imprinted forever in my mind. He was given the freedom and safe space to create and write what was on his mind. It was that answer that changed the way I allowed students to give feedback in writing to this day.
Students, like adults, are so full of thoughts and emotions about their perspective on daily life around them, and need the outlet and opportunity to record or document them.
This child watched the news with his dad daily and how amazing was his little brain at figuring out what I know many of you say about the election race 🙂
My 4 year old went on a little trip this summer. Our 8 1/2 week itinerary took us to Mauritiania (West Africa)- Istanbul, Turkey- Split/Hvar/Dubrovnik Croatia-DC-upstate NY- Connecticut-Massachusetts-Virginia-North Carolina-Florida-Chicago-San Diego, DC- NYC- and back to Mauritania.
Now you may ask, why on Earth would you do that and how?? See “Why teach at an International School 101” to be written at a future date 🙂
My daughter is a transitional writer and in her carry on suitcase was a composition book and fresh colored pencils and crayons to help her document the trip. She had daily entries range from “Mama, Daddy, Havana” with a happy face to “The underground caves was really fun.”
The days she was tired, she drew pictures. The days she was fresh, she wrote vivid memories of the adventures and family and friends she reunited with that day.
Sometimes “We went here” with a brochure stapled on the page was enough.
The goal was not a Pulitzer; the goal was to document the highlights, adventures, disappointments, and anger of the day.
Let me tell you, if you journal on the regular, the 4 year old version of you is not too far off of the 28 year old version when it comes to complaining about your nagging parents.
Havana had moments of rolling eyes, sitting behind the hotel desk with laundry piles and suitcases strewn all over the room. It was a less than ideal, and more chaotic than not, environment on some occasions, but the goal remained.
Write what you feel, draw what you can’t express with words, and let yourself remember the day as you saw it.
I push my daughter hard and some would say too hard, but let me tell you, the results are so wonderful at times that it humbles me to tears. There is pure enjoyment in the moments where she writes that beautiful sentence using sight words she has learned and remembers to use punctuation and she smiles up at me with pride at her skills.
The most hilarious moment to enjoy was when she wrote “NO Mama” because she wanted to go out to the beach and play instead of writing. But she completed the goal. Adults have those days too where we have nothing left and just want to write “NO” and close our journal and get another glass of wine. It’s real. And important.
I get to remember these summer moments with my daughter when she is older because she has documented the beautiful and sometimes tumultuous journey.
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