Journal writing is an excellent practice for students to get into the habit of writing routinely. Journals offer parents and teachers alike an opportunity to observe all matters related to writing from handwriting to spelling and grammar to overall organization skills like “does this student offer sufficient details to support the topic sentence of the paragraph?”
Free style journal writing, in which students write for a certain amount of time on any thing they feel like writing about, has merit. Journal writing using writing prompts has many benefits as well. By using a variety of writing prompts students will be encouraged to try different forms of writing from “compare and contrast” to “poetry” or “how to” to “humor.”
At home current events and especially field trips and hands on experiences are excellent sources for writing prompts. Whether kids have visited a turkey farm, went to a Thanksgiving parade or spent the day raking leaves, they should be able to write about these experiences with detail.
In the classroom journal writing prompts can narrow down larger studies. For example, November is Peanut Butter Month. If students have studied the biography of George Washington Carver and his peanut contributions perhaps students could write about a day in the life of George Washington Carver.
Common journal writing mistakes and tips for correcting them:
One of the most common mistakes journal writers make is to assume that the readers know background information. Remind students to write to an audience other than the teacher or parent who offered the writing prompt.
Here’s a typical example.
Writing prompt: Describe Aunt Dorothy’s birthday dinner.
Student’s journal: “Mom and Dad and all of my aunts and uncles and cousins were there. We had spaghetti and…”
The reader will not know where “there” is or why everyone was there.
Student’s improved journal: “Our whole family went to Balducci’s for dinner to celebrate my Aunt Dorothy’s birthday.”
The best tip is to remind students to use the words from the writing prompt in the topic sentence of the first paragraph.
Here are 10 writing prompt ideas for the month of November based on holidays and likely activities this month.
1. Write step-by-step directions for preparing one of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes.
2. Who are you thankful for and why?
3. Write a non-rhyming poem about a Thanksgiving dinner.
4. Write a funny story starring a talking turkey.
5. Describe the first Thanksgiving based on what you’ve heard or read.
6. Write a letter to a Veteran, either one you know or an open letter to Veterans in general.
7. Write a rhyming poem about Veterans.
8. Write a political campaign speech including what office you are running for and why people should vote for you.
9. Write a funny poem about elections.
10. Describe the scenes and scenery in your area in November to a visitor from another country. (It could also read to a visitor from another planet.)