Daily writing is vitally important for young writers. But it’s often difficult to motivate them to do it. By flexing their creative muscles, students gain confidence in their writing, get better at organizing their thoughts, and learn to play around with words and sentence structure. Providing daily journal prompts is an easy way to encourage kids to write, and it only requires a few minutes of planning.
Daily Journal Prompts
My goal for daily journal writing with my students is for them write for five minutes, with no worries about grammar or spelling. One way I motivate them is by providing them with nice notebooks, which they get to choose themselves. One of my kids prefers a book-like journal, while another prefers an old fashioned composition notebook. My oldest likes to do most of his writing on his keyboard.
Journal writing is a great warm-up exercise before jumping into schoolwork for the day, and it is easily transportable for school on the go. I provide an open-ended topic each day, such as: “How would someone find you in a crowd?” “Would you recognize your family with your eyes shut? Would you know their voices, their smell, or something else?” and “How did your mom get to school when she was a girl?” (from Could You? Would You?, Trudy White).
Other ideas to prompt journal writing are to have students close their eyes and smell something like cinnamon, crayons, or soap, and then write about a memory or feeling associated with it. You can also do this with textures, like flannel, sandpaper, a cat’s fur, etc. Another fun prompt is to show them a picture from an art book and have them write what it inspires them to write. Or play a piece of music and see what it brings to mind (try classical, kids’ songs, theme songs, soundtracks, or good old rock and roll).
Journal Writing in the Classroom
When I did daily journal writing with my remedial students in the classroom, it was very successful. I had a topic written on the board when they came to class each day. I kept their notebooks in a file box in my classroom, so nobody “forgot” to bring one. The kids seemed to enjoy expressing themselves without judgment or worries that they would be graded down for poor spelling, etc. It also gave me five minutes to get the attendance and other beginning of class tasks. Several kids looked forward to this time so much, that they stopped being tardy so they wouldn’t miss it. I learned so much about them by reading what they wrote–some wonderful, some utterly heartbreaking.
If you’re looking for a method to get your students writing, try using journal prompts and see what your kids can create. Many of these journal entries end up becoming brainstorms for future writing.