by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
Journal writing is an effective and useful tool for teaching writing to students of all
ages and across all subject areas. It also serves as an invaluable and frequent measurement
of student progress throughout the school year. Journals provide teachers with an excellent
source for evaluating students’ writing skills as well as their comprehension of a particular
subject area. Through frequent journaling, students become more fluent writers and can
become more comfortable with expressing their thoughts. Use the following suggestions to
integrate journal writing in your classroom!
Kindergarten through Second Grade
- Have students make their own journal with hole-punched paper and tie with yarn to
bind the pages, or purchase a composition book. Students may draw/color a picture of
themselves on the cover. Help students write their name and any other
- Have students cut out photos from magazines or draw pictures on journal pages
addressing the writing prompt—The Fun They Had at a Birthday Party; A Visit to the
Doctor/Dentist; A Family Vacation; A Favorite Pet; or A Trip to the Beach. Students may
write/dictate sentences to the teacher to tell their story and describe the pictures.
- Have a math lesson. Students may draw/cut out pictures
to illustrate dividing a pizza between family members;
adding and subtracting objects; defining and drawing
geometric shapes and naming objects having those shapes;
comparing the number of boys and girls in the class, etc.
Students can write/dictate sentences to tell
about the pictures.
- Have a science lesson. Students can draw/cut out photos
of insects then name and label them; draw and label
the water cycle; describe types of weather and seasonal
activities; or depict plant life, animals, etc. Students write/dictate
sentences to tell about the pictures.
- Have a social studies lesson. Include drawing/cutting out pictures to illustrate their
neighborhood, town, community, police/fire departments, bodies of water, places,
different cultures, important people and occupations, etc. Students write/dictate
sentences to tell about their pictures.
- Have a reading lesson. Draw/cut out photos representing characters, settings, and
events of a story; illustrate favorite fairy tales; compare a story book character to
someone they know; or illustrate a story of their own.
Third Grade and Up
- Have students make/purchase a journal for all subject areas
or use a multi-sectioned composition book.
- Have students write daily entries and use them to
evaluate writing skills (i.e., spelling, sentence structure,
grammar, punctuation, etc.). Students can summarize
the day’s lesson or classroom activity in any subject, list
questions they may have, describe a favorite event or
character in the lesson, suggest books or movies that
go along with the theme, write opinions about what
they enjoyed about the lesson, comment on personal
connections, etc. Teacher’s editions of textbooks have
multitudes of writing prompts for journal writing.
- Have students compare and contrast characters/things/events across subject areas—
Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer; seasons; dogs/cats; Cinderella/stepsisters; Revolutionary War/
Civil War; global warming, etc. Refer to the teacher’s editions of textbooks for ideas
for prompts. Use statements directly from the students about the day’s lesson as
prompts for writing opinions or debates. For example, “Recycling is too much trouble
and doesn’t make a difference.” or “South Carolina should never have seceded from
- Have students write sequential directions—making a favorite sandwich, sundae, or
pizza; making a bed; building a snowman; how to get to my best friend’s house;
directions to the cafeteria, etc.
- Have students write different types of assignments—poetry; short essays; letters to
present-day famous people or famous people in history; what they want to be when
they grow up; memorable birthday events; a favorite book, relative, pet, school
subject, best friend, etc.
- Have students solve word problems taken from the day’s math lesson and explain their
answers in step-by-step detail. Draw illustrations representing the steps.
- Involve students in choosing topics for journaling in all subject areas by drawing a
name from a box. The student selects the topic for the day’s journaling from the
day’s lesson or a previous lesson (within the last few days/week/month). This gives the
teacher opportunities to check student retention and possible need for
re-teaching or review.