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Friday, September 21, 2012

Learning Log Entry #3

Hello fellow literacy classmates! I hope everyone's having a good start to their weekend!! When I saw that this week was a free entry I was a little bit stumped. When you see/hear "free entry," you get really excited because you can write about anything, but my mind went completely blank! Since this week's topic is about journal writing, I think that's probably the topic I'm going to stick to.

When I think about journal writing I think about the, "Dear Diary," journal entries that only you write for yourself. I had no idea there were so many other options for journal writing. Tompkins (2012) made me think back to not just my elementary school years, but my middle school and high school as well. I was thinking about my journal writing experience. Did I even have any?

Going all the way back to when I was in elementary school I can think of two types of journals that I used: personal journals and simulated journals. Tompkins (2012) says that personal journals should focus on meaning, not so much on mechanics, but even now I can remember being graded on spelling and grammar in my personal journal entries. We didn't do personal journal entries every day and I don't think we started them until about fourth grade, which now, after reading Tompkins (2012), I think is interesting, because she says that personal journals are best for young children. In third grade I remember studying the presidents and as one of our writing projects we had to write a diary entry as if we were that president, describing what was going on while we were president. We were able to research (with what we had back then, which was our social studies books and encyclopedias) and then put it all together into our diary entry. We did this for a week, not near enough time for an effective writing workshop to take place, in my opinion, but we did it none-the-less. I just think it's interesting how back then journal writing wasn't a huge genre that we practiced, almost like it either wasn't important, or it didn't exist.

In middle school is when we started using reading logs. We were reading "The Black Pearl," a book that I wasn't really that crazy about, and every day our teacher would give us a topic and we had to write about it in our reading logs. I think I would have enjoyed doing that more if I liked the book, and I wonder if that hinders children today when doing reading logs. Do they do a better job on their reading logs if they enjoy the book that they're reading? We also did some personal journals but it wasn't a daily occurance.

Next comes high school, where no one wanted to do personal journals and I think that the teachers knew that, therefore, they weren't a part of our classes. We still did reading logs in our classes, and to be honest, I think I liked doing them better in high school than I did in middle school. I'm not sure if it was the books we were reading or if I was just becoming a stronger writer. I had never heard of a double entry journal until I read about it in Tompkins (2012).

I came in contact with journal writing a lot more during my two years of substitute teaching. Even as a substitute you learn so much about teaching styles and get so many different teaching ideas. During my substitute teaching is when I came in contact with dialogue journals. This was in a second grade classroom and it was one of the morning activities that the students did. As soon as they came in they did this. Another type I did, which I'm not sure you would count as a dialogue journal or a contact log with the parents was this: the student would write about their day and then how they thought they did, then the teacher would write back and their response to the parent as well, then the student would take it home for the parent to sign and the parent would write something back as well. This wasn't done with every student, only students who the teacher thought it was necessary. When I was substitute teaching in kindergarten and first grade a lot of their kid writing was done in journal form. It was so interesting to hear the students' stories after they would bring them up to you. They might have written three words on the page and give you a mile long sentence.

It still seems to me that journal writing is one of the lesser used genres in classrooms today and I think that dialogue journals are something that I'd really like to use in my classroom, especially at the beginning of the year, as Tompkins (2012) suggested. I think that journal writing is an effective way to gain writing fluency and more teachers should use it in the classroom.


  1. Kayla, one way to help you focus your writing when the entries are "open/free" is to select one (or a combination) of the questions Tompkins poses at the end of each chapter which detail questions "teachers commonly ask." These may be questions that you also have and can use this as a starting prompt to explore your own answers to similar issues.

    1. Thanks so much! That's a huge help :)