Your kids are going to be full of news for you each day. You’ll be signing forms, asking about homework, helping to cover books — all the things that go with Back-to-School. Even the most gung-ho kid is going to balk at an extra writing prompt. Frankly, can you blame him/her? So let’s introduce a different form of writing. Let’s introduce a journal.
Pre-K Crowd: If the big kids are doing it, the little kids are going to want to do it, too. At least that’s the way it’s been in my house. For your very youngest, you can sometimes find a marble notebook with a blank part at the top of the page and wide lines at the bottom. (If that seems too structured for your child, just get a plain paper pad or staple several sheets of plain paper together.) The main thing is to write JOURNAL on the front cover. Then explain to your child that each day he/she will draw a picture of something important that happened. If your child wants words to go with the picture but hasn’t mastered writing yet, let your child tell you what to write and write a sentence or two. The idea is to make an entry each day and then read through all the entries at the end of the week.
Grades K-1: These kids are definitely ready for the notebook with the plain top part and lined bottom. If you child isn’t into drawing, let him/her write. It’s been my experience that most kids in this age group like to have a picture of some sort. Maybe stickers will do the trick. The picture is important because it usually contains a lot of detail–detail a child isn’t ready to put the effort into writing about just yet. If you need to be a scribe once in a while, so be it. The idea is to get your child used to writing briefly about the day. Then read it through at the end of the week.
Grade 2: Some kids this age like the blank top of the page for a picture. Many kids this age do not. It’s one of those see how it goes, which isn’t terribly helpful, I know. One thing you can do that has worked for me with the kids I tutor, is to have a wide ruled marble notebook for them to write and then, if they want to include a picture, have the child draw it on a separate piece of paper and use a glue stick to glue it to the opposite page. They love that. Many of them like to cut the picture out and glue is fairly precisely. Make sure your child understands he/she doesn’t have to write a lot–unless he/she wants to. A few sentences about the day will suffice. Then, as with the other age groups, read it through at the end of the week.
Grades 3-5: This age group is most likely to balk at this idea unless it is presented as something that is not complicated, has hidden expectations, or is busy work. My suggestion? Write a few sentences about your own day at the same time your child writes about his/her day. If you think it’s worth the time and effort, it will give the entire endeavor a bit more panache. The entry each day can be as simple as, “Today we had ice cream at lunch. I played soccer at recess. I’m having a sleep over this weekend. Next week I’m going to a birthday party.” It can also be all about one event, such as a test or a fight with a friend. It’s up to your child to write about what he/she finds important about the day.
The purpose of this is to get your child into the habit of writing on a daily basis. Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation yet. Just focus on creating a pleasurable experience with paper and pencil. Yes — no computer. Paper and pencil with a few crayons, colored pencils, and some glue thrown in for good measure should do the trick!