Saturday, 8 January 2011

Teacher Talk 5: Journal Writing

Enquiries from teachers who are interested to try journal-writing with their students:

03 November 2010 at 18:07  
Salam, Pn Rahmah. I'm interested to do journal writing for my Form5 students next year. I just wonder how to make a good start with those students. Most of them (All of them actually) are not very good in English especially in writing. When I ask them to write some of them said "I cannot, I don't have idea". I'm grateful if you can help me. I'm not an English option teacher actually so I don't think I could manage to do excellent job as yours. Hope can share your experience. TQVM.

My response
salam ______,

i've received some emails concerning journal writing too. it's good that ur interested. however u mustn't be too ambitious if ur ss are weak as u mentioned. for ss to write something they must have some basic writing skills. i don't do it for all my classes as i know some are just not able to. if u have an average class or better then i will recommend it. for a start, u can explain why it's important to have contact with English through journal-writing. u can give them a list of topics if they have no idea what to write. you can find them easily over the internet. choose those that are easy and suitable for ur ss level. for those who can write, then it's not a problem. they don't need the suggested topics. get ss to write a paragraph or two first before they progress further. it all depends on the level of proficiency they have. obviously the better ones write longer. i award prizes for the best journals at the end of the year. all the best. you might want to read from the internet first on why we choose journal writing. all the best!

To: Rahmah Sayuti
Sent: Thu, August 12, 2010 11:39:58 PM
Subject: Tq

Salam Ms Rahmah,

really appreciate yr sharing and may Allah bless u n yr family. One more thing I want to ask yr opinion regarding journal writing. I've asked my students to write a journal n I'm using the sample that u put in yr blog as an example to my students. They have started to write their 1st page. As for yr info my students very weak in English because they r rural area students n have very limited access to the english sources and environment but i'm trying my best to encourage them to write n speak in english. Going back to the journal my students have written i found so many grammar mistakes in it. What should i do? should i correct all the mistakes because i'm worried if there to many red colour correction it will discourage them to keep writing in future..What is yr opinion..

My response

from my experience, journal writing is best done with average to good students. but don't be disheartened. carry on with what u've been doing but don't expect too much from ur students. short entries will do. i don't mark the errors because my aim here is fluency and not accuracy. what i mean by that is i would like my students to be able to write 'fluently' although with grammatical errors. they  will nt be stuck when writing essays they are used to writing  their journals (ideas come naturally). on the other hand, accuracy is what i aim for in their written work (exercise books). i state this out very clearly to them so they understand why they are writing their journals- to let them express ideas freely. from my experience (i've used journal-writing for more than 10 years), ss do improve and have confidence in expressing their ideas in essays/exams. what i do is comment on their stories, reflections, events. i hope this helps. where are u teaching by the way? i'm glad that u are trying to do things with your students to help them improve their english. all the best.

~the thinking teacher~


  1. Hello Madam Rahmah!

    Good blog you have here. First time a visitor here and I am already impressed. Perhaps I could share something about journal writing. This is something I have personally used for myself as well as for my students.

    I use this website called 'The One-Minute Writer' (www. It provides daily writing prompts with several guiding questions to aid writing. Used mainly by writers and bloggers, I have found them to be especially useful when overcoming that dratted writer's block.

    There are several responses from other writers/bloggers which you could then share with your students. In this way, you are covering fluency, accuracy as well as teaching them a thing or two about creativity.

    For instance, two days ago we received this prompt - Popular: Were you popular as a kid? Are you now?

    This is what I wrote in my blog (

    In high school, I used to generate some interest from the boys. In an attempt to thwart their hormone-raging-attention from her precious daughter, my mum decided to 'un-beautify' me. She brought me to a hairdresser and instructed the hair stylist to give me the shortest ever hair-cut.

    The hair stylist complied and in my mind, I thought I would look like Princess Diana. Tragically, my notoriously curly hair gave me a dreadful looking Afro instead of the elegant cut I was coveting for.It was an Afro that could put the 70s to shame.

    I became known as 'The Bee Hive' for the next four years.

    Popular? Oh yes. If you look at it that way.

    I am in the process of using this in my Action Research. If it works, then I'll be sharing this in ICELT or MELTA. Wish me luck!

  2. hello darsh,
    what a breath of fresh air to hear about your brilliant ideas on journal writing!! thanks for sharing. this is what my blog is all about. yes, i'm aware of the blog u mentioned. my biggest problem being (would you believe it) that my school doesn't have a computer lab!! talk about the millenium!! god knows how i struggle to inject technology in my classes. but thanks for sharing and i hope to see u in icelt this september ya :)

  3. Oh no! What a shame!! And this is in a time where technology is almost God-like. Oh dear.

    Well, I thought about schools without proper tech. and this is my suggestion. Print some of the (good) responses from other writers/bloggers who have replied to the writing prompts on the website and distribute them to students. So, in one page of their exercise books, they would have to write their own response as well as paste the given responses. In that way, they would be able to model good writing structures and have an idea on how to approach the writing prompt creatively. Also, this allows for the students to compare and contrast the two writing pieces.

    They don't even need to go online to do that. The teacher can do so (printing the responses and photocopying it). Involves some work for us, but I think if given a chance, this idea could grow. Let's see how my research goes.

  4. yeah, what a shame but hey we have to make the most of our situation. good idea darsh, hope to meet u in icelt. still waiting for approval for my proposal!


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