“I don’t like writing” is an age-old refrain, one every English tutor has heard countless times. The benefits of writing are rich and varied and possibly too numerous to count. However, writing also comes with intense pressures, especially during the school year. Students’ writing will be evaluated and judged. The grades they receive will affect their future prospects, whether in qualifying for an upcoming AP course or meeting the GPA expectations of their dream colleges.
Writing doesn’t have to be that way. Journaling and creative writing both offer students opportunities to develop their expression of ideas and their use of language in a format that allows for creativity, for play, for trial and error when there are no stakes for failure. The confidence students develop in their writing carries over into their academic essays, students learn to adapt their style to suit the expectations and form of an assignment, and they gain an innate ear for organization of ideas.
Journaling offers advantages for students’ reading comprehension as well. When students read for school, they often read passively. They do not engage with the material and therefore do not explore their own responses and the questions or thoughts that a text sparks. These students then struggle to recall more than vague, key events, hindering their preparation for essays, their performance on tests, and their ability to participate in class.
English tutors at AJ often employ reading log journals as a means of encouraging students to engage with their reading material. Students might identify a few quotations from the chapters read and then journal their rationale for selecting those passages: what intrigued them, what they learned, why they matter. Or, students might mimic the style of an author’s writing, compose a poem, or rewrite a scene from another character’s perspective. Perhaps they merely answer discussion questions.
Whatever the form, this journaling ensures that students actively process what they read and gives them a jump start for class assignments.