Journaling A Writing Tool For The ELL Student

What is a journal?

A tool used for communicating a message for yourself or others; provides an opportunity to develop fluency, or automaticity, in writing.

Automaticity: the ability to engage in a complex activity without having to concentrate on each part of it.

Besides experimenting with newly learned language, daily journal writing provides students an opportunity to develop fluency, writing voice, generate ideas to reference at a later time, express themselves, and build confidence, in a low-stress and non-threatening format.

Types of Journals

Personal Journals

Students write what is personal to them. The teacher does not comment unless solicited to do so by the student. Practice multiple times per week to facilitate writing habit among students.

The Power of a Personal Journal

Ways to Modify This Type:

  • Dream journal
  • Goal journal
  • Gratitude journal

Dialogue Journals

A format of journaling that facilitates dialogue between the teacher and student. Students can continue topics similar to personal journals, but in this format the teacher will respond to their entries. This format establishes purposeful, authentic conversation between the learner and reader.

Added Benefit: great tool for discovering student interests.


  • Suggest students mark entries they want your response on with a colored marker
  • Respond to content only, not writing form.
  • Concentrate on providing encouragement and positivity

Academic Journals

Learning Log

Students make reflections, note new knowledge and ask questions they still have about learning after certain lessons throughout the day.

Useful as a formative tool for the teacher; learning reinforcement for the student.

Project Journal

Students keep notes that will assist them in following through with a specific procedure or particular task assigned to them.

Vocabulary Journal

Students choose one new word per day and try to use it as many times as they can in a journal entry.

Reading Journal

Students respond to a particular text they are reading during class.

buddy Journals

Students participate in purposeful, authentic conversation between each other via a write and respond format.

To scaffold journal writing, use this tool following implementation of dialogue journals, where the teacher can serve as a model of the write and respond format.

Tips For Implementing Journal Writing

  • Experiment with what you call it (i.e. Writer's Notebook, etc.)
  • Provide optional topics to stimulate thinking
  • Model journal writing in the beginning
  • Use as a formative tool for identifying common errors among students
  • Make journal writing a part of your daily schedule
  • Incorporate technology, such as online journals or blogs
  • Instill student ownership by allowing students to decorate their journal covers and include illustrations in their entries
  • Allow for 10 to 30 minutes of in-class time to complete journal writing
  • Play music and provide visuals to enhance writing mood


Peregoy, S. F., & Boyle, O. (2017). Reading, writing, and learning in ESL: a resource book for teaching K-12 English learners. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.


Created with images by Unsplash - "typewriter book notebook" • mrsdkrebs - "Always Writing" • smackmark0 - "homework girl education" • sharpemtbr - "writing paper notebook" • janeb13 - "students primary school village" • muhammedweb - "student hafiz cami"

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