30 Days to a Better Reader: Day 9

Today:  Writing Journals

One of my favorite ways to teach reading skills is to have the person keep a writing journal.  Not a “today I saw Suzie and I liked her new dress” journal but simply a notebook or composition book.  Have the child (if they’re young) draw a picture on the top of a page and then write two sentences about the picture.  Don’t do a lot of spelling for them.  Just tell them to try their best.  Of-course this won’t work if your child doesn’t know the sounds the letters make so this is for kids that are past that stage.  As the child gets better, move on to more sentences.

Eventually, you will move on to stories.  I often give writing prompts for kids (even teens).  Things like:  I met an alien in my back yard last night.  Then I tell them to draw a picture of what the alien looked like and then write 5 words that describe it.  The next day I have them turn those words into sentences that describe the alien.  Day three would be the child telling me what happened when he/she met and talked to the alien.  I will give leading questions like, “Was the alien friendly or mean?”  “Did the alien want to be your friend?” ” What did you say to the alien?” and so on.

Older grade-schoolers and teens can be expected to write more complicated stories.  Let them really have fun with their stories.  I try to switch the prompts up a bit and have them write some fiction like the alien story and some non-fiction like “Who is your favorite person and why?” or “Tell me about your cat.”

The writing journals build reading AND writing skills so it is one of my favorite exercises!  I do it with ALL of my tutoring students.  It also enables the adult to look back to see how things are coming along.  You can see where the child is struggling and what you need to work more closely with him/her on.

I try to have the writing prompts be 5 minute exercises until the kids get the hang of it and then I go to 15 minutes.  After that they usually go until they feel like they’re done.