Using Writing Journals in the Primary Classroom

Try Writing Journals and revolutionise your children’s independent writing!

Writing Journals (sometimes called Author’s Notebooks) are vocabulary books in which children can capture gorgeous language that they can use again and again in the stories and texts that they write. They are a type of personal thesaurus that children can refer to, supporting all forms of writing.

What do they look like?

Usually an A4 book, children have their own Writing Journal from Year 2 upwards. In Reception they will have a whole class teacher-led journal to model the process of capturing language. In Year 1 they tend to have one Writing Journal per table; usually a big book such as a scrap book which teachers and teaching assistants scribe into. All teachers will also have their own journal for modelling how to select and use vocabulary effectively. This could be a large book such as a scrap book or art book – some teachers prefer to use an exercise book (the same as the children’s) and pop it on the visualiser. Each section could have images either printed or cut from magazines/holiday brochures with vocabulary added around the images as a memory hook.

How are they organised?

Year 2 Example

In Year 2 a Writing Journal may have the following sections for collecting transferable words and phrases:

  • Good characters e.g. kind-hearted, generous, compassionate
  • Bad characters e.g. selfish, pugnacious
  • Other words for said e.g. muttered, shrieked
  • Other words for walked e.g. swaggered, stumbled
  • Adverbs of time e.g. First, Later, Finally
  • Settings – beach e.g. shimmering, blue waves
  • Settings – forest e.g. emerald green / majestic trees

KS2 Example

In Key Stage 2 there are usually additional sections which are more detailed and child initiated so not every journal looks the same. More detailed generic language banks for KS2 (as described for Year 2) are also useful. The descriptions and language collected will depend on the texts taught and children’s interests. Examples include:

Section for character e.g.

  • Evil characters
  • Sly characters
  • Funny characters
  • Fantasy characters etc.

Section for settings e.g

  • Fantasy settings
  • Ancient Rome
  • Mountains
  • Rainforest
  • Haunted House/spooky setting

Section for Non Fiction e.g

Persuasive devices e.g. Many people believe, despite much evidence that convinces us otherwise!

When Can I Use a Writing Journal?
  • During Shared and Guided Reading.
  • During Shared and Guided Writing.
  • During ‘Whole Class Read Aloud’ and Novel study.
  • At home (collecting words and phrases on post-its).
  • In pairs/groups and independently.
  • During grammar teaching and warm-up games.
  • During Independent Reading and Writing.
Other Top Tips !

Generate language through:

  • Word of the day.
  • Word of the week.
  • Sharing a poem a day. Join our Primary Poem A Day Project! It’s totally free!
  • Using published resources such as Descriptosaurus to support children in collecting words and phrases.
  • Do not include detailed toolkits or success criteria if you wish to use these journals to support assessed writing
  • Writing journals do not need to be marked but you must check children’s spelling!
  • Writing journals should be carried up to the next year so that the new teacher can build on previous learning.

To find out more about how to use Writing Journals, book your free place on our training session!

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