By Yerni Miss Endang Polly

Have you ever considered using the students’ diary to help them practice and improve their writing? Diary writing is an example of journal writing. What is journal writing then? How can journal writing be used to connect reading and writing? To grasp more about this point, here is an explanation summarized from Vacca and Vacca (1999:268-283).  

Journal writing is a type of writing which contains real-life experiences, whether it is personal such as diary, or work-related such as the recording of one’s observations and experiences that are important to other people just like those written by scientists, novelists, etc., or even academic such as essays.

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The academic journals are produced by the students during classroom activities. Through the process of writing those kinds of journals, the students learn to generate ideas, respond to what they are reading, make some record, explore their life experiences related to the topic, share their products to each other, in the class discussion extend thinking, solve problems, or stimulate imagination. In order to encourage students to write, the teacher needs to remind them that their writing may not sound ‘academic.’ It means that the focus of the teacher’s evaluation is mainly on how they express their ideas on papers, not on the problems in the use of mechanics. This can increase their confidence to explore and communicate their ideas, whereas the teacher is helped to focus only on students’ ideas.

There are 3 types of journal writing as the following.

  1. Response Journals

Response journals are the students’ permanent records about their thinking and feeling related to the text they have read. In order to encourage the students to react freely to the topic, the teacher may use prompts such as questions, visual stimuli, read-alouds, or situation. Role-playing is another prompt for students’ response journal writing. The teacher may invite the students to act as a certain character and write the events and happenings based on the character’s perspective. To facilitate this, some guidance in the form of sketchbook containing guiding questions can be used. Other writing activities such as summaries, letters, descriptions, solutions to problems, etc., can be recommended. Beside these prompts, students may be asked to engage in other kinds of free writings. Their free writings can then be published through class discussion, where some improvement from the teacher and other students can be shared.   

2. Double-Entry Journals

This is another type of writing activity that student can use to respond to the reading text they have read. On their notebook or paper, they create a two-column format in order to record conceptually related entries. For example, in the left-hand column, they mention some words, short quotes, or passage, and in the right-hand column, they present their reactions, interpretations, and responses about the content in the left-hand column based on the reading materials.  

3. Learning Logs

Similar to students’ notebooks or loose-leaf binder, they can also provide learning logs which contain the reflection on their personal understanding of any topic discussed in the classroom. It is usually for personal use. However, the teacher needs to tell them that their logs will occasionally be reviewed in order that their problems and concerns can be revealed.

When I was a graduate student, our reading teacher assigned a project in which we had to collect a number of information about reading from books, academic journal, thesis, dissertation, article from the internet, and still some other sources. From the original sources, we had to write the summary of each one of them, and then write our reflection on the content of the readings. This, I guess, is an example of journal writing, and maybe a combination between response journals and learning logs (the first and the third above).

What is your experience? Which of the 3 do you use in your class and how effective is it to connect reading and writing? Or, do you have your own choice which is more effective? Please share with us all.  


Vacca, Richard T. and Jo Anne L. Vacca. (1999). Content Area Reading. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc.  

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