From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrates Teachers


I joyously anticipate the second semester of first grade. The children have matured by then, and many are good readers. Because they are capable of writing simple and sometimes even complex sentences, I introduce them to journal writing. I am propelled by the students’ excitement as they each receive a brightly colored spiral notebook. They eagerly date their entry each day. I give them topics or story starters to start them off— for instance, “I Get Scared When . . .” or “My Favorite Animal.” For many, creating an illustration with their entry is a favorite part of journal keeping and is particularly important to the child who is struggling with writing skills. Quite often, too, we have a “free” writing day when they initiate all their own ideas.

Although writing in a journal is primarily a personal endeavor, the children often ask to read their writing aloud to their classmates or to me. I am gratified as a teacher when they stand close to me and—quietly but excitedly—read what they have just written. There is magic in their effort to phonetically write and then read words freely without correction or criticism. They smile and giggle as they read their own words. Describing everything from slightly exaggerated camping trips to painful feelings of hurt and sadness, I marvel that at such a young age they are able to express themselves with great depth and creativity. The interest the children show in each others’ journal entries is amazing, too.

They listen and laugh spontaneously as their classmates share funny experiences about learning to swim or ride a bike. They identify easily with getting embarrassed at a friend’s birthday party when they get cake frosting all over their mouth and nose.

It wasn’t, however, until one spring Open House that I truly saw the power of journal writing. The journals, like other projects, were laid out on the desks. Most parents opened the journal, turned a few pages and glanced at the words. But that day, I noticed one little boy who went to his desk and sat down. His mother knelt beside him and listened as he read. Then she put her arm around him and spoke softly. I heard her say, “I didn’t remember that! Really?” He nodded, and they both laughed.

Here was the value of writing and the importance of self-expression. The child, through his own words, was conveying who he was. He was grown up and powerful. For an instant, his writing allowed his mother to see inside him. She grasped the journal in her hands, pressed it to her chest and said, “I’ll treasure this.” The little boy looked into his mother’s eyes, quickly put his head down and grinned.

Julia Graff

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