Follow-up Discussion: Discovering In-Class Journaling Examples from the Classroom

Hello colleagues, We had an outstanding event this week with expert Trish Udell from Phoenix, AZ, in which Trish described how she engages all levels of learners in journaling as an integral part of her ESOL class. This event was truly inspiring! If you would like a copy of Trish's slides, you can contact her by email at


LINCS Reading and Writing Group moderator, Steve Schmidt, has shared highlights of this event in the R/W community. You can find Steve's summary here. In this post, I am sharing a few examples from Trish's classroom.

Begin with Sentences, Move to Paragraphs

Trish noted that when working with beginning-level learners, she usually has them write a single sentence.  Intermediate and advanced learners write short paragraphs but will write only a sentence or two if time is limited.  

Thankful Journals

As Steve notes, Trish started doing thankful journals during the challenging times of the pandemic. She would choose a letter of the alphabet like Z, and students would write about and discuss how they were thankful for words that start with Z, for example, Zoom or zucchini.  

Another thankful journal prompt is, “What is a personality trait that describes someone you admire or someone you like to be with?” Discussing the journal entries builds classroom community as students come to know each other through their writing. A wonderful example is this one about a student's 104-year-old grandfather:

  • “My grandpa is the most amazing man I know. He is 104 years old, and he is still teaching about life. He is so kind and calm. He wakes up every morning and is so thankful for everything, and for one more day.” 

Future and Past Tense Journaling

During the first class of the week, students write in the past tense about what they did on the weekend, and at the end of the week, they write in the future tense about their plans for the upcoming weekend. 

Trish selects some student writing and copies it onto a slide. She leads a discussion about the writing with a focus on the content. Trish understands the importance of error correction but considers the grammar secondary in importance to the content of the writing. Trish focuses her grammar feedback on only a few points of grammar.  Here's one student's writing about his plans for the weekend.

  • "I will meet my friends and make Korean food this weekend. The food is bibimbap. It is a food that is mixed with many vegetables, rice, and spicy sauce. Each will prepare two ingredients."

As you can see below, Trish offered correction focused on the articles in this piece. The student then read the corrected version to the class. 

  • “What will I do this weekend? Let me tell you. I will help my nephew   prepare the dinner for an event. I only help him because he is a chef, and I am ready to learn how he cooks.”

As Steve notes, in addition to other benefits, students offer each other day trip and travel ideas. They are also learning map skills and new vocabulary as they share about destinations and future travel plans. 

Journaling with Beginning-Level Learners

Trish addresses the needs of all learners, from emergent readers to advanced, through the daily journaling activity. The very lowest learners write simple sentences such as: 

  • Hello. My name is B. I am from Afghanistan. 

Journaling to Integrate All the Language Skills

The journaling in Trish's class has become a key part of each class.  She integrates all the components of language into the journaling activity. Students talk to each other about their journal writing. They read their entries aloud which gives them pronunciation practice. They also discuss points of grammar and vocabulary with each piece of writing. 

I love that Trish also asks the students to write about what they learned in class. This makes for a great exit ticket for the teacher! You are invited to tell us about your own practices and to post questions related to student journaling here in our community.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition Group