Saturday, 10 November 2012

Encouraging Children To Keep A Diary (Part 1)

I found this article by Mark Smith online and was inspired to write this on my blog. :)

A diary represents a private space in life, a beautiful solitude, the moments before we go to sleep just to stop and note what there is about the day or about life at the time. It's like a friend that is always there and is always a comfort. In bad moments I write, and usually end up feeling better. It reflects back to me things that I can learn about my world and myself.

A diary is also a tool for self-discovery, an aid to concentration, a mirror for the soul, a place to generate and capture ideas, a safety avenue for the emotions, a training ground for the writer, and a good friend and confidante.

The benefits of writing and keeping a journal

The first and obvious use of writing a diary is that it helps us to remember something later... a reference to look back on. It may be that we do not have time to work out what is going on right at that very minute - keeping a note in a diary helps us to recapture the moment later so that we may look at it more deeply. It may also be that we need to remember to do something e.g. write a letter on behalf of someone we are working with. We jot the task down - and then when we have time we can look back at our diary or organizer and pick out the tasks we are left with. Second, the act of putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) engages our brains. To write, we have to think. By keeping records, one is able to monitor the practice. Journal writing encourages engagement and reflection.

Third, it isn't just that writing a journal stimulates thought - it allows us to look at ourselves, our feelings, and our actions in a different way. By writing things down in a journal the words are now 'outside' of us. They are there in black and white on the paper or on the screen. We can almost come to look at them as strangers - 'Did I really think that?', 'How does this fit with that?' In other words, our words may become more concrete - and in this way we can play with them, look at them in another light.

Fourth, writing things down in a journal also allows us to 'clear our minds'. Having made a note of something we can put them on one side for consideration or action at a later point. We can only handle so much at any one moment. Trying remember this or that, and deal with current situations, can sometimes mean that we are not focusing on what we need to. The journal offers a way to sort out the multitude of demands and interactions and to highlight the most important ones'.

Last, and certainly not least, making journal writing part of our routine means that we do actually take time out to reflect on what might be happening in our practice and in our lives generally.
From this we can see that writing and keeping a diary holds the possibility of deepening our self-understanding, and to making added sense of our lives and what we believe. It can also help us to entertain, contain and channel troubling emotions and gain perspective. We may also develop a greater awareness of daily life; become more alive to what is happening to, and around, us in the daily round. At a practical level, writing and keeping a journal can both help us with administrative tasks (like reporting what happened, when and why) and with the process of setting goals and managing our time and priorities. ~ Mark Smith

There are many ways to write a journal or a diary these days.
  • Traditional diaries : ring bind books or notebooks
  • Creative diaries : loose leaf paper within ring binders, beautiful textured & recycled paper, scrapbooking
  • Quick diaries : Organizers, Planners
  • Using a word processor
  • Handphones / PDA's
  • Blogging
I personally prefer the traditional diaries for my daily thoughts. There's a feeling of permanence... something very real and very concrete. Something that i can show and share to my girls when they're all grown up... something that reflects a history of my life, written over a period of time, which awaits a quieter time in life for fulfillment.
Everything Mark states in his research are those that i agree with.  I started very young with the influence from daddie. He writes everything in his diary. A teacher of mine used to keep 'a black diary' for all the naughty names he said... which i never believed.  For all the reasons and benefits in putting our thoughts on paper, I have made this daily record keeping a daily routine... yes, it is a discipline for young children. Best started from young, when they are able to write...
I started out by getting my girls a nice diary the like, be it in a favourite cartoon character or just a nice pink one... (girls!) *roll eyes*
She was into Kung Fu Panda phase then... so she requested this. 
Then, i start by asking them to think about the stuff that happened throughout the day. Kiddies don't just naturally have something to think or something to write, so hafta prompt for a start. Both my girls started keeping a diary of their own in Nursery Year 2.
Diary starters, can be about what they learnt in school... about a new friend... about how they felt for the day... about anything interesting that may have happened that day (etc)... It's exactly like relating in a story they bring back to "share/tell-all-about-it" after school but only now to put it in print.
It can be the simplest stuff coming out from them... It's non-judgmental. Heck, it doesn't even have to turn out grammatically accurate or have 100% correct words spelt. I award them for effort. And not award them in physical sense, like rewards of any kind but only in encouragement sense. This is to allow for them to learn to enjoy writing from their hearts... a personal achievement/fulfillment.
It's a start, like this one from my younger girl...
Then, she began writing other things apart from PE (Physical Education) and i love my mummy just like this page... 
After she barely finished the Kung Fu Panda book, she shifted her interest to pink stuff... which was this Sweety notebook...
By this phase, her writing process has matured. I instilled the practice of having a proper spacing, leaving a line and she asked if she could draw at the end of her input for each day to end the diary page... so of course it was cool with me! So you see, now she wants to do something in her diary out of her own free will, which was an additional task on top of the writing. 
She can also remember the songs for the days of the week, so i get her to write it out. At this stage, i drummed in the month of the year intro to her too! Her teacher usually only writes the dates in numbers ie:10-07-09.
When she relates her story to me with onomatopeiac sounds, i told her that these sounds can be put into words as well.. this can be guided with Phonics.
After she finished and we read it thru together, she agreed with me that it made her diary input that day more interesting... She grew to love writing it enough to put in emotions in her journal.
From the time she took a first peek at her (elder sister's) jie-jie's Geronimo Stilton story books, she got inspired to write her adjectives in a more pop-out fashion, like in the word FUN here in this page...
By Barbie phase, she is already able to churn out the ideas on her own without much/any prompting. She can also finish the daily diary on her own with exceptions to the times she may shout out some help needed for spelling the words properly instead of just guessing them. During this phase, she is also exposed to margin... a Primary 1 preparation. Hee.. :)
My younger girl is now in Kindergarten Year 2 and with this diary writing discipline, i'm hoping it will help her with the start to early writing which she will have to do next year in Primary 1. I also introduce the parts of speech plus simple grammar rules to aid her in good writing skills. My elder daughter writes flowingly now and doesn't require assistance. Both of them are also old enough to be able to enjoy reading through the stuff they have wrote in their diaries for the past years, they'll laugh about it together and will reminisce the moments they revisit in their diary pages. It may not be much now. But like what a pal of mine; sashimi, likes to say, "..... and at the end of it all, there's a souvenir for keeps....."
This is one kind of souvenir for me to cherish those times when they were then... mummy's little girls... *sigh*

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