Supporting English-related teaching and learning at all levels

Resource spotlight: KS2 Author’s Journal

Developed by independent English consultant and NAAE member Claire Hubbard and her colleague and former head teacher, Rob Snaith, the Author’s Journal helps to develop a set of unique, independent writers in any Key Stage Two classroom. With its structured, ordered contents, pupils can easily find where to add their own ideas or ones they have ‘magpied’ from other areas.  Versions for Key Stage 1 First School contexts are also available.

Claire has provided the experiences of two teachers who have used the journals within their classrooms, covering both primary and secondary contexts:

Paul Newton, from Chancel Primary, Staffordshire: Author’s Journals are used throughout KS2 during the teaching of reading or independent reading. They are used to allow children to make explicit connections between reading and writing. Author’s Journals encourage children to think critically about what they are reading by identifying what makes something a successful piece of writing (both in terms of language and overall structures). Throughout the Key Stage, Author’s Journals encourage children to investigate language by giving them a space to record unfamiliar words that they can use in their own written work. Crucial to achieving Greater Depth in Y6, Author’s Journals focus children to think clearly about how they can emulate authors and hone technique.

Alison Gutteridge, Head of English, Penkridge Middle School, Staffordshire: In a bid to improve writing across the curriculum, and for students to realise that what they learn in English lessons applies in all other subjects, we launched Author’s Journals in KS2 this year. The students have been very enthusiastic about them and feel that they are a special tool to help them ‘write better’. Staff are encouraged to use them to ‘bank’ subject specific vocabulary as well as log ideas from the text which they are reading at the time. It encourages the discussion of word classes – so we’ve moved from ‘that’s a nice word to use in our writing’ to ‘ooh, that adjective is impressive, let’s log it in the adjectives for character’s hands page’. The discussion when reading texts is fuelling our grammatical understanding and prompting the students to use the correct terminology.

Within the English lessons, the journals are always out on the table and on hand for students to record any vocabulary they wish to log. They will then refer to that vocabulary when writing. Some of the students have taken to taking their journals home and adding to them when reading at home. At parents evening, many parents noted the use of the journals and asked questions regarding what they could do to help their children use them. These journals have become as important to the English lesson as the use of a dictionary or thesaurus and are an effective and valued tool. The biggest stipulations we have put on the students is that they must understand the vocabulary they are logging, and they must spell it correctly. I have even made it into a game when I give the students two minutes of investigation time to bank synonyms or fronted adverbials for ‘where’. They love it!

Our Headteacher has promoted the use of the journals across the school by setting a competition to see which English teacher has the best used set of journals, as well as which subject. The students are very competitive with this and are nagging their teachers to bank more vocabulary so that they can use it in their writing. The next competition will incorporate a tally of who has used what the most – we have not yet ironed this out, but it’s another fun way to encourage the use of the journals.

Pupil voice: ‘It helps with all the lessons with the words I have to know,’ and ‘it helps with the cold writing task – we’ve got the words there to use’. ‘ It also helps me with getting the spellings right’. ‘It helps with reading as it shows me a variety of language’.

Finally, the useful writing mats at the back of the journal and the spelling logs for words I have learnt but I still have to practise is a great way to promote student independence in learning. They are logging their own specific developments within spelling and writing, and they are becoming more resilient and independent students.

I am really excited to see how the first schools are using them and what they look like when the Year 4s move up to us in Year 5 from the First Schools. My impression is that they can’t help but have a positive impact.

One top tip is most definitely personalising them – we designed a front cover to go on them and they look stunning. Equally, the students can see that it’s been personalised just for them and they’ve shown great pride in their journals.

To find out more about this resource or the KS1 and First School versions, please visit: https://www.hubbardconsultancylimited.com/product-page/author-s-journal