What image does diary writing conjure up for you? Sensitive Victorians secretly committing their most private thoughts to the ribbon-bound pages of a dusty old notebook? Explorers noting down their experiences for the sake of posterity?
It’s true that diaries have provided us with some of our most valued historical sources – think Samuel Pepys’ Great Fire of London diary writing, or The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. But that doesn’t mean they are an archaic form of writing.
If you think about it, much of Twitter, Facebook and other social media usage is simply the current incarnation of the theme of recording your own thoughts and experiences.
Sadly, most of those seem to be so mind-numbingly inconsequential that it is doubtful any self-respecting Victorian would have bothered recording them.
Diary writing is a genre that should be taken seriously. Here some ideas for helping you ensure that your class produce something more interesting than a description of their lunch.
Dear Diary – what is your main purpose?
A diary entry is essentially a form of recount. Its function is to give an account of events that have happened. The difference is that it provides scope for adding a personal perspective, emotion, feeling and possibly an explanation or two where required.
As a result, it can create a very powerful and emotionally charged pieced of writing, which is why it often requires a certain maturity of thought and dexterity with language.
Diary extract – Diary writing examples
The convention is that you should never read someone else’s diary. In this case, however, you have permission. As with any other form of writing, each child needs to be exposed to a wealth of good model texts in order to help them learn what will be expected of them.
Diary entry examples, both factual and fictional, are fairly easy to source. Why not see if you can find ones that relate to topics you are covering in other areas of the curriculum?
What to write in a diary
Once your pupils have had a chance to enjoy the examples you have given them, they will want to know how to write a diary entry of their own. Obviously, their age and ability will influence what you can expect from them but, at KS2, features of a diary entry should cover fairly specific territory.
First and foremost, there will be the consistent and appropriate use of the past tense, perhaps with some present tense forms if the context dictates it. However, this will also be a good opportunity for them to play with progressive forms of both tenses and possibly perfect forms.
Key features of diary writing – structure
Apart from the tense, there are a number of other things for pupils to tick off their diary writing checklist. Take, for example, the order. After a brief introduction – maybe only a sentence – to orientate the reader, the text should be organised in chronological order as this is the most sensible way to show how the events unfolded.
This could also be a good exercise in paragraphing, whereby every shift in time, place or subject is denoted by a change in paragraph. Topic sentences will be invaluable in alerting the reader to the nature of that change.
Finally, there should be a closing comment to round off the piece satisfactorily. Even an expressed desire to repeat the experience at some time in the future will do.
Journal writing and being reflective
Being a reflective genre, diary entries are ideal for encouraging pupils to think carefully about their own writing skills. They could focus on their use of conjunctions, adverbials and prepositions to express time, place and cause in a way that helps their writing flow, for instance.
Alternatively, they could challenge themselves to use noun phrases and expanded noun phrases to add greater clarity to their writing. Of course, you might not want to tackle every objective at once but there is clearly scope to address issues with which your class needs extra practice.
Diary writing – using the right word
You could even view this as an opportunity to help each student focus on improving their word choices. As diaries are usually personal, they often involve emotions which are rarely black and white.
You could help them practise conveying the right shade of meaning using our KS2 emotions and feelings ordering worksheets resource. For a more general approach to improving vocabulary, why not use our challenge mat for upskilling and improving sentences?
Diary writing prompts – someone else’s shoes
Remember, there is nothing to say that a pupil’s diary entry needs to be about their own experiences. Just as they can learn a great deal by reading the diaries of significant people from history, they can also embed knowledge of other subjects by writing imagined diaries of key figures relevant to that topic.
If you are interested in killing multiple birds with one stone, why not combine it with a reading exercise based on a text about the notable person in question? Our famous lives comprehension packs cover a variety of figures from Florence Nightingale in KS1 to Martin Luther King in KS2.
Hark! Someone is approaching. And so, dear diary, these musings must draw to a close for now. We trust there has been plenty here to inspire and inform you. But remember, this is just between us. Don’t breathe a word of it to anyone else!