Journal topics and writing was the focus of my last blog entry. In that entry, I gave five reasons why journal writing is a good idea for the second language learner. In this week’s post, I will show how the right journal topics can improve your accuracy in English while also inviting you to communicate authentically in English.
Topics that improve language accuracy
Journal topics can be more than open-ended invitations for self-expression. Topics can be designed to elicit particular grammar points, vocabulary items, or language functions. The topic can then require the writer to incorporate these items into the communicative task of journal writing. The more the second language learner keeps in mind these language features while completing a communicative task, the more automatic the language will become.
Journal topics that focus on vocabulary: one example
Let’s start by learning vocabulary related to the topic of weather. Here’s a list from the English club. After learning the vocabulary, try one of these weather-related journal entries:
- Watch or read a weather forecast on television or on the internet (e.g., weather.com). Write a journal entry describing the meteorologist’s forecast for tomorrow using as many of the targeted words as possible. Describe your plans for tomorrow. If the forecast is accurate, will the weather affect your plans at all?
- Think about your last day of snow. Describe the conditions using as many of the targeted vocabulary words that you learned. What did you do that day?Did the meteorologist get the forecast right?
- Think about a day when the weather was extraordinary. Describe the day using any relevant vocabulary words.
Journal topics that improve grammar: one example
Take comparative adjectives as an example. First, review the mechanics of comparative adjectives on a site such as English Club. Then try one of the following topics:
- Compare the city where you live now to your home town or city;
- Think of two of your closest friends. After introducing them, compare them (physically, emotionally, professionally, etc.);
- Compare your culture to American culture.
- Compare education in your country to education in America.
- Explain what you did today. How did it compare with yesterday?
Journal topics that incorporate language functions: giving advice
For this type of journal entry, begin by reviewing phrases for giving advice. English Club has a list here. Then, write about a topic that requires advice. You could start by practicing with “Dear Abby” letters. “Abby” is a writer for an advice column. People write to her asking for her advice. See examples here. After reading some examples, try your own.
- Think of a problem that your friend or relative is having. Describe the problem by writing it as a question (like one to “Dear Abby”). Then write your advice using some of the expressions given in the list.
- Think of a problem that you are having. Write it as a letter to an advice column.
The topics are limitless. Try giving your journal entries a language focus and improve your ability to communicate accurately and effectively. Happy writing!