As soon as you step into first grade in a Chinese elementary school, you are required to keep a journal for the teacher to check. This continues until you graduate from high school.
My older son (9) doesn’t like to talk a lot, and hates writing, and can’t see the point in this exercise. I constantly have to give him ideas, and throughout the two month winter holiday I just let him copy paragraphs from an encyclopedia of the animal world, just to keep his hand moving.
A few days ago I found a little book called 好作文 in my office. It has 300 examples of these kinds of diary entries. I think it’s basically designed for copying, to fool your teacher into thinking that you’re such a little angel who can write such sugary crap.
I don’t subscribe to the Chinese official attitude towards education, in which one simply copies everything and avoids using one’s imagination. I told my son to use one of them as a model, changing it to fit his own details. The beginning of it went like this:
我的小弟弟叫陈明，今年4岁，也长了一双大大的眼睛，小小的嘴。(My little brother’s name is Chen Ming. He’s four years old and has big eyes and a small mouth.) [It sounds cuter in Chinese.]
So he wrote:
我的弟弟叫（谁谁谁），6岁，他有一双大大的眼睛，方头。 (My little brother’s name is (XYZ). He’s six years old and has big eyes and a square head.)