Saturday, July 25, 2015

Daily Journal Writing

Now let me preface this with a disclaimer...I hated daily journal writing as a kid.  I absolutely hated having to do it.  I don't know why.  I love to write.  When I am struggling with something, I write about it.  I enjoy writing stories and notes.  In looking back, I realize that I have always preferred written communication to oral--let me read about it or write about it instead of having to listen to it. 
So, I have never been able to put my finger on why I was so resistant to daily journal writing.  Maybe it was too open-ended for me, or maybe we were given too much time and I ran out of things to say.  I can't remember....but I do know that I didn't enjoy it.

But now, with the shoe on the other foot, I see the benefits of it.  Daily writing is a good thing for students.  It encourages them to think, to process their thoughts, to communicate.  I worry so much that my students aren't given enough opportunities to talk--especially at home.  Getting information from a pre-teenager can be difficult in the best of circumstances--especially if you are "just an adult."  But in today's society,  parents are tired from working long hours for little pay,  kids focus on screens constantly (cell phones, tablets, televisions, etc.,)  the "family dinner table" is non-existent in many of my students' homes.  

In previous years, I would have the students work on spiral reviews in math and Language Arts when they walked in the door.  I needed time to take attendance, give a few extra minutes for my tardy students, deal with those unexpected last minute things, etc.  However, I was finding that a) I was spending too much time going over them, and b) the students who needed the review weren't doing the review.  It was frustrating and didn't feel like it was a good use of time: theirs or mine.  Especially as I was going to have to redo them all to align them with the Common Core.  So, after much discussion about the pros and cons, my teammates and I decided to try a daily journal instead.  

Well, let me tell you...I loved it.  I had a few kids who were like me as a child, and they hated writing in their journals---I just kind of let them be.  I encouraged them to write, but I didn't make too much of an issue about it.  However, the majority of the class really got into it  The prompts were varied:  some were though-provoking, some involved math, many were fun and/or high-interest.  (I always knew when I had a great prompt by the number of hands that shot up when it was time to share.)  But the best part was that they allowed me to get to know my kids on a much deeper level this year.  I know the writing and the sharing (which we did daily as well) created a sense of community in the classroom that was priceless.  It made it easier to teach and made it easier for the kids to learn as it helped establish a fun and safe environment.  

Although it still needs a few tweaks, I will be keeping this as a daily routine next year.  I put the prompts on an editable PowerPoint file--let me know if you would like me to send it to you!  

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