Tips and Tricks for Journal Writing with Students
Students need to be writing every day to build the skills they need to compete globally, and this writing needs to happen in all classes not just English courses. Writing Next is a synthesis of research that has changed many elements of my teaching of writing. When I think about teaching writing I want to make sure that I am having students do something that will:
-show them what real writers do
-be useful in future experiences
-impact their knowledge or skills
One of the best ways to assist students with their writing skills is daily journal writing, so I wanted to share some tips and tricks for journaling with students.
When you establish and teaching journaling in your classroom, set some rules (a term I am using loosely here to explain setting the stage for journaling).
Expect weekly 3-5 pages of rough draft that are due every or every other Friday.
Play music without words, or music with words in a different language while students are writing. It can help them stay on the task of quietly writing.
Communicate with students that their pencil or pen must continue to move for the entire time allotted. We do this for the first 10 minutes of class each day.
After writing, offer them an immediate audience and give them a chance to share what they've written. Have them get up and walk around the room and share with a couple other kids (this also helps the shy kids who really do want an audience).
Oh grading how I loathe thee...if you hear yourself saying this, I can help you make grading less painful when it comes to student journals. Pick one or two from this list and see how they work for you.
I do NOT read journals the same way I read novels or research papers, but I do skim them to see that they are writing; however, I do not read them word for word.
You can count daily writing as a participation grade where points are given just for having something on the page and working continuously for the time allotted. Extra points if a student is willing to share with the class.
Grade for length only:
1/2 page on average is a D
3/4 page is a C
full page is a B
full page plus 1/4 on back is an A
Responded to one entry per week, per student.
Grade based on number of entries: X number of entries with a specific quality would be worth a 10 - 15 points each
Allow students to share journals that they would like to have your read right away; a box, crate, or spot for them to place them at the end of class.
Every two weeks, ask all students to share with me their favorite one or two journal entries and read just those favorites (which means 150 entries, instead of 2000).
What should students write about?
Create a prompt that serves as an anticipatory set for the day's activity.
Have them write a "Dear Teacher" letter to you
Provide a musical selection to serve as inspiration
Use a short reading, viewing, or listening experience
Post a silly or inspirational quote from famous or average people
Images or famous paintings
My writing Pinterest board has lots of writing prompt ideas:
Here is a great texts with prompt ideas.
Give students a few choices for topics because the more ideas they have to choose from, the more difficult it was for them to focus on something because they spend most of the time focusing on topic selection.
Create a code for students to let you know their writing for the day is personal: A dog eared page means private or some kind of agreed upon symbol in the corner to let you know to keep out. Then abide by it!
Move around the room to make sure that all are writing during journal time or sit with a different group each day of the week.
How do you find time to get journal time in and get to everything else? I believe the better question is how can you NOT find time for daily writing? The more students write, the better writers they become.
For more on how I set up my journaling process see my post from 2014.