Write to write or to be right?

Students have been preached to over and over about the do’s and don’ts of writing, from what is expected to how to write properly. Students are often exposed to formal writing tasks in a classroom; they are being told what to write about and how to format it. Not only can this become extremely repetitive for students as they move from grade level to grade level but it can limit the students’ ability to think about topics from different angles. It is hard to keep students engaged in the writing process when teachers are proposing the same writing tasks day after day without a change. By allowing students to respond to some form of a personal topic in the format of journals, the students will be more inclined to write because the topic will be a subject they like and have prior knowledge about. Journals can serve as a self-expressive tool that allows students to open up and become personal with their writing.

Journals are a great way to boost morale, and they allow the students to become more enthusiastic about writing. The journals can serve as an outlet for students to be able to bring thoughts to words and write them down on paper. The entries don’t necessarily have to be in one type of format either. They can be displayed as poems, pictures, or even song lyrics. I can see how some teachers may argue “Journals don’t provide structure…” or “students become lazy writers when they use journals” but that doesn’t have to be true. Having journals be a gradable entity will allow students to still have the opportunity to write freely without the response being right or wrong yet give them a reason to write because they will be getting a grade. According to Educationworld.com, they posted about journals saying “One of the best things about daily journal writing is that it can take so many forms. Teachers can use journal writing to meet specific goals, or the purpose can be wide open. Some teachers check journal writing and work on polishing skills; others use journals as the one “uncorrected” form of writing that students produce. Some teachers provide prompts to help students begin their writing. Others leave decisions about the direction and flow of student journals up to the students.”

It is this kind of writing that will help bring the fun back into the writing process. Plus it’s something that can be easily added to a daily routine of the classroom, you can have your students respond to a journal topic every morning for bell work. It doesn’t even have to be a personally topic about them, it can incorporate a topic from a subject covered the previous day or even get them thinking into what today’s lesson will deal with. In the weekly posting by Education World there was a comment about journal writing and the benefit it had in their classroom. Donalee Bowerman teaches at Canajoharie Middle School in New York and said “I have seen major growth in these children!” as she comments on the fact that her journals aren’t necessarily taken for a grade on spelling grammar but still help her class.  Going even one step further you can even throw the journal writing at the end of the day as an exit ticket of sorts. It can be a way for the students to wind down from the lesson’s activities. Some students are more stubborn than others so the journey of making/keeping writing fun will take a little bit more effort on the teacher’s behalf. All in all its about the students and how they feel about writing that will determine the quality of work that they produce. Making writing fun again helps the overall mood of the teaching environment and the mood of students in the classroom.

Below is a link to a pdf with samples of journal entries from students.

Student Journals

And check out http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr144.shtml for additional stories from teachers about journal writing in their classroom and other helpful tips!

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