September 21: By this time, my English 10 students are up to page 60 in Tuesdays with Morrie. Perfect time to assign another journal.
The first journal I did with my students didn’t go over so well. To read more about Journal #1, click here. I wanted 2-3 paragraphs from them…and they gave me two sentences. Not to mention improper grammar, lowercase ‘i’s’ and just downright laziness! After assigning the first journal, I actually made my students re-do it. The second time around, I was very pleased.
This week’s journal, like last week, is narrative writing (telling stories about oneself), which is something my students will do all year and will eventually compile into a final biography! Their biographies will take the place of a final exam, so I’m excited to help them work towards that goal with their journals. I’m also working to improve their writing from the start of the school year so there will be less to revise as they move forward! Journal #2 is all about the individual in the ‘now,’ asking students what it’s like to be their selves, their age, right now, in this moment.
I came across this amazing packet/resource from Cottonwood Press called “Writing Your Life” and one of the writing prompts was “Being Your Age,” so I thought I would incorporate it into my classroom since we had been talking a lot about personal culture.
The prompt had a series of questions to help students get started:
- What do you look like? Describe yourself.
- How are you like other people your age? How are you different?
- What is the most unusual thing about you?
- What disturbs you?
- What makes you happy?
- What do you value?
They could write about all questions, any, and in any order. My only requirements were that they did quality work and wrote at least a half page.
The results I received from students were overwhelming. Some students wrote about silly things, for example what disturbed them: slow Wifi connection and slow walkers. Most students took it seriously, however, and wrote a page about their family, growing up, their hardships, or how they felt unique, but also struggling with finding their place in the world.
Here’s what the journal assignment page looked like, followed by two student examples:
My plan is to assess the students’ comprehension and growth in writing every week/two weeks with a reflective, narrative journal. For Journal #2 in particular, I worked with more hands-on feedback, replying directly to their posts on the classroom site and giving them individualized, relevant feedback for improvement. For the students that did not post their journals online and hand wrote them or typed them, I made little rubrics where I could write comments and staple to their papers [see right]. Just a simple way to make sure I was giving them direct, informative responses to their work.
Overall, my students did better. Now I’m going to raise the bar and have them write a page or even a page and a half for next time!