How to motivate journal entries? Please Advise!

Discussion in 'Secondary Education Archives' started by fifthmonkee, Nov 1, 2006.

  1. fifthmonkee

    fifthmonkee Rookie

    Sep 19, 2006
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    Nov 1, 2006

    I'm teaching ninth and tenth grade English at a small, all-boys religious private school where the kids, largely, do not value or respect secular studies.

    Every day, I have them journal for 5 minutes or so at the start of class. Sometimes I give them freewrites, other times prompts. Either way, I meet resistance such as "I don't know what to write about" or "I'm done" (after writing two sentences). I tell them they can write about anything they want during free-writes, that they can adapt questions, within reason, if they don't like them, that they don't have to worry about spelling, grammar, correctness, they just have to write. I still get lots of blank pages or one or two sentence responses.

    Here have been my last two prompts (we're working up to a description paper). "Describe your favorite room at home." "Describe a person you know and admire".

    Typical responses. "I don't have a favorite room." "it's the kitchen, what am I supposed to write? There's a refrigerator in it. I'm done. Oh, and the walls are yellow."
    "I don't admire anyone." "He's got brown eyes and brown hair and he's really smart; I'm done. Now what?"

    I've told the students I'm going to check their journals twice a quarter and grade them on perceived effort. Sometimes I've gotten responses from students like, "I'd rather not write anything and be thought stupid than write something and confirm it"--not a bad response if they would write it! but they just complain aloud.

    Any advice?
  3. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

    Aug 2, 2002
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    Nov 1, 2006

    This is the result of kids growing up with less than meaningful writing instruction. I teach 5th and my kids used to give responses like those you quoted. Now I use the Units of Study writing format. They don't get writing prompts and have learned how to think, besides how to write. Check out The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins.
  4. mshutchinson

    mshutchinson Comrade

    Nov 24, 2004
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    Nov 2, 2006


    I don't know if this will help, but here's some thoughts:
    rephrase your prompts
    "Your good friend lives in California and he's never seen your room. Describe it for him"
    or even more detailed
    "You're switching places with your 13 year old doppleganger (sp? it's a look-alike) from NEbraska. Tell him everything he needs to know to fool everyone into thinking he's you. Start with your bedroom, tell how it's set up, where he will find EVERYthing he needs, how things are used, what you usually do there"

    "I really like the way ________(person) _________(action). I hope one day I can _________(action) as well as ___________(person)"
    "I was pretty proud/amazed/astounded when I first saw..."

    boring prompts encourage kids to be bored- it's bad enough you don't have lights on your head and a buzzing joystick;)

    second thought:
    Make them accountable for their work. I foudn when the kids used journals, a lot of them would say (in their heads- I'm a mind reader), "She's not gonna see it anytime soon." or "I'll do it later"
    When I've had them write on paper and turn it in, it's different.

    Publish their writing. Find a bulletin board and post the writing- embarass them into writing something decent.

    Give them a chance to share their writing with the class, only take 3-4 kids each time.

    Write with them.
    If someone gets off task, say "SHHHH!! I'm writing!" Then maybe share your writing

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