Question about Journals for 7th grade

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by ms_chandler, Jul 13, 2007.

  1. ms_chandler

    ms_chandler Comrade

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    Jul 13, 2007

    I vary journals and grammar bell ringers for bell ringers. I collect journals in sets of 10 and pick 3 random entries (due to time constraints). I make comments and put a check mark to show that I read those specific entries (to cover my butt).

    I just completed the National Writing Project and we discussed journal writing. A high school teacher said that she researched journaling in depth and it's not supposed to be read. She said she really disliked journal writing because her students didn't want to do them. (In my class, most kids love them.) She said that journals aren't supposed to really have rules.

    So, now I'm confused. If you don't check them, how are kids held accountable? Also, should they be journaling daily? If so, I'd be grading journals every other week. That is honestly just too much grading along with everything else.

    How do you do journals? I'm very curious now.
     
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  3. teresaglass

    teresaglass Groupie

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    Jul 14, 2007

    You could grade them once a month and base it on the number of sentences they are doing plus the content. I think varying the entries with grammar exercises is helpful. also you can use them to respond to literature.
     
  4. ms_chandler

    ms_chandler Comrade

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    Jul 14, 2007

    I require them to use composition books and I have them use a page per entry. That amount is average for 10 minutes which is what I give them.

    I guess I'll need to research this a little, but I'd appreciate more feedback. Thanks!
     
  5. Cyndi23

    Cyndi23 Companion

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    Jul 14, 2007

    My grad school professor told us to read everything that they write, JUST IN CASE. Not only to cover yourself (I've had a kid write suicidal thoughts, etc) but so that they have an audience.

    I tell my kids at the beginning of the year that anything they share w/ me stays w/ me UNLESS it makes me concerned for their safety.
     
  6. apple25

    apple25 Comrade

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    Jul 14, 2007

    I try to let them journal once a cycle, and it's basically a chance for them to write about anything. Some tell me what they like about the class, home, etc., but quite a few just write about random things. I usually give them a starter for those who have a hard time starting (if I were Prime Minister, I would . . . )

    I read them over and respond, but I don't correct or give a mark. My goal is to give them a chance to write and share whatever is on their minds. Most kids really enjoy it.

    BTW, I teach grades 7 and 8. I will definitely do it again next September.
     
  7. bridge

    bridge Rookie

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    Jul 14, 2007

    Those "should"s from other people can be so dangerous.

    I think whether you read them or not depends on your reason for having the students write them in the first place. Also, I believe that my job as a teacher requires me to be involved in everything I assign. If the students need privacy in their journal writing, they can write in their own journals at home, and hide them under their mattress (??). As long as the students are aware that you will be reading them, go ahead and read them!!
     
  8. katrinkit

    katrinkit Comrade

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    Jul 15, 2007

    I agree with bridge...
    I have a personal issue calling them journals and then reading them. I know I wouldn't want someone reading my "journal." For me, it's all about the name and purpose. If I am asking kids to reflect on their progress, work, etc. I would call it a reflection. If it is the beginning of class, and I am asking students to focus in on the day - it's primetime.
     
  9. IowaLA

    IowaLA Rookie

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    Jul 15, 2007

    Once while subbing, the teacher had the students fill out a journal reflection sheet where he asked them several questions about their journal entries from the past quarter. It was a awhile ago, so I don't remember all of the questions, but some of them were along the lines of:

    What journal entry do you feel shows the "true" you? Why?

    What entry do you feel could be used to persuade someone on the given subject?

    What entry is your favorite or of which one are you most proud?

    What subject was your least favorite to write about (he used journal starters for the class)?

    And because it was close to P/T conference time, he asked them what journal entry would you want or be willing to share with your parents?

    I thought this was a good idea, because the students sat back and reflected on what they had written over the quarter. I overheard many comments such as "I can't believe how bad I use to write" or "I can't believe I use to write like that!" The students could see how much they had grown over the quarter.

    BTW, not sure how he handled the journals throughout the quarter, but thought I would share this idea with you nonetheless.
     
  10. MEM

    MEM Rookie

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    Jul 16, 2007

    Hi! I'm new to Grade 7 this year and trying to set up my program. I'll have 2 classes for 2 periods of language/1 period of math (ie core) each day. It'll be a 5-day cycle with 40 minute periods.

    The idea of the journal (or reflections) is good and can get them writing. If I'm reading correctly, you only do it for 1 period each cycle?
     
  11. ayotte04

    ayotte04 Comrade

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    Jul 16, 2007

    I think it's IMPERATIVE to read their journaling. You find out so much about a kid just by reading what they wrote. You learn things that would never come up in a parent-teacher conference or even a casual "in-between-classes" greeting. And the more you know about them, the better teacher you can be for them.

    Additionally, as was mentioned, this is about safety too. Think about the lawsuit you'd have on your hands if a kid wrote in his journal something that was hazardous to him or others (and as personal as it is) you didn't take action, or you only skimmed over it and never saw the real content.

    VA Tech ring a bell? That guy's English teacher saw signs way before all the stuff happened (unfortunately it was the administration that didn't listen to her).
     
  12. nsatterfield

    nsatterfield Rookie

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    Jul 17, 2007

    I teach 7th grade ELA and I have my students write in their journal about 10 minutes each day. I don’t read every word in every journal (I have 100 students), but I check to make sure they are writing, titling, and dating each entry. Sometimes I give topic, sometimes I have them free write. My main goal is to having them WRITING!
     
  13. ayotte04

    ayotte04 Comrade

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    Jul 17, 2007

    I second the notion of Nsatterfield. We don't have to read every single little word, but you wanna make sure they're not drawing pictures of Spongebob Squarepants.

    Ultimately we want them to practice reading, practice writing, and practice speaking in front of others. Everything else is details.
     
  14. teacherSMK

    teacherSMK Habitué

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    Jul 18, 2007

    I gave my students several "freestyle" journal entries last year, and one of my students wrote three pages about that little yellow sponge, and followed it up with a great picture of him. At the end of the year, I asked him if I could keep the drawing for my two little girls...they ADORE SpongeBob. He made them each a huge poster!
    I know it is kind of off topic, but when I read that in your post I seriously almost died laughing!!!!! :-D ~SK
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2007
  15. ms_chandler

    ms_chandler Comrade

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    Jul 21, 2007

    I agree that is it unrealistic to read every journal. I tried doing that once and spent at least a week. I had 700 journals to read and that was just one set.

    To cover my butt, I put a checkmark and comments by the ones that I read.
     
  16. nothermanda

    nothermanda Companion

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    Jul 26, 2007

    A week or two into every year, I have a serious talk with the kids. I tell them that, as a mandated reporter (the official words make it sound scary enough that they listen), I have to call someone if I hear anything about them hurting themselves, being hurt by someone else, or planning to hurt someone else. I emphasize that they should not tell me anything like this and then ask me to keep it a secret. Then, we talk about their class writing.

    I let them know that I could read anything they have in their notebooks. If they want to keep it a secret, they shouldn't write it in their Language Arts notebook at all. However, I tell them, I don't promise to read every word, so if they have something they need to tell me, they need to find a more reliable way to do that (then we talk about ways to do that...).

    This is a lot for kids to remember, but they get the point. It also helps with doodling/writing notes to friends in class, because I have kept the right to read their Language Arts notebook at any time.

    You have a good system for grading journals - I would stick with it. In fact, I might steal it :) My inefficient system takes way too much time!
     
  17. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    Jul 27, 2007

    As a student teacher, I used journals a lot, but we called them WTL "write to learn" log entries, so there wasn't an expectation of privacy. Some kids complained but others preferred them over quizzes -- they thought it was "easier" because they could explain an answer, and I thought it was better because they were writing more and thinking more! I also was taught that you should always read all student writing because you never know what they might be trying to tell you -- possible abuse, depression, who knows -- and if they are trying to reach out and don't get a response, what a terrible thing that would be...
     
  18. shelceygirl

    shelceygirl Rookie

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    Jul 30, 2007

    My 7th graders write in their journals every day for at least ten minutes (longer as the year and their writing stamina progress). I never read what they have written. Journals serve as a place to vent, warm up, play around with writing ideas, and empty thoughts on to a page. Journals are not part of a grade.

    What I do read is their finished pieces. THAT'S where I spend my time and energy.

    If we want kids to emulate the process writers use, we give them the gift of a writing journal. It's their own space to make sense of life, writing, and their observations.
     
  19. ayotte04

    ayotte04 Comrade

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    hehehe.. well that's a little different. And I would never want to DIScourage developing their artistic abilities. I'm just saying it's "journal time" not see who can draw Spiderman time
     
  20. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Jul 30, 2007

    I call mine "journals", but they hold their bell-ringers, their flashbacks, prewrites, freewrites, drafts, and other things that I have them jot down on occasion.

    I take up 3 to 6 journals per day, every day. Once I've checked a journal for everyone, I start over. It's no big deal to read that many per day.
     
  21. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    Jul 31, 2007

    That's a really good strategy -- it never occurred to me to read only a few at a time! Thanks!
     
  22. ms_chandler

    ms_chandler Comrade

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    So how do you know if they're actually staying on topic for all of them? I was a pretty crafty student, so I'd probably just do a few seriously and write notes to my friends for the others.... lol

    Since my students never know which one I'm reading, it keeps them on topic. Just wondering...... Thanks.
     
  23. shelceygirl

    shelceygirl Rookie

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    Aug 11, 2007

    I don't give them a topic, so there's no need to stay on topic.

    I really don't care what the kids are writing in their journals. The journals are theirs and theirs alone. I don't have to grade everthing that moves.

    We don't have to control everything kids write. Think about giving up assigning topics for writing and let kids write.

    I put my energy into the pieces kids write and turn in. I set the genre, the kids pick their topics. For example, we start with memoirs; I model the heck out of everything, I provide appropriate mini-lessons (titles, how to expand a sentence, revision techniques, the importance of error-free final drafts, etc.). The kids look through their own memories to find the moment to explore and share.

    Seriously, if we want kids to think of writing that happens everywhere, not just in their LA classes, we need to teach them to write like writers. I'm in the process of writing a book right now. My editor did not say, "I need you to write a book about..." I pitched it to her and she said, "Go with your gut. This is a great idea."

    How will your students' writing be different if you give them the gift of choosing their own topics?
     
  24. ms_chandler

    ms_chandler Comrade

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    Aug 11, 2007

    I give a free entry every 20 or so journals. The point of topics is to guide the students in a specific area but let them write creatively. One such topic is "A Day at the Mall."

    I see your point, but doing that all the time wouldn't work for me personally. Good luck this year! :)
     
  25. shelceygirl

    shelceygirl Rookie

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    Aug 11, 2007

    Let me be devil's advocate here. You used an example of "A Day at the Mall" as an area for guided writing. Are you sure you are hitting all of your students' interests? What if my family doesn't shop at the mall? What if I think there are other, more important things to write about than hanging out at the mall? What if I could really care less?

    By having kids write to that kind of a prompt, we are asking some kids to produce artificial writing for no one but us. They are completing a task for the sake of getting an assignment done. Writing is then something that only takes place in a LA classroom.

    Why give them "A Day at the Mall"? Middle school kids, with proper coaching and instruction, are perfectly capable of choosing their own writing topics. The are able to choose topics that are meaningful to them, thus producing authentic writing, not writing about what their teachers THINK they care about.

    Not trying to be snarky here at all. I just think LA teachers need to THINK about their practices, no just do what we've always done, which has not produced massive success in writing instruction.
     
  26. ms_chandler

    ms_chandler Comrade

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    Aug 13, 2007

    I understand you're being the Devil's Advocate. But, I am having them respond to a topic, no matter how light-hearted it is. It works well. When they do their writing assessment, they must stick to the topic, not do what they want. This is preparation.

    Good luck!
     
  27. shelceygirl

    shelceygirl Rookie

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    Aug 14, 2007

    I want my students to be writers. I can get them to pass the writing assessment (and the vast majority of my kids do), but I don't see my job as only to prep them for the assessment! High test scores should be the results of good writing instruction, and good writing instruction is not as neat and tidy as writing a five paragraph expository essay.

    There's a whole world of writing out there! Writing that can be enriching, enjoyable, and based in student choice. When I get parent phone calls that say, "I don't know what you are doing, but my son is writing at home ALL THE TIME," I know the kids are becoming writers. Kids are not writing in their free time to pass the state assessment! They are writing at home to tell the world what they see, think, and believe!

    Writing to a prompt=shutting down a huge part of the thinking writers do. "Just tell me what to write" is not something you'd hear an author say, but middle school kids? All the time, if that's all they know.

    I teach at an amazing middle school, where we look at kids and learning a little bit differently. We are a school with very high test scores in reading, writing and math, but we don't allow our test scores to define us. There are many other more important aspects to school than where we fall on the testing chart.

    Good luck to you too.
     
  28. ms_chandler

    ms_chandler Comrade

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    Aug 14, 2007


    Thanks! :)
     

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