Archive for January 12, 2013

Resolutions: Close Reading Journals


So journals it is.  If argument journals aren’t your cup of tea, or you’d like more options employ a close reading journal. One of my favorite resources for this type of journaling is found in Nancy Dean’s Voice Lessons.  Her lessons are invaluable.  She has already selected non-fiction and prose “snippets” and created questions.  As a teacher, all you have to do is choose.  Dean’s questions often ask about the impact of specific syntax and diction.  Each quote is usually followed by two questions.  Choose the ones you like, copy and have students answer the questions as one journal reflection.  Even students who struggle can understand the power of word choice and the way that Nancy Dean constructs her questions reaches a range of students.  A teacher, especially in light of common core expectations couldn’t ask for a better resource.

Since Voice Lessons is such a fabulous resource, I could end the post right there.  However, if you’d like to kick the exercises up a bit examine Maria Popova, of Brain Pickings fame, and her Literary Jukebox.  Each day a quote from a book is posted along with a thematically chosen song.  Some of my favorites include:



Use Popova’s quotes in the same way you would with Voice Lessons except ask your students to identify the words upon which the sentences turn.   Then have them discuss the meaning, power and effect of those words in their journals.  Feel like they need more?  Have them listen to the song Popova has partnered with the quote and ask them to write about why the partnership works for the second part of their response.

Need a quick journal rubric? Here is a Close Reading Rubric that can be adapted for any type of classroom journals.

Resolutions: Opposing P.O.V. Journals

It’s hard to escape the onslaught of reminders that a new year, #2013, should mean adopting new “habits.”  Better habits for our health, personal lives, professional lives.  Ads arrive at my door reminding me that I can get organized via the Container Store, healthy via the NordicTrack and better sleep via the Healthy Back Store.  Retail outlets are desperate to help me.  However…

Winter break feels too short.  Adopting new “habits” too hard and looking ahead January and February seem endless.  Teachers need help without sacrificing mental health and student instruction post winter break.  Instead of enticing you to spend your holiday gift cards, I’m going to spend the month of January posting small things, little things that make a huge difference.  The hope being that you can adopt them easily in order to simplify your teaching life without having to completely revamp.  Make a New Year’s resolution to yourself.  Find more time in your classroom for meaningful instruction that requires less direct instruction from you.

My first resolution for you?  Create an ongoing journal assignment.  This type of journal will practice Common Core and AP English skills.  It will also give you 10 minutes at the beginning of each class to catch your breath while they find their voice.

Start with having them write a 10-minute journal 2-3 times a week.  The best way to get students in the habit of working in a journal is to keep in the room.  Think composition notebook or a cheap spiral.  However, if you are working on the cheap or you want to implement this immediately, simply create lined paper in a Word document (hit the underscore button for eternity) and copy.  Each sheet of paper represents one journal.  If you feel so inclined you can label each sheet.

Journal Type#1: The Art of Argument

Let’s start with my favorite journal.  Students read a short article.  Then, they write an entry that either qualifies the article’s argument or directly opposes it.  This will be a challenge for them since often they agree with the op-ed’s point of view.   Remind them that it helps extend their “range” as writers if they can identify other perspectives and construct response that include those points of view.  Yes, it is difficult.  But it also challenges them too. This type of journal demands they consider other views.    Below are some great articles to help you begin.  If you are pressed for time consider having students read the article outside of class and come prepared to write their challenge or qualification.

Argument Journals-Articles