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


  1. Shannon Casey says:

    What are your thoughts on assessing journals? Do you run into accountability issues?

    • Aubrey & Emily says:

      Hi Shannon! Often when I assess these types of journals I don’t have accountability issues because the journals stay in my classroom and they are always written during class. I also base their grades on two parts. First they receive a grade for attempting and completing. They have to prove they’ve tried and that they’ve completed all of them. This grade is a simple 10-15 points. Then, I ask that they revise the journal they feel most strongly about (during class) and that is the other part of their grade. This I usually count for 15-20 points. I’ll check and assess journals twice a quarter. I try to sell the attempt/completion points aspect. It seems to motivate them. I’ll also let them make up journals during the flex period or after school if I see someone backsliding.

      I also use a simple rubric when I assess that looks towards voice/style, argument, organization, commentary, etc. Since these journals aren’t personal narratives I grade them much more as though they are persuasive essay drafts. I’ll include the rubric with the next post this week.

  2. Susan richardson says:

    I have used journal writing with my sixth graders throughout the first semester. As I examined them over the holiday break I realize that their responses got progressively weaker. I realized that I had given them the freedom and guidelines for private writing with no accountability. Starting now I am going to randomly picked 2 or 3 journals a day to examine and conference with students about their writing. I am hoping that it will inspire them to use more of the writing skills we have been talking about!

  3. [...] 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 [...]

  4. Sara says:

    Do you have more resources for articles that the students can journal about?

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