Tag Archive for Journals

Resolutions: Opposing P.O.V. Journals

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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

QR Codes: Journals & Openers

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Sometimes I feel at the beginning of class that my act is huge flop.  It’s tough to know how to start.  Classroom management, attention and engagement rarely occur simultaneously.   And no matter the variety of journal prompts or moral/ethical debates outlined students frequently treat this “opening” work like a chore.

Within this realm, QR codes can become an incredibly practical application.  Imagine being able to implement media literacy along with student choice.  Imagine a written response or evaluation.  Imagine students happy to discuss in small groups or with the class as a whole their own perspective on the podcast or video that they digested after scanning a QR Code.

Opening Activity: Choose Your Own Adventure

Okay so not every student will chortle with delight when you explain that “adventure” in this case means choosing their own QR Code.  But you will peak their interest when you explain that these QR cods will take them to a short podcast or video that will require to explore a moral/ethical dilemma or an area of focus your are currently studying.   Using the QR code is simply the vehicle via which they begin an opening critical thinking exercise.  The goal is not to replace writing.  Instead the end result should be a list of student constructed essential questions and a written argument about the material.  Below is an example of what this type of lesson demands of students.

  1. Ask in advance that students bring headphones and Smartphones
  2. Provide students 2-3 QR codes from which to choose.   Each QR code should direct them to a short video or short podcast that raises big picture issues.  TED’s “short talks” would be a good resource from which to select or UPENN’s 60 Second Lectures.  If you’re teaching poetry you might provide QR codes that link to episode’s of NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Kellior.
  3. Ask that students listen to or watch their choice at least twice.
  4. Have them complete a listening, questioning and reviewing activity in their journals.

While this is simple it will help jump-start your class.  Pick videos or podcasts that complement the material you are teaching or that highlight a skill set students are practicing.  Here is an QR JOURNALS Example.

Good Magazine: The Daily Good

There are days when all I’m really looking for is something that will spark 10-15 minutes of solid classroom discussion.  In a perfect world that “perfect” discussion would always be followed with students constructing short written arguments.

The Daily Good is a daily email you have to read.

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Now, I’m well aware that I don’t live in a perfect world.  Instead, I teach Puritan literature, help students prep for SAT tests, grade museum projects, and read weak writing.  It’s easy to feel trapped with no new ideas in sight.

But what if each day you could open your inbox and find a story that might actually spark that perfect discussion?  Moreover, what if you could almost ensure that you could turn these emails into those “perfect” written responses?  Interested?  In need?  Desperate for a better way to engage students in critical thought, persuasive writing, evidence building?

Each day Good Magazine sends email subscribers what they call The Daily Good, their “one good thing a day.”  It seems like such a small thing.  Email can easily be lost and forgotten in your inbox.  But there’s just something about these emails.  The stories aren’t about dysfunctional politicians or economic recession.  They are little reminders of the human condition.

Past Examples of The Daily Good

A 375-year-old French Bank Forgives Debts of Paris’ Poorest

  • What does the article imply about the quality of life and societal institutions?
  • Why is this story like this of such interest in today’s society?

Answer the following prompt in your journal:

Prompt: Do societal institutions have the responsibility to care for the social welfare of their clients?  Use specific evidence from your knowledge, reading, observation, etc.

Snoball Links Life’s Passions to Charitable Micro-Gifts

  • Is charitable giving something that people need to tie to other experiences in their daily lives?
  • What is the article implying about social media, charitable giving and the individual?

Answer the following prompt in your journal:

Prompt: In what way should technology and social media influence charitable giving?  Does this diminish the purpose of donating?  Use specific evidence from your knowledge, reading, observation, etc.

“Letters in the Mail” Turns your Favorite Author Into Your Pen Pal

  • What art is necessary in writing a good letter, email or (dare I say) text?  Why do we desire personal communication?
  • Define what a good, old-fashioned letter should be.  Is it ethical to pay a monthly “subscription” fee for letters?  What is significant about the fact that these letters will come from writers?

Answer the following prompt in your journals:

Prompt:  In the age of social media, 4G networks, and Skype does the role of letter writing still have any worth?  Use specific evidence from your knowledge, reading observation, etc.

How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts*

  • What responsibility do prison inmates have in “giving back” to their communities?
  • What argument is made about “enlightenment” or learning as it relates to knitting?

Answer the following prompt in your journals:

Prompt: Is it the responsibility of the individual to give back to society regardless of where their life has taken them?

* Knitting Behind Bars was also highlighted on the Kojo Nnamdi show if you are interested in extending the actual class discussion or including a podcast.

Consider collecting several over the course of the week and making them part of classroom writing/discussion.  Perhaps even give students their choice depending upon varying interests.  While you can always have students SOAPSTone the articles and write précis paragraphs, you might also consider having students identify implicit arguments in each and then argue the pros and cons of these big picture perspectives.  They can become excellent practice for persuasive writing.  Use the questions above as a flexible guideline for how students might discuss and compose their writing.