What better way to get students thinking about what they have learned then to get them to write about it? Journal writing, reflections, summative evaluations, whatever you call it, getting thoughts on paper is a necessary skill for kids. Here are some of the journal writing activities I used along the way during our Fulton Sheen Unit. At the end of the post is a printable with topic cards you can use yourself.
(First off, before we get started with ideas, I think that journal writing should be in some kind of a notebook or binder. If we want kids to be good readers, we have them read all the time. If we want kids to be good writers, we need to have them write all of the time. Part of that process is being able to look at writing from the past (even the recent past) and seeing room for growth and change. It is also important to include writing about other content that students are learning. Stick that reflective paragraph right in there with your review pages, worksheets, notes, and quizzes, and see how the kids are able to incorporate their writing skills in other subject matter. They'll have to do it in real life, so writing should never be constrained to canned prompts only in language class.)
So, clearly we included this journalling in our Sheen Notebooks, using their writing to help document the journey.
Here was one journal starter that was set up like a picture. The kids likes putting this in their notebook, and it had a cool connection to the unit on light that we were talking about in Science.
This one was done after reading a new article about Sheen. The had to write a new fact, a question that the still had, and one thing that they couldn't believe about Sheen (something that was incredible, inspiring, etc.) This would function as a great exit activity for an assignment that wouldn't require a lot of time for the kids or grading for the teacher.
Here is an example of how I set up a longer journal writing assignment that all of the kids had to work on.
I started with this giant post it on the board. I do love my SmartBoard, but there is also a place for teacher created posters that can stay up and be referenced easily.
They copied this into their notebooks, complete with the instructional notes and the topic.
On the board, I included a quick checklist of the expectations for the writing assignment. Detailed? No. But we talked about them orally, and this gave the kids a visual to come back to as they were writing.
So, just a few ideas for how to use them, but click below for the journal starters matching what we did in our classroom: