For a while I was unsure of what to write for this week’s journal entry. This uncertainty stems from the fact that the journal topic this week was up to our own preference. Even though we all struggle to free write, it’s important to not only do so but to teach and encourage our students to free write. Many of the papers I struggle with the most were the ones that were a free topic. Once I managed to brainstorm out ideas for a topic, I usually ended up enjoying the writing process. Reflecting back on this, I most likely enjoy choosing my own topic because well, it is mine. I want to say something and I can write out whatever I choose. If I am writing an essay I have to find proof to back up my point and to explain my ideas and opinions so others can see where I am coming from. Of course not all students love this freedom of writing or we probably would not be taking this class right now.
To help scaffold students to the point where they are motivated to free write essays on their own, personal writing is a great step towards that end goal. Journals are an opportunity for students to practice free writing in the classroom. You can start off the journals by giving the students a topic, work towards multiple topics, and end at the students creating their own topics. While the journals may lack the same style as a formal paper, the journals still teach students how to free write. Gail E. Tompkins (2012) wrote that students write in journals to ask questions, explore ideas, activate prior knowledge, solve problems, and engage the imagination. All these skills built and expanded upon in journal writing are necessary and transferable to all different genres of writing. If you are giving students either an unfamiliar topic or a topic of their choosing, it is often easier for them to simply say “I don’t know what to write.” This line is a line we have all heard before. Before I would have thought the kids were perhaps being ‘lazy.’ But now, my thoughts turn to a student who is struggling with the concept. It is easier for students to say they do not know what to write than to admit they are struggling with something. Tompkins (2012) offers a quick fix for this common alignment of writing. He suggests having students, during pre-write, “brainstorm a list of ideas and pick the most promising one to write about” (Tompkins, 2012, p. 111). Brainstorming allows students to realize that the topic is not as difficult as it seems; they just needed help getting started. For one of my lessons in the next few days, I am going to have my students brainstorm a list that they can use as a reference. This way students will have a reference sheet and will not have to worry about being stuck.
Tompkins’ (2012) chapter this week illustrated ways we can engage our students in the genre of personal writing. After watching Dr. Jones’ presentation/lesson on personal writing I felt that I learned a lot about the genre. Even though I read the chapter, seeing the various strategies explained and having to partake in a few, helped clear up any confusion I was having. One idea I know I will take from this genre is the double-entry journals. Tompkins (2012) wrote that “students become more engaged in their reading and more sensitive to the author’s language” through the use of double-entry journals (p. 114). Students become more engaged and sensitive through picking out quotes that might mean something or stand out, by writing a reflection. Even after using these for a while, the columns can be modified and adapted to a new topic the kids are studying. The adaptability is perhaps one of my favorite concepts of strategies; I love how you can change them to fit which ever topic you may be working on. For the next book I start with my students, I plan on using double-entry journals. Not only will it (hopefully) get the students as engaged as I am in the text, but start helping them understand the importance of interpreting and understanding quotes. While we all say to not focus on test prep, it is still an important aspect of us as teachers since the students need to improve their tests scores. Having the students grasp the concept of understanding quotes will in the long run, help them with their critical lens essays.