This strategy is anything but new, but I thought I would describe how it works in my classroom.
The first ten minutes of almost every English class I teach is devoted to journaling. We’re talking old school, marble journals, no talking, no thinking (too much), no stopping. I don’t like to police use of phones and other tech in my class, but for those first few minutes the class must be absolutely “tech free” — I describe as strength training for more arduous tasks like the SAT.
I have read so many times that writing alongside your students is key — and to be honest, I do not achieve this the majority of the time. I produce my own versions of some major assignments, but not every year. With Journaling though, I have my own, and I succeed in writing in it for most class periods:
One reason I don’t write in it every class period — apart from general fatigue — is that I let students read and reply to my journal. They have the option to leave their journal for me to read, and I value that. So it seems unfair that I wouldn’t also put myself out there.
I can’t say that kids are clamoring for my journal every period. One way I often use it is by handing it to someone who is so clearly done writing for the day (even though the instructions are to just keep pushing through.) Sometimes this has no effect. Sometimes, though, they go a little bit nuts over the stuff I’ve written.
Of course, I still have my Ms. Pahomov identity on while I’m writing. But I also share lots of personal details that would never have a reason to come up in class. Like this random page from last may, which includes references to my best friend, my partner, and an unfortunate incident that happened at 23rd and Washington:
If we share, I can read mine too. If I notice that I don’t want to write on the prompt, I’d better change it next time. And if students are making noise, my teacher glare is much more effective if I am also scribbling away. We are all in it.
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