Not Just Journaling Anymore!

Writing takes place in every subject, every grade… but why does it still get you rolled eyes, sighs, and one of my favorites (and I have heard this)– can we just draw you a picture?  Now, I’m all for encouraging students and their artistic talents, but one skill that will help students throughout their lives is WRITING!  So the question remains…how do we get students to enjoy writing in your class (or at least try)?  Perhaps one of these activities will make writing an adventure for each of your students (in its own way) this school year–

Basic Journals: We’ve all said it, "Take out your journals and tell me about your weekend," but this only works the first week of school when your students have something to share about their summer.  Instead, use a unitedstreaming image, video clip, or the enhanced Writing Prompt builder to allow students to be reflective writers. 

  • One of my favorite activities for younger students (made it into a workstation) — do a search for ‘spots’ (images).  Post an image and ask students to write about what they think the image is and make up a story. 
  • If you are about to do a unit on volcanoes, Shakespeare, shapes, measurement, etc… post an image and pose a question to create some "buzz" so your students start thinking about the unit beforehand  This is a great way to extract information about what your students already know about the subject.
  • Have some time on a Friday?  Post a few images of inventions– have your students pair up and draw/write about an invention they would like to create.  You can easily vary this activity to best suit the grade/subject you teach.  A popular choice–famous Americans.  Who would they like to meet? What would they say to this person?  What qualities of that person are most intriguing? ** I have seen teachers take this unit to the next level and have students become the famous American, research, write a script, and put on a Living Museum for other classes to visit.
  • Even more inspiring–show a short video clip and have students respond to what they watched. 

**Be sure not to prompt students with the "easy" response type of questions**  For example, if you show a clip/image of Shakespeare– don’t just ask students to tell you about what they saw, ask them to think about "what if" scenarios (How would you change the ending? What if Lady Macbeth doesn’t defend her husband?  What if Juliet never takes the poison?).  Students will be more inclined to write if it interests them and/or they can share their opinion about something.

The Great Debate: Give student teams a topic and challenge them to defend their arguments and incorporate video clips, images, encyclopedia articles, and research as evidence.  Ok, so who has not heard of CSI on TV (aren’t there about 10+ different legal/investigative shows now)? Use this to your advantage!  Sample ideas:

  • Shakespeare unit– Have students put King Lear’s daughters on trial (both defending and prosecuting their actions). 
  • Shapes — What if the planets were cubes?  Which shape is better and why?
  • The Magic School Bus Gets Swamped video–build a mall or preserve the habitat?
  • Constitution Day — What would you add/change to the Constitution or Bill of Rights and why?
  • Life Science:Ecology video– debate on Galapagos Island findings and human actions on ecosystem

Whew– too much to write!  I hope you’ll also share your ideas this week and get your students writing!



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