Authored by: Cheryl Gaumont PED3177 A

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” -Albert Einstein

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Theoretical Frameworks

Daily creative journalling in the classroom can have many benefits to students of varying ages and grades. Some key areas where journalling has positive results include:

Classroom Management
Classroom management is one of the largest and sometimes the most difficult aspect of a teacher's job. One of the ways in which an attentive, task-oriented, and calm classroom can be established is by creating a daily routine and setting clear expectations. Daily journaling in the classroom can serve as a great tool for establishing this structured class environment. As special-education teacher Donna Bowerman points out, “Daily journal writing gets my students focused on language arts as soon as they walk in the classroom door. They know the routine is to get their journals out and start right in” (Hopkins, 2010). English teacher Susie Scifres adds that daily journaling “really helps [her] get the class calm and ready to transition into that day’s activities” (Hopkins, 2010). When students know that journal writing is the first thing they are to be doing every time they enter the classroom, they will begin to fulfill the expectations of this task without having to be asked by the teacher. Since journal writing is an independent activity, establishing this routine ensures that the class will always begin with minimal noise levels and little disruption, cooperation that is then more likely to carry on into the rest of the day’s lessons.
Creativity and Critical Thinking
Providing a prompt on which students can begin their daily journal entry sparks creativity and imagination. Students have the freedom to take this topic anywhere they would like without fear of being criticized for the ideas they come up with. Providing a prompt allows teachers to get students thinking about subjects they may never have considered before. The more unique the prompt, the more possibility there is for varied and detailed responses from students. The more interest that is ignited within students, the more depth they are likely to pour into their entries.
Likewise, as Ben Lingenfelter discusses in his article, Journals Useful in the ELA classroom: Why & How Journals Ought to be used in English Class (Lingenfelter, 2010), journalling can be an excellent way to stimulate critical thinking about the themes presented in a work being studied in class. Similarly, a prompt can serve as an excellent way to introduce a new topic of study, or to hook the student into the next unit. Lingenfelter provides prime examples of how journal topics can incorporate unit plans when he suggests that "If the class is studying The Giver, it's a good time for imaginative writing about futuristic worlds; if Great Expectations, they can write about pride or hopes and dreams; if it's The Outsiders, why not write about personal experiences with hatred? The journaling acts as the "anticipatory set" or starter for the whole lesson, and when the students have time to formulate their thoughts while journaling, they tend to participate in the lesson more" (Lingenfelter, 2010).

Improvement of Writing Skills
As Melanie Simpson writes in the article, Daily Journalling in the English Classroom, "Students, at every level, are often intimidated by the writing process" (Simpson, 2010). There may be a number of reasons why students have this fear of writing. It could be that they do not feel they have the skills necessary to produce a well-written, grammatically sound piece of writing. It could also be that they are afraid of having their writing criticized, or are shy, or it might simply be that they cannot think of anything to write about.
Daily creative journalling can help students build confidence in their writing as well as improve their writing skills. One of the reasons that journalling fosters stronger writing skills is that it encourages students to write on a consistent basis, so they are regularly developing their skills. Another reason why journalling results in increased competency in writing is that depending on the teacher's method of assessing daily entries, student journalling is done without the pressure of being marked. By removing the stress often associated with graded essays and assignments, students can feel increased comfortability in honing their writing craft. They may also feel that they are allowed to take more risks in their writing and experiment more with words, structure, and point of view, to name just a few possibilities.

Develops Student/Teacher RelationshipsOne benefit of journal writing which may be overlooked is that it allows teachers to gain better insight into each individual student. Since each journal entry is unique to the individual who wrote it, these student journals are an invaluable tool for understanding each individual. By providing feedback to selected entries, teachers are able to foster relationships with students, and reading their creative thoughts is beneficial in assessing a students' level of comprehension, depth of critical thinking ability, as well as their general skills in writing. All of this knowledge provides excellent information on which the teacher can develop lesson plans, divide groups, and implement differentiated learning techniques.
Satisfies Curriculum ObjectivesOne of the major benefits to journal writing is that it can be adapted to meet the expectations of any grade level. Throughout grades, the overall exectations in the Ontario curriculum for the writing strand remain much the same. They are as follows:
"By the end of the course, students will:
1. generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience;
2. draft and revise their writing, using a variety of literary, informational, and graphic forms and stylistic elements appropriate for the purpose and audience;
3. use editing, proofreading, and publishing skills and strategies, and knowledge of language conventions, to correct errors, refine expression, and present their work effectively;
4. reflect on and identify their strengths as writers, areas for improvement, and the strategies they found most helpful at different stages in the writing process" (The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8 Language, 2006 and The Ontario Curriculum Grades 9 and 10, 2007).

By implementating daily creative writing, students have the opportunity to continuously work on satisfying specific expectations in all areas of the writing strand's overall objectives. An interesting dynamic to creative journal writing is that the teacher can prompt the development of targetted specific expectations through his/her choice of daily topic. Journal writing ensures that students are consistently working on generating, developing, and organizing ideas, but focussed daily topics can target more specific expectations such as practice on writing form, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, point of view, punctuation, and grammar. Moreover, journal writing can be a real benefit in getting students who are not keen on English class or who struggle with the subject to practice in these areas, sometimes without even knowing that their daily writing is honing in on and developing these specific skillsets.

More specific writing expectations can also be targetted with creative journal writing depending on the intended method of assessment set forth by the teacher. For example, if journal entries correspond to topics being studied as part of a greater unit, and the expectation is that students will select one of their entries to submit for assessment at the end of the unit, then further expectations involving revision, proofreading, drafts, and producing finished products are also targetted.





Teaching Ideas and Mini Lessons

Daily journal prompts make an excellent opportunity for incorporating creative writing into a greater unit plan and allowing students the opportunity to expand on and think crtically about concepts presented in class. The following examples of entry topics are broken down under possible language arts themes/units. Prompts should be open-ended to allow as much creativity amongst students as possible.

Description
The year 2100 ...
My walk/bus home from school ...
A typical Saturday ...
My favorite place ...
My favorite thing in the whole world ...
One time I had a dream ...
Mystery
The scariest place ...
A time I was surprised ...
Going on a treasure hunt ...
Something I believe in but cannot prove ...
The monster in my closet ...
What scares me the most ...
Point of View
A day in the life of my favorite childhood teddy bear or toy ...
A fly on the wall ...
What my life would be like if I lived 100 years ago ...
A foreign-exchange student joins the class today ...
A soldier on the battlefield ...
Character Development
My best friend ...
If I were an animal ...
My arch-enemy ...
My favorite teacher ...
If a movie was being made about your life ...
Dialogue
If my pets could talk ...
If I could have dinner with anyone from history, living or dead ...
A conversation I'd like to have, but haven't had the chance ...

Assessment Ideas

Assessment of journalling can be done in a number of ways. If creative journalling is implemented as a daily routine, or as a nightly homework assignment, then notebooks can be collected at the end of every week or at the end of a unit to be marked. Each entry can either be marked solely for completion or read by the teacher and marked for style and depth of the narrative. If students' notebook entries are meant to remain private and not to be critiqued, then when it is time to hand in the notebooks, teachers could mark for completion but also ask that each student put an asterix beside one entry they wish for the teacher to read and provide feedback on. In using this method, students have the freedom to select the entry they feel most proud of, and most confident in sharing.

If the prompts for the creative notebook are related to aspects of units of study, such as each entry aimed at constructing dialogue, or description, or a focus on character development, then students could be asked to select one of their entries from the unit to be edited, re-worked, typed, and submitted for grading. A variation of this would be to have weekly "sharing sessions," where students gather in a circle and take turns selecting a piece of their work to be read aloud to the rest of the class.

Another idea for assessment of creative writing could be to have the students compile selected notebook entries and have them work together to design a class magazine showcasing their best pieces.

Teacher Resources

The following five resources contain theoretical information about daily classroom journalling as well as links to numerous potential topics for journal entries.
http://homepage.mac.com/mseffie/index.html
http://www.suite101.com/content/daily-journaling-in-the-english-classroom-a241705
http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr144.shtmlhttp://www.suite101.com/content/journals-useful-in-the-ela-classroom-a204336http://712educators.about.com/cs/writingresources/a/journals.htm
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References


The Ontario Curriculum, Grade 1-8: Language. (2006).

The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9 and 10: English. (2007).


Effinger, S. (2010, July 28). Ms. Effie's Lifesavers. Retrieved from http://homepage.mac.com/mseffie/index.html

Hopkins, G. (2010). Journal Writing Every Day: Teachers Say It Really Works! Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr144.shtml

Kelly, M. (2010). Journals in the Classroom: Flexible Instructional Tools. Retrieved from http://712educators.about.com/cs/writingresources/a/journals.htm

Lingenfelter, B. (2010, Mar 31). Journals Useful in the ELA Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/content/journals-useful-in-the-ela-classroom-a204336

Simpson, M. (2010, May 27). Daily Journalling in the English Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/content/daily-journaling-in-the-english-classroom-a241705