The Hidden Joy of Writing Journals

Every weekend, my students take home a writing journal with a simple writing assignment. Last year I tried to get them to write more about their life, and most pages came back filled with monotonous day-to-day, “First I woke up, then I watched T.V.” type entries.

This year I started to incorporate their writing assignments with things actually happening in the classroom.

Why should we recycle?

Who is your favorite author and why?

What did you learn about the water cycle this week?

During our last writing unit on non-fiction, one of my students was really struggling to pick an “all-about” book topic. One weekend his assignment was to write about his favorite animal. Instead of a simple journal entry, he wrote an all-about book (about tigers, his favorite animal) without even realizing it!

As I mentioned in my last post, we recently started learning about how to write fairy tales. The assignment for the weekend was to pick a fairy tale character you like the best and write about why you would want to be that character. One of my girl’s came back with an entry about how she would be Jasmine, because the thought flying on a magic carpet with the birds would be amazing. Here is a look at the end of her entry:

Reading my students’ journal entries is a highlight of my week! What kind of writing topics do you give your students?


“Using Tech to Enable Dreaming”

I discovered TED talks around 2007 or 2008… and I thought they were insanely fantastic. Recently, I have started to watch more and more TED talks. It may replace my “One Tree Hill” addiction.

This past December, Shilo Shiv Suleman gave a TED talk that introduces her new storybook iPad app “Khoya”. Her talk is the title of this post, “Using Tech to Enable Dreaming”. The app she created sounds amazing, it puts you inside the stories you are reading and makes it extremely interactive (there are parts where you have to GO OUTSIDE-a lost art in itself- and take pictures of flowers, or the bark of a tree, or an animal, etc.). In writing workshop I just started my unit on “Fairy Tales”, and my students could not be more excited. This app really works with that unit, the only thing is that it is rated for ages 9+ due to some fantasy violence (have you ever read the original fairy tales? they were dark!). Check out her TED talk here:

Shilo Shiv Suleman’s TED talk

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. I just learned this today! Anytime you seen an x, it stands for an independent and local group organizing TED talks, which is great. I have come across some really interesting presentations over the past couple days.

What is your favorite TED talk?