Journaling as a Cross-Curricular Method

I love using journaling in my classroom!  As a social studies teacher, journaling gets students thinking and writing about the content instead of just selecting answers on a multiple choice assessment.  There are three specific reasons I really enjoy using journaling: it’s flexible, it gives students a chance to form and express their opinions, and it can lead to great discussion in the classroom.

           Journaling plays a couple different roles in my classroom.  Traditionally it is used after content is delivered as a way for students to sum Journalingup what they’ve learned.  While I still use journaling in this way, I’ve also included it as a way to track students’ changing understanding of a topic.  For example, when I teach about the filibuster in the Senate I ask students, at the beginning of class, to write a short paragraph about what they know/how they feel about the filibuster.  Generally the responses are negative and consensus seems to be that the filibuster is a waste of time.  After I’ve taught them about the filibuster I ask them to write again.  Most students are still apprehensive about the filibuster, but they understand that it’s a tool for the minority to protect themselves from the majority.  This gives me evidence that students’ opinions about the topic have changed.

           I also love the fact that journaling gives students a chance to form and express opinions.  Especially in a government class, for some students a journaling activity may be the first time they’ve been asked their opinion on a political issue.  A great example of this comes with the question, “What role do you think the government should play in regulating businesses?”  Most students know how to parrot what they hear around the dinner table, but this question gets them to think about a fundamental political question that doesn’t ask them about political affiliation or a specific issue.

           Finally, journaling has led to some great discussion in my classroom.  Students can be hesitant to participate in a classroom discussion or debate.  But journaling gives students a chance to get their opinion or ideas down on paper before they’re asked to talk about it.  I usually have students volunteer to read their writing to the class and we may discuss some responses depending on the prompt.  While some students may not share their writing, they are sharing their opinion and thoughts with me.

           These three reasons in favor of journaling mean that it doesn’t have to be confined to the ELA or social studies classrooms.  Because it can take a number of forms, a journaling prompt could be used in the math classroom.  You can ask students to share how they got their answer or have them explain how they may use a concept or equation in their life.  In the science classroom, students can share how they’ve seen a science concept in their lives or they can develop an analogy for a cycle or system.  The important thing is to remember that journaling can be used in any classroom to get students to explain a concept or express their opinion on an issue.

Blog IconBrandon is a new social studies teacher in Virginia.  He has experience teaching civics, U.S. government, and sociology.

Tools for Teachers: Remind 101 and Celly

By Tara Spitzer-List

As teachers in a technology-rich world, the days of paper ‘agendas’ or day planners are almost gone, and many of us are using cell phones, iPads, or laptops to organize ourselves. Our students operate the same way, and we can use this to our advantage in the classroom.

Remind101 and Celly both are free services that allow you to send free text message reminders or announcements to a group of people.  In both cases, you can hand out a letter or handout (provided by the website, or customizable by you) that gives students directions to text to a certain number, or email an address, with a code, that ‘assigns’ them to your class.  They then show up on your list (without either of your revealing your cell phone numbers).  You can send out reminders for upcoming tests, homework, etc.  
For Remind101, the signup is very simple, (as outlined above), and can be done by cell phone or email.  The messages can then be sent out only to the whole list, or a sublist (of a smaller group of people).  The messages are one-way (students can’t reply), but it is simple, straightforward, and almost foolproof!

Celly gives more options.  In the celly signup, users are also asked to pick a username, and reply back to confirm their sign up.  Students can sign up and get notifications through an app, text messaging, or email.  The messages can be sent to the whole group, or to individual users.  Users can then reply, and users can send messages.  You can choose the settings so that a reply goes to the whole group, only to you, or to the rest of the group with approval.

Whichever you choose, both tools can help with parent communication, student homework completion and other reminders.    Continue reading