Beginning Your Journal
- Grades: 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Develop an understanding of journal-style writing.
- Explore self-expression through journal writing.
- Notebooks, loose leaf paper, or any style of journal
- Pencil or pen
- Previously prepared Graphic Timelines
- Excerpts from the Dear America Series
- Max’s Mystical Logbook by Marissa Moss, or another read-aloud book.
Set Up and Prepare
- Select excerpts from journals to read to the class.
- Prepare a journal entry using a prompt from the Teacher’s Graphic Timeline. (Keep it short and lively.)
Read Max’s Logbook to the class. Demonstrate other styles of journals by reading selected Dear America excerpts. Discuss what the selections have in common and what purposes a journal can serve. Invite students to contribute personal experiences they may have with journal writing.
Discuss how the events on the graphic timeline are individualized writing prompts. Each is an event students have lived and a story waiting to be told.
Read the journal entry you prepared and explain why you chose that event. Ask students what other events on the teacher’s timeline they think would make a good journal entry.
Ask students to choose an event from their timelines that they think would make an interesting story, and write a journal entry describing it. Encourage them to reflect on the important parts of that event and include them, such as:
Who was involved?
Where did the event take place?
What feelings do you recall having?
Did you learn something new?
Why was this event important to you?
Give them a 15 minute time limit to craft their entries. You might want to play soft music.
Invite students to share their journal writing. Display the Graphic Timelines in the classroom.
Supporting All Learners
- Students who struggle with this activity can be assigned a shorter writing assignment or sentences associated with Graphic Timeline entries.
- ESL students can write in their first language, and then translate into English using classroom resources.
Keeping a journal throughout the year provides a powerful tool for student communication. In my classroom, students begin each day with a journal entry. They are encouraged to write about what’s going on in their own lives. They know what is expected when they enter the room. They get down to business while I manage the daily record keeping and get ready for the day’s lesson.
Try reading a book about journal keeping as a class literature assignment. These resources are very helpful:
Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech. See the Teacher's Guide.
Rachel’s Journal by Marissa Moss. Learn more about Marissa Moss.
Assigning journal writing as homework gives students a different perspective writing from the comfort of their homes. Parents can be asked to write their experiences in the journals.
- Read excerpts from a variety of journals.
- Identify purposes and styles of journal writing.
- Choose an event from a graphic timeline and write a journal entry.
You should observe that students were able to write about a personal event that they had illustrated on the timeline. Do students seem prepared and comfortable with the writing assignment? Are students enthusiastic about journal writing? What other modeling could you have done to aid understanding of the assignment?
In the beginning of the year, you can asses students based on the quantity of journal writing assigned. As the year progresses, you can assess students on a variety of writing conventions and mastery of style.