A few years ago, my school instituted journaling–from math class to art class. Everyone was writing about their feelings, providing feedback on projects, answering teacher-initiated prompts. They delivered unedited, ungraded opinions, encouraged to shoot from the hip, be honest, speak their minds. This was from the model of the LA Freedom Writers when a young teacher inspired her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education by journaling. The result was supposed to be thousands of students who lost their fear of writing, were no longer afraid to speak their mind in class or on paper, remove the pressure from writing
because the constructs were ignored.
Is it working? The National Writing Project reports that Americans fear our schools and children are falling behind even though 98 percent of Americans polled think learning to write well is important
It’s that descriptor writing well that has us confused. Here’s what I’ve found. When we journal in too many classes, for too many years–write without paying attention to the constructs of communication–we lose the benefits. It becomes an excuse for real writing, a no-holds-barred fill-in for other writing assignments which would require more thought and attention by both teachers and students. I’m not saying some journaling isn’t good; I’m saying this much isn’t.
Why? Here are a few reasons:
- They’re stream of consciousness, no thought paid to organizing thoughts and communicating an idea or convincing the reader of your point.
- They are outside of grammar and spelling rules. I don’t know about you, but when I read something with misspelled words and bad punctuation, I think the person isn’t educated. Call my small minded, but I think I have a lot of company. Wud yu reed much if I rote lik ths?
- Kids know teachers don’t read journals critically, that anything they write is OK, so that’s what they write: Anything. Worse, they write what they think you want to hear. I hate that as a teacher.
Try blogging. It gives you those cute little red squiggly lines when you mispell something. You can add pictures and music if you can’t find the right words. And to help you communicate your thoughts, it provides easy formatting (as well as pictures and music–and polls. I like polls.)
What do you think?