t100 ESSAY AND JOURNAL TOPICS
Ken Stewart Chapel Hill High School Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Journal writing is an informal approach to developing students’ writing skills. The assessment is primarily based on improvement and completing a minimum number of pages (5 pages skipping lines) by the established deadline. My feedback to students is focused on interaction with what they have written as opposed to correcting syntax or orthography. Since this is a dialogue journal, I respect the confidential nature of what students choose to write. Be prepared for students to share anecdotes that may be sensitive in content. This is a great way to get to know your students on a more personal level. I do not place a value judgment on their ideas or how compelling their argument may be. I am concerned with improvement from one journal collection to the next. Ease of expression and sophistication of vocabulary are taken into account in the grade that is assigned. One strategy, as a focus activity, is to start the class with one of the journal topics on the board or overhead when the students are entering the classroom. After a 6-7 minute writing exercise, have the students turn to the person seated next to them and converse about what they have just written. Next, solicit opinions from the class as a whole to engage the class in a discussion in Spanish. This activity focuses on the synthesis of writing, speaking and listening while combining the interpersonal and presentational modes of communication. Students write the 5-page entries outside of class. Ideally, the class will finish the 70 pages in the notebook (skipping lines) by the date of the AP exam. I have found that the spiral-bound composition books are both inexpensive and practical. Different colored composition books are used in rotation, so that the grading is not overwhelming. For example, I buy red, blue and green composition books, collecting one color each week in a cycle throughout the semester. Students...
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