Through this entire research process, I have learned a great deal about the usefulness of journals in the classroom.  I have come across some great ideas such as practicing new grammar techniques with journals as well as using them for jumping off points for other larger assignments. Although I did not find anything the explicitly told me how or why to grade journals a certain way, I have learned from the the majority of what I read that grammar is not as important as content when using journals. Basically, I just need to be able to understand what the student is trying to say and allow them to play around with grammar without having the fear of making mistakes. There is a time and a place for grammar and journals are not it. I don’t believe that incorrect grammar in journals causes bad habits, because students already use incorrect grammar in social media and text messaging.  Today’s youth understands the difference between formal and informal writing probably better than ever before.  In my classroom, journals will be used as a tool for generating ideas and practicing writing.  Even if I have my students practicing a certain skill such as writing compound sentences, I will grade them based on effort and not whether or not they are right.  I just want to see whether or not they are getting the concept, and if they aren’t, then I will have to explain it better to the class.  My findings have brought me to the conclusion that I will grade journals, but it will be exclusively on effort and grammar will not be considered.  Of course, this is just my theory at the moment, and I won’t know for sure if it’s something that I will continue believing until I have a class of my own and can put it into effect.

I was reading through the writing process that Grammar for Language Arts Teachers describes for using in the classroom, and I came across some interesting ideas.  The authors explain that grammar should be de-emphasized in the early writing stages. It is suggested that students should not only not be graded on grammar in the early stages of their writing, but they should be encouraged to not worry about grammar.  The book explains that it is more important for students to develop ideas and explore concepts.  When writing on topics, the students do not need to worry about grammar because revisions will occurr later in the writing process.  The book essentially re-affirms my ideas about writing in journals: they don’t need to be graded for grammatics until later.  It is suggested that the teacher not concern himself with grammar, because those are things that the students can rectify later in the writing process.  Essentially, there is no need to make sure a sentence is written correctly if it is going to be taken out of the paper later on.  I love this idea, because it comes back to my thoughts that coming back to already begun pieces can be further developed.  Nothing that I have read or seen anywhere explicitly argues that journals should be graded for grammar and mechanics. While I can clearly see the importance for students to be able to write correctly, I do not think that the journal needs to be a place where they demonstrate the concepts all the time.  If your interested, have a look at the book.

Calderonello, Alice, Martin, Virginia S, and Blair, Kristin L. Grammar for Language Arts Teachers. Pearson Education. New York: 2003. http://www.amazon.com/Grammar-Language-Teachers-Alice-Calderonello/dp/0205325270

Scar stories.  I will demonstrate how to start with a few different scar stories in my journal and then molding those into one finished published piece.  This writing is to demonstrate story telling, and showing how to develop pieces from informal to formal over a period of time.

15 Minutes to write about 3 of your scars:

I have a scar on my forehead from playing American Gladiators.  I got the scar when I was ten years old, and I was playing at with some of my friends.  I tripped over the obstacle course when the lights were out and hit my head on the corner of a table. There was blood everywhere and I had to wear a huge bandage.

I got this one scar on my middle finger from getting the car door shut on it.  I was fighting for the front seat with my older brother when he ended the argument by shuttin the door on my finger.  My finger got smashed and I tried to pull it out.  When I pulled it out, I scraped all of the skin off my finger.  I screamed and cried because it hurt so bad.  I had to wear a cast for 2 weeks and it looked like I was flicking everyone off all the time.

I have a scar on my thigh from my mom.  When I was ten, she stabbed me with a needle so hard that it left a scar. We were at the football field and I got stung by a bee. I am allergic to bees, so my mom had to give a shot in the leg to make sure my throat didn’t close up.  She freaked out and stabbed the needle straight into my thigh with a ton of force.  When she brought the needle up, it was bent because it hit the bone so hard that it bent on the bone.

Take one of the scar stories and tell more about it (students can talk with a partner about their stories before writing):

We were all bored on a rainy day during June.  Summer days were usually fun, but my friends and I were stuck inside which was no good.  I was ten and full of energy.  There were eight of us in all, and we needed to find a way to have some fun.  My friend, Nick, got a good idea: American Gladiators.  We turned the basement into an obstacle course right away.  We had all kinds of different events set up and one of them was the maze.  It would be too easy to just set up a maze and walk through it, so we came to the conclusion that we would turn the lights off and not let us see.  The maze was simply knee-high toys snaking around the basement in no particular pattern.  There were also going to be gladiators walking around the maze that would try to stop whoever was trying to make it to the end.  Of course, I volunteered to go first.  I was traveling through the maze at a slow but steady pace when all of the sudden I bumped into something.  Only it wasn’t something, it was someone. A gladiator.  He knew it was me right away and turned and pushed me backward.  I couldn’t see anything in the pitch black basement, but I knew I was in some trouble. I tried to step backwards but tripped over the maze and felt myself falling.  BAM! I hit my forehead right smack-dab in the middle of a wooden table. Nick flipped the lights on when he heard the crash. I placed my hand on my head and brought back a scarlett palm. My friends all gave me a sympathetic look, and I knew right away that I had a bad cut over my head.  By the time I got all patched up, I was fitted with a bandage that wrapped around my whole head and gave the look of a Vietnam War vet injured in battle.

 

I found an awesome blog post that explains how the teacher gets her students to understand the importance of literacy.  The author, Patty Blome, tells how she uses Frederick Douglass to help get her students to care about reading and writing. I love her idea and can see it being a perfect activity for my students in the classroom.  Following up on her idea of the initial reading assignment, I could definitely use the journals for students to respond to the reading.  If I were to ask the students to do something like “write about how Frederick Douglass used words to change U.S. society,” then they can dive into how Douglass chose certain language and why that language was important.  Grading assignments like these are more content based, because I would want my students to care about what they are saying and not care about how it is laid out or punctuated.  This article is just further evidence that content outweighs grammar and mechanics when it comes to journal.  I’m still not sure where to draw the line.  Have a look at the blog and enjoy the idea.

Blome, Patty. Frederick Douglass’s Enduring Impact. February 17, 2009. http://blogs.scholastic.com/9_12/2009/02/frederick-douglasss-enduring-impact.html

I found an interesting blog that laid out many different ways to introduce journals to students.  The teacher’s name is Laura Robb and she has been a teacher for 34 years.  The blog explained that there are different uses for journals such as character analysis or plot summaries.  The teacher focuses on whether or not the students understand and/or grasp important concepts. As long as the students can answer and dive into topics, then they are successful in their journal entries.  I really appreciated the article’s ideas about different reasons and uses for journals.  Some ideas that I have never thought of such as allowing students to illustrate their idea of what a character looks like based on information from a story.  Check out the blog for some good ideas about using journal as an informational tool for measuring students’ understanding in the classroom.

Robb, Laura. Reading Workshop: Easy-to-Introduce Journal Responses. March 2005. http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4258&FullBreadCrumb

Revisiting “To Kill A Mockingbird” from the view of Scout 10 years after the book ended.  This sample demonstrates the concept of writing like the author and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.  It also allows me to show my knowledge of the story and it’s characters and plot.

Being home for the summer in my old town brings back tons of old memories.  The old house looks the same as did during that faithful summer of the trial. Of course, Jem is gone.  After joining the army, he only comes home two times a year.  It’s nice seeing his wife and little Jem Jr. when they are in town.  Dad still reads and practices law, but he spends more time at home and less in the courtroom these days.  He has aged quite a bit and I know he misses us somethin’ fierce.  I have only been gone at college for a year, and he has written me at least 30 letters. I know he is real proud of me for going to school to get my teaching degree, so I think he forgives me for leaving the house.  I think i will move back home when I graduate and teach in this area.  Haven’t seen ole Dill in a long time, but I know he is out there somewhere entertaining people with his stories.  He always had a way about him when it came to using his imagination.  People in town seem right happy to see me, and I even stopped by ole Boo’s house a few days ago.  He didn’t talk much, but I think he is plenty happy to see me. I reckon I liked seein him well-enough too, but he is still a little bit wierd.  Course I’ve learned weird can be good.  Anyways, I gotta get down to the post office to send this letter off to my best friend Casey before they close.

In English Grammar Language as Human Behavior, author Anita K. Barry explains the complications involved in teaching grammar.  On of the key ideas that I took away from what she wrote is that grammar is always changing and therefore difficult to nail down.  Five years ago, “Google” was not a common word or phrase.  Now, “Google” has become a verb “Googled” that means searching for something online.  I don’t think that many dictionaries would have that definition inside of them, but it is an expression that is understood in the english language.  For example, “I Googled funny animal videos.”  That saying is understood by virtually anyone who speaks english regularly.  At the same time, it is not considered formal or correct in terms of dictionary or encyclopedic information.  This causes a problem in correcting grammar in student’s work, because if they were to write something like that in a story about what they did the night before, then it would not be incorrect socially.  Where do I draw that line? Anita suggests that we continue to mold with the changing language and keep adapting.  This causes a problem not only with journal grading, but it also brings up questions for final products.  Students should be able to write the way that society talks currently.  Anita explains that as english speakers, we need to be able to understand what someone is trying to say in english.  I appreciate this idea, because it demonstrate the idea that writing is meant to be shared and entertaining, and not some sort of formulaic process like the scientific method.  In terms of journal writing, I believe that ever evolving language is a positive for grammar and students who use it correctly know what they are doing. For some more ideas about grammar check out the book.

Barry, Anita K. English Grammar Language as Human Behavior. New Jersey. Prentince Hall: 2002. http://www.amazon.com/English-Grammar-Language-Behavior-Second/dp/0130322601/