I remember in my early days of teaching readers / writers workshop with Nancy Atwell‘s suggestion of buddy journals [read about it here in an updated chapter on Dialogue Journals from The Best Kept Secret by Harvey and Elaine Daniels] .
Students would write to a buddy and also their teacher who would respond to the ideas. The focus was not on mechanics, but on ideas based on their independent reading.
Later, we kept writing journals, for daily choice writing. At the end of each year, guess which of their work they took home? I wrote about this in a 2011 post, Cleaning Up:
I noticed that as they left class, the one thing most kept was the writing journal, the part of class written for their own purposes.
Those journals represent so much more than any test; they are the purpose and and impetus for writing for life. Under the arms of future authors, the journals continue personal journeys of poems, tales, truths, and dreams.
They wrote for themselves, in their own words, and that made all the difference.
I thought of this while commenting on Denise’s blog about Teaching Rewards, where her dialogue journals build relationships with her students, and those moments of connection between teacher and student are one of the greatest rewards.
In my post from 2009 about “The Flow in Writing Class” I explained how computers allowed us to type those journal drafts and more easily revise them. I found an increase in those “teacher rewards” because students feel and share “aha” moments more frequently:
While working, each is focused, removed from whatever exists outside the classroom. In complete control of the writing, each enjoys the “aha” and the look of the typed wiki or blog. I see a student, dropping hands down to the side, pushing the chair back, and gazing at the finished piece before announcing, “Ms. Edwards, look at this!”
The students were able to articulate their revisions and choice in images and I could acknowledge their choices. Often they initiated where they needed help as I danced around the room from student to student, the time freed up for that student time through the technology that allowed more online resources for students and more choices and personalization for students.
As the years passed, and students were more adept at typing, drafting in journals happened less and less. One of their favorite writing choices was Tuesday Slice of Life [started by Two Writing Teachers]. Again, this energy flowed because the time was theirs and the ideas were in their own words based on their choice of topics. Their own words, on paper or online, are their intrinsic rewards.
But I wonder… how are schools providing for students to take their online work with them? Are students offered a way to take home their work, their own words, like they could their paper journals?