Saturday, June 11, 2016

What If? Reading Journals

I have been writing a daily journal since November.

Dean Shareski recently wrote in favor of schools giving students the opportunity to do Hour of Code, which is an introduction to coding. He argued, "The promise of K-12 education has always been to provide children with a broad liberal arts experience that prepares them for life."

If this is really what we believe, perhaps it is time for us to re-examine book journaling. I have read the stories of kids 'hating' reading because they have to record what they are reading and when they are reading it (book logs). I totally understand how when a 'want to' becomes a 'have to' it can suck all the joy out of it. I also understand that sometimes we 'have to' make students do what they would prefer not to do, specifically to become better community members. Is there compromise that can be reached?

Book journaling is a thing that many adults do. You can even buy specialty journals created just for that purpose. Surely it is something we wouldn't mind our students growing up to do. So, what if we have students book journal instead of just log? I realize the same arguments that I put forth before are just as valid here. I do think it could be done in the short term to introduce the concept, like the Hour of Code, but without becoming a year long, onerous task for everyone involved. 

First, start by explaining the concept of journaling, which typically is to write down what we have experienced. Then explain that for a short time, say a month to six weeks, the students will be creating their own journals specifically over what they are reading. You could then set up your guidelines (post daily, twice a week, etc) and ask them to really try to do a good job. After they have written their first entries, read a few aloud. Have the students ask questions from the writer about the book. Identify what worked well and what might have been done better. Then at the end of the time, stop.

Why stop at the end, especially if it is working? Because you said it would stop. That doesn't mean you can't continue to read the journals of those who continue to write, or even share them with the class. That just means stop the 'have to' expectation. Let them know that you both true to your word and that anything they do in class, especially stuff they don't like will have an end point. It is easier to stick it out if you know it will end. 

Finally, encourage them to journal around something they are interested in. Are any interested in writing about the video games they play? the movies they watch? the YouTube channels they love? Allow them to share those entries as well, just don't make it a 'have to', not all kids will be enamored by the idea of writing stuff down (and that is just fine!)


  1. I like the idea of a short-term project where everyone journals. Then, after that, they can continue if they choose (or do it sporadically). So often we think that we must do or do not instead of do for a little while and then stop. Thanks! (Sorry for the Yoda-influence in my response!)

    1. Thanks for the comment :) I do think that making it a relatively short requirement with a definite endpoint is the key to this working well. We can all manage things we aren't really happy with if we know it will be only for a short while.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.