Well, I’ve established a few things, and I’m sure I’ll discover more and more as an aspiring English Teacher.  First, the journal is a place for our students to get whatever ideas they have on paper.  Secondly, therefore, the teacher is not to examine the journal with an evaluative eye.  This means we are not to mark up their journals whatsoever.

Now, to the nitty gritty of this blog!  How grammar and mechanics plays into journal writing? Well, it seems tricky since we cannot mark up their journals, but here are a few techniques that may work:

1. While reading your students journals, you may notice some trends in the errors your students are making. A way to address these is to present your students with the tools to correct these errors.  Then, encourage them to go back to their journal and find places where they could fix these errors.

2. Along with number 1, using their own writing instead of worksheets, upon worksheets, upon worksheets, is more beneficial.  The students pull more meaning from processes that apply to them.

3. Show them how you do edit and use these techniques in your own writing!! Our students need to see how it is done!

4. Mentor Texts!!! This is probably my favorite! When your students see the “pros” do it, they will find ways to incorporate the techniques in their own writing.

All the time, we are encouraging our students to think like writers and they find what works for them.  In that, we are teaching our students the Writing Process!!!!

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After titling the previous post “The Essence of the Journal,” I realized that I might have to make a few more, because there are so many ways to utilize the journal.  In the journal, we simply stress that our students get their ideas on paper no matter how silly they think it is. Constance Weaver, in her book Understanding Whole Language, speaks on literacy.  She lists the characteristics that define literacy. I will share one that can be directly applied to journal writing:

Number 6 on her list calls for journal-like action. Here, she defines literacy as “developing a flexible repertoire of strategies for constructing meaning, monitoring your own comprehension, and solving problems encountered in trying to construct meaning.”  That’s why we use journals, to learn to be literate.  We want are students to learn to write like writers.

I feel like I need to address this one subject up. Carol Jago, in Cohesive Writing, talks of a place for students to do lots writing where she does not look upon it with an “evaluative eye.”  Students simply “learn to write by writing.”

This is why we as teachers and future teachers should not mark up our students’ journals; they are personal spaces for ideas. We can encourage them to go back to certain pieces they have written and look for grammatical and mechanical errors.  From there, our students can clear their mistakes or leave them,  if they are intentional.

Carol Jago, in her book Cohesive Writing, has found that “focusing on mistakes in students’ own prose has a greater impact than performing artificially constructed practice exercises.” And, this makes sense.  Jago, as all teacher will, sees common errors throughout papers and addresses and reviews them as they are encountered, making instruction organic, something Jeff Anderson speaks on. Here, Jago is not holding up her students’ journals, drafts, and pieces of writing yelling, “WRONG!!” She is simply asking them to examine their own work, just like author’s do.

One exercise that she uses with her students, which can be done within the journal, is to draw a line between each sentence of a piece of writing. Then, she asks her students to check the fluency of their sentences.  In this exercise we can ask them: How can you add variety? Can you play with grammar in your piece to make it flow? Can you play with spelling, punctuation, etc. to add effect and flavor for the reader?

Mentor Text Blog

Posted: July 13, 2011 in Teaching Writing Inquiry

I found a blog on WordPress oddly enough. I found this in the “links” section of Jeff Anderson’s Website. It’s called Six Trait Gurus.

The writers of this blog review books, list ways that they could be used in the classroom, and simply offer new ways to “turn students into writing experts. Just a few of their include “Linking reading and writing” and “Keeping writing instruction authentic.”

One of the more recent posts discusses a biography about Mark Twain, which includes excerpts from Susy, his daughter. Some of his daughter’s writings are full of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.  A suggestion that the bloggers make is asking the students what affect the mistakes have on Susy’s message or what advice they would give her as far as word choice, voice, sentence fluency, etc. This could all be done through journal writing. Again, we are getting our students to think like writers by watching other writers.

I found this AMAZING blog created by Lauren Wolter, a teacher from Seattle, Washington.  The blog was inspired by a conversation Wolter had with Jeff Anderson, the author of my current textbook, Mechanically Inclined. She has taken Anderson’s advice and has become a “professional sentence stalker.”  Wolter says that Anderson encourages all teacher’s to become sentence stalkers in order to “promote positive development of students’ grammar knowledge and writing style.”

The blog contains many different categories of sentences including:

  • Best Sentences Ever
  • Structure/ Length
  • Syntax Techniques
  • Parts of Sentences
  • Style/ Voice
  • Punctuation

This is a great resource for teachers to “explore grammar, not just correct it.”  Again, we let students see how writers use grammar and mechanic techniques as they put their ideas on paper. And, again, we encourage them to think like writers as they may begin to bring these techniques into their own writing.

Also, it has encourage me to become a “Professional Sentence Stalker!!”  I am now going to create a page on my simply for mentor sentences!!

Options Over Rules

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Teaching Writing Inquiry

Lindblom, Ken. “From the Editor.” English Journal 100.4 (2011): 10,10-11. ProQuest. Web. 11 July 2011.

Click Here for Article

Teachers of writing should empower their students. This is why Lindblom, in the article “From the Editor, argues that we, as teachers, should “give options, not rules.”  Instead of using examples of right and wrong, we should take a “constrastivist” approach. This means showing our students different styles of language work for a variety of situations. As far as journals, we can encourage our students to go back to their writing and find places to incorporate newly learned grammar techniques. This gives our students the option to make their writing style more appropriate for the situation and audience. (We continually encourage them to think like writers!!)

WRONG!!!

Posted: July 11, 2011 in Teaching Writing Inquiry

Ehrenworth, Mary. “Grammar–Comma–a New Beginning.” English Journal 92.3 (2003): 90,90-96. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 11 July 2011.

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Dear English Teacher and Future English Teachers,

Don’t stifle your students!! After reading Mary Ehrenworth’s article, I thought it worthy to mention a “No No” in using student examples from their journals.  Ehrenworth notes, from personal observation, that students do not pull meaning from a teacher holding up pieces of their writing, correcting mistakes for their peers to see. It turns out that when this type of instruction is over, the students fail to use the new concepts in their writing. In Ehrenworth’s words, “why would they” pull meaning from that?  No matter how courteous you think you are, the student sees you yelling “WRONG!”  at him or her in front of peers.  Students may tend to close up when this happens. So, TEACHERS, publish proper uses of grammar from your students journals (with permission of course).  Bring your students’ inner-writer out!

Sincerely,

Ryan Furr (A Future English Teacher)

Martinsen, Amy. “The Tower of Babel and the Teaching of Grammar: Writing Instruction for a New Century.” English Journal 90.1 (2000): 122,122-126. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 11 July 2011.

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I found this interesting article from English Journal. In it, Amy Martinsen talks about the task of teaching grammar. She begins by explaining that a teacher of writing must have a clear definition of what Grammar is.  Once that is set, teacher should find a “middle ground” and determine what is relevant for student writing. It is useless to weigh down our students with every little ounce of Grammar rules that we can. We need to empower our students with the tools to make their writing understandable and powerful.

In that, Martinsen argues that Grammar cannot be taught without the incorporation of student examples. This is where the journal can come into play. The student is then able to interact with Grammar concepts in their own writing, thus rendering a more genuine learning experience. This makes the instruction relevant. They may even begin to see themselves as writers, working through the writing process in this way.

How does grammar and mechanics  play into journal writing?

I want my future students to feel comfortable writing in their journals, a place for them to let loose with their words and ideas.  In there, they will be free to experiment with different genres and styles. That being said, I don’t want them to be worried about editing, but they need to know that to be understood by readers, our writing should be checked for correct grammar and mechanics. So, I’m on a quest to find out how grammar fits into the puzzle of  journal writing.