Sunday, November 9, 2014

Journal Writing for Critical Thinking & a FREEBIE!

Hi Friends!
   If your school is anything like mine, the words "differentiation" and "critical thinking skills" are floating around the hallways and lounge like gnats in the summer.  Not to mention the talk of extended response opportunities in writing and content areas.....they're everywhere I turn!
   In my quest for ways to "up my game" with my firsties, I came across some excellent articles and research on using more WHY questions in journal prompts and activities.  There are some great suggestions for implementing this in the classroom, but the one I loved the most was the use of "Would You Rather?" questions. 

   You know.... would you rather be able to fly or be invisible? Kids LOVE these type of questions ( and I think most of us do, too!), but the real THINKING comes in when they have to explain WHY... they have to put into words WHY they made a certain choice.

  To start this in my class, I put up a journal prompt on the Promethean Board.
We have to differentiate our morning work, so my kids are divided into 4 colored groups. The dots under the journal prompt represent how many sentences are required of each group.

  I gave a mini-lesson sentence writing before we started. We discussed the importance of really explaining our thinking and providing details in our writing. 

  Friends, I was AMAZED at how well my kiddos did... Amazed!  Here is an example from one of my friends. This picture is from a journal writing before we started these prompts:
And, this is his journal entry using the "Would You Rather?" prompt:
Wow!  I love that he wants to be a boy mermaid, and talks about volcanoes on the ocean floor! 
So many details. :)

Here are some other writing samples using this approach...
 This sweet girl is one of my lowest babies, and I couldn't believe how much she wrote. She was so proud of herself, too. 

Yeah, we still have some work to do.  Especially on NOT starting all of our sentences with the word "and". 
This one wants to be a mermaid boy, too! 

This prompt was "Would you rather eat 1000 marshmallows or one bug?"  I love how this friend said "...because I'm not a bug eater!"  

Apparently, this firstie thinks living on the moon would be fadelis (fabulous) and cool!

I am just loving all the details I am seeing in my kids' writing. 
They are REALLY thinking and providing evidence for their thoughts.

The "Would You Rather?" idea is certainly not mine. There are ideas and prompts all over the place!!

I just took the idea and ran with it.  I created a set of prompts for the month of November, so that I can post one every morning when the kids come in the room.

This set includes the differentiated prompts I use in my classroom, as well as the same ones without the differentiation piece.

There are also printable pages if you would like to make a monthly journal for students.

If you already have journals you use in the classroom, I've also provided cut-apart prompts for each day.

Check out the FREEBIE of these pages by clicking {HERE}.

The full product can be found {HERE}or by clicking on any of the above pictures.

I hope you can use some of these prompts in your own classroom! I've already got my mind running on more prompts for December.  

Of course, my mind is full of lots of teacher questions, like "Would You Rather.... have 40 students in your classroom with wonderful parents or only teach 10 children but have difficult parents?"  or....

"Would You Rather teach 12 hours a day with NO meetings ever, or teach 6 hours a day and have a meeting twice a day?" Hmmm... What do YOU think? :)

Have a great week & thanks for stopping by!!!

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  1. Love your teacher "would you rather" questions at the end...we could all add quite a few of our own!

    I love this idea, as my students usually struggle to come up with a reason other than "It is cool/fun/whatever!" Must try some of your samples this week. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Love your kids' writing. What a great idea to get them writing!


    The Teddy Bear Classroom

  3. There are the ideas accumulated with effective ways and hopefully these will further leads towards better understanding of certain features. bio writing service


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