Before assigning any kind of journal writing the teacher must explain to the students all the expectations that are required to completing and grading the journal. By identifying all the expectations before writing the journals this will prevent some confusion for the students and it will also facilitate good teacher and student communication.
What the Teacher Needs to Explain Fully to the Students:
What is the purpose of the journal?
What format is to be used for the journal?
What will the students write about?
How much writing is required?
When will the journals be due? Where do the students turn them in?
How will the students be given feedback?
When and where will the students pick up their journals?
How will the students be graded?
Who will read the journals?
The teacher needs to state what percentage of the student’s grade will be affected by their journal writing and how they will be graded. A syllabus or an introduction letter about the class is a good way to notify the students and parents what is expected. Teachers must also go over the syllabus/introduction letter thoroughly with the class to avoid any confusion and allow students to ask questions. Studies show if the instructor chooses to incorporate journal writing into their class, unless the journals have an effect on the grades, students will put very little effort into their writing (Hahnemann, 1986). Grading journals therefore gives them value and shows their importance. How much the journal writing should count as part of the student’s grade is up to the teacher. Usually it is 10% (Hahnemann, 1986) to 20% (Tryssenaar, 1995) to make sure that the students feel the journal writing assignments matter and are important. When completing some journal assignments it is imperative to remember that if the focus is on the thought process, then grammar and punctuation should not be a part of the evaluation of the journal. If the focus of the journal is to reflect, then the journal should be an environment where students can write and not worry about punctuation, grammar, and spelling (Walker, 2006). Teachers need to convey that content is more important than word count and sincere reflection on the topic is key.
*You can also use these rubrics below to assess students' abilities to complete the journal activities assigned. Share the assessment with students prior to completing the journal writing lesson so they will understand how they will be assessed. You can also use the rubric as a basis for discussion and feedback with each student.
Teachers must give feedback to the students about their journal writing before the second writing assignment is given. Judgment and criticism should not be noted on the journal writing. Instead, the attempt to write on the student's part is more important than the success of the attempt (Hahnemann, 1986). One to two comments about the entry is more than enough (Brown & Sorrell, 1993). If more comments are stated by the teacher the students usually lose their sense of purpose and meaning of the writing. The students will worry about grammar and sentence structure instead of what they are trying to say (Holmes, 1997).
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