Literacy in the Math Classroom: Journal Prompts

Our big push for the year is literacy across the curriculum.

I'm excited about two new ideas I'm trying.

First of all, I have a first hour achievement period which is comparable to a homeroom or advisory. We've done a lot of different things. We watch Channel One news and have discussions, we have a silent reading day each week, we have regular study halls, etc etc. This year we got a bunch of new posters that line the hallway entrance. They are the ones with black borders that focus on a character trait like honesty, integrity and so on. Each student had to pick a quote. Then they had to find a picture on the Internet that went along with the quote. They had to write a one page reflection on why they chose this quote, how it relates to their life, and how their picture describes the quote. I didn't give them a due date, they just worked until they were done and then took turns presenting to the class. Then I had students vote on the best paper, best presentation, and funniest presentation. This sparked the idea to have students write and present more and more until we get to a point where students can self-assess and asses each other using a rubric. I'll be interested to see how the quality of what they create changes during the process.

I found these super amazeball notebooks at Wal-Mart. They are black and white and covered with designs and you can doodle on them and design them however you want. Slightly reminiscent of comic books. They come in a pack of 3 and cost $1. My students love them!

The part they don't know is that they only have 56 pages of paper. Ok, well they can read, so they do know that. But what they don't suspect is that once we run out of paper, I want to transition them to blogging. :) But how can I do that when I don't have enough computers. Enter Project iPad. I've decided that right now while we have the grant is the prime time to start a 1:1 iPad program at our school. So I've neatly tied that into our literacy project by having the students research and write papers in support of the idea, complete with main evidence, supporting arguments, and so on. The students are greatly intrigued. We started by doing a bubble/web/concept map graphic organizer on benefits of an iPad. Monday we are going to list the potential downfalls. Our literacy coach came in and talked to them about public speaking and gave them a graphic organizer that outlines a speech. We are going to use our webs to prioritize what should go in our outline and build our paper around that. I'm trying to get other teachers and classes involved so that every student has a say in it. How powerful will that be? And I'm hoping that the administration won't be able to deny every single student who has researched, written, and presented a well-thought out argument.

I also planned to do a lot of creative writing prompts to hopefully hook them into writing, thinking outside the box, and better expressing themselves. I found two great sites for prompts: creativewritingprompts.com and http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/ I went through the first site and picked the ones I liked best and made a pretty PowerPoint to use in my classroom. I like the second website too because it adds the visual piece. I will definitely be adding to this but it is a fantastic way to start.

My second idea takes place in my eighth hour class. The class is a supplemental Geometry class for students who did not meet or exceed in their standardized test scores. There is no real curriculum and no one can tell me what I should be doing. So far, I've been doing a mixture of extra help with geometry, reviewing stuff from the end of algebra, and teaching new stuff that I didn't quite get to in algebra. I bought the same amazeball notebooks for them too but their writing prompts will be focused on math instead of creative writing. Earlier I had posted a list of algebra writing prompts and now I am slowly transitioning that into another pretty Powerpoint. My thinking is to start class with journal time because my next door neighbor English teacher does that with them already. In all my other classes, I start off with a bell ringer. But by eighth hour, I'm usually tired and winging it. This is definitely a better solution. I think it is also a healthy break for the students who have me two hours in a row. It gives them a chance to be quiet, think, write, and discuss. My thinking is that the writing prompt will drive the material we learn/practice/review that day. Eventually, I want to have stations that students rotate through (that's another post entirely) so I'm wondering if it would work to have a writing station, board work station, and online (ALEKS) station. It would give students about 15 minutes per station. More on that later.

Some students have me for first and eighth hour and have my next door neighbor for English so that is at least 3 times a day that they will be writing and ultimately engaging in critical thinking. I'm excited about the prospects!

Oh, you probably want to know how I'm going to grade. For now, I think I will just be giving participation points. Friday I had everyone read their answers out loud. I may glance at them weekly to make sure they are actually writing and not just spouting off at the mouth. In the future, I hope to have students self-assess or assess each other. Our literacy team came up with a fantastic rubric but in my opinion, it is too much for my students' short journal writings. Seems way more appropriate for papers, not necessarily a paragraph or so. But then that just means me and my students will have to create our own. More team work and collaboration.



  1. I've started doing a Ticket out the Door with my classes. At the end of the day they jot down what they learned, what they don't understand or answer a question I put on the board. My plan is to keep these tickets, hole punch them and string them together for each student right before testing starts. Prayerfully it will jog their memories and help them with studying for the test. Also I hope it serves as a time capsule of learning for each of them.

  2. Exit Slips are something I plan to work on really hard for next year. Our coaches are pushing for formative assessment so I think that could be a good method. This year I'm focusing on creating bell ringers, notes, and homework for each lesson so next year, hopefully, I will be able to create those as well. I do that sometimes informally just by passing out papers or having them work problems on whiteboards.