December 10th, 2012
It’s December 10th, so what better time to begin our 10-day series with Jeff Anderson. We received dozens of questions about writing and teaching writing over the past few weeks and we will post Jeff’s responses to ten of these. So check back every day this week and next to see if your question was chosen. At the end of the series we will announce the winner of our Jeff Anderson giveaway that includes all of his books and videos!
Question 1: What is a good way to use journals in social studies?
Jeff’s response: I love this question. I hear a desire to include more writing in social studies, which is an admirable goal. First of all, I wouldn’t call them journals in the social studies. I call them writer’s notebooks in my English class, but journals have too many associations that won’t serve you well in social studies. Maybe call it a History Log or Historian or Geographer’s Notebook. Be creative. Just don’t call it a journal.
One of the best uses of a social studies log I have ever seen is a teacher using the History Alive program from Joy Hikam. As part of the routine, most days students use an “interactive notebook.” Students draw a picture or symbol or map on the left facing page that symbolizes or synthesizes what was discussed in class and then reflect or summarize on the right-hand side of the page. I like this because students use more than one mode, and the drawing actually supports the writing. This is a meaningful tool for thought in your subject area.
That to me is the essence of how you could use a learning log in social studies: a place to record questions, reflections, notes, wonderings. A place to draw maps, cartoons, write persuasive letters, plan PowerPoints or other media and yes, maybe even include a pioneer child’s journal entry as he or she goes out into the wilderness or witnesses any event in history.
Whatever you do, don’t make it a boring thing. Of course, you can’t use the kids as a gauge as they will always complain when they have to write. Short spurts. Talk in between. Share. Gather information. Discuss. Write more. Sharing will keep the writing alive and interactive.