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Buddy Journals 1 Buddy Journaling and Building Community in the Classroom Nancy Vidlak Shoreline 07-08 Writing Institute of the Puget Sound Writing Project Rational, Vision, Question Buddy Journals 2 Description: My application project presented the possibility to create a strong caring classroom community during the year by having buddy journals. Also, my project asked the question, how will 3rd and 6th graders relate to one another if they were to be buddy journal partners? Every school year I begin with a philosophy and strategies that are intended to create a classroom where everyone is accepted as they are and that children “do no harm to each other”, learn to be compassionate, and trust each other as classmates. I would like to create such an atmosphere with the use of “buddy journals” Also; I would like to extend this project by including one 6th grade room in the school. To accomplish this I provided simple “buddy journals” for all in my classroom. I began having the children write with their buddy once –a – week on a specific topic. I then extended this project by having them become a buddy with a 6th grade classroom. My long-term hope is that over time the children would learn and care and talk to each other respectfully on an every day basis. Will it be possible to create a caring and compassionate group of children through buddy journals? The evaluative process will be in the form of the children writing about what they learned from doing this and how they felt responding to their classmates and the 6th graders writing. As the facilitator of this project I will be keeping a “diary” of observations and indications I might witness that show companionship and compassion while children are writing. When starting this project I have had two sets of journals. I made classroom buddy journals, and a separate set of journals for both the 3rd and 6th grade buddies. I have found this to help identify the two journals quickly. During the now eight month long project we have been writing with our classroom buddies weekly and our 6th grade buddies every other week, on various topics such as, who is an important person in your life? What is a favorite place or favorite food to eat? What would the world be like if everyone looked the same? We have been responding to each other about our thoughts in free writes. My journal observations have described times when sixth graders where very complimentary toward third graders and how well they wrote. Other observations described how I noticed new friendships developing within the classroom between the 3rd graders. Review of Resources: I supported my topic with three resources from the Internet and trade books on the topic specifically discussing buddy journaling in the classroom. I read a section from the book, Journals in the Classroom, a complete quide for the elementary teacher By Judith Ann Issacs and Janine Brodine. Two main points made in the book were, taking the “onus” of having children write “off of the teacher” for responding to each and every child in their individual journals but also gives opportunity to provide a real audience Buddy Journals 3 with their peers, build interest and confidence, and allow students to share insights and provide opportunities to support one another. This book has affirmed my idea that buddy journals can slowly create a communicating community in the classroom. The children take time to write what they feel and ask questions of each other within their journals. My second resource, were the “googled” words “Buddy Journals” and I came across several teacher web sites that discussed doing buddy journaling. One that “caught” my eye as being similar to what I am doing was from Mrs. Autrey’s 5th grade class at Greenwood Elementary at Grand Ledge Public Schools in Michigan. She is furthering her knowledge base by participating in a study through the Red Cedar Writing Project at Michigan State University. Her research question is, “how does her community of writers change over the course of the school year?” She is keeping a digital portfolio on the subject. Her class is paired with another class of the same grade in a girl, girl, boy, and boy fashion. In her class they write daily, sometimes with a prompt and sometimes as their own choice. I check in with the site every few weeks to see any changes. I am getting ideas from some of her displays of the children’s journals and prompts given. Although our set- up is different, and I do not journal as often, I have found this helpful with my own journaling process. The Book Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook by Aimee Buckner, was my last resource. It is a compact guide on how to create and sustain a “Writer’s Notebook” within a classroom setting. It encourages and gives a teacher many strategies, lessons, and samples of students writing, and helps create an atmosphere for a child to have a collection of pieces within a notebook of their own that can be used later for revising and editing with a possibility of publishing selected pieces. It naturally takes the writer through a process of brainstorming ideas and testing out different genres. I have found this book to be helpful in my working with “buddy journaling” because it has given me different ways to think about brainstorming topics or having children come up with their own ideas for buddy journaling. I continue to be in process with this guide encouraging writing in a more natural way. Aimee Buckner, a fourth grade teacher at Brookwood Elementary School in Gwinnett County, Georgia, is clear and concise when sharing her ideas and what has worked with children. Conclusion: Although my journaling observations are not as scientific as pretesting and postesting a topic I have found that my children have displayed moments of kindness and caring that with experience I do not always see this time of year. I believe that this exercise has brought them closer. This closeness has shown itself in subtle ways by the way they play; by inviting each other out to recess, talk; several compliments have been given, and helping each other; girls and boys alike will help with work and tasks such as Buddy Journals 4 cleaning out their desks, on a regular basis. There continue to be disagreements, arguments, and hurt feelings but I have found that they are willing to talk out those differences with me as mediator because they have made a connection through writing. On a weekly it has helped “open doors” of communication that sometimes has a way of breaking apart as the year ends. Reflections: I have felt this has been a worthwhile project and definitely one worth repeating and perfecting. I plan to continue having my class buddy journal until the end of the year. I would like to think of a reflective type question for them to journal about and hopefully gain more insight on how they felt about buddy journaling and if it is something they have felt has made for a better experience being with classmates. I have strong feelings in this day and age of technology that is making us a society of non- communicators. We must provide personal avenues for children to become closer with their classmates. What better way than writing from personal views and understandings? Buddy Journals 5 Annotated Bibliography Issacs, Judith A., & Brodine, Janine. (1995). Journals in the Classroom: A Complete Guide for the Elementary Teacher: Winnepeg: Portage & Main Press. This resource honors the management of buddy journaling by suggesting how to begin and how to pair buddies. the main points made about buddy journaling are taking the “onus” of having children write “off the teacher” and gives opportunity to provide a real audience for the writer. Online Document: , . (). . http://www.msu.edu/user/autreyta/buddy.html . 4 May, 2008 from . http://www.msu.edu/user/autreyta/buddy.html This online website of Mrs. Autrey’s 5th grade class at Greenwood Elementary at Grand Ledge Public Schools in Michigan provided an opportunity to” follow” Her buddy journaling experiences with her class over the course of a school year. Mrs. Autrey shared her management strategies and suggested prompts. Buckner, Aimee E., (2005). Notebook Know How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook: Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers. Although not directly related to buddy journaling, this book is filled with strategies and successful lessons helping children build a “working” writing journal that takes them through a natural writing process. Lessons from this book are encourage children to think of their own writing topics to work on and later come back to revise and edit.
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