What Journal Elements Will You Start With?
Ultimately, all elements of the journal are interrelated and important. Students’ reflections make the most sense when we can also see the problem, their solution strategy, and the other elements of the journal. However, if your students are young or your time is limited, you can start with some journal elements first. You may want to pass out a copy of the problem for students to paste in their journals, and to have students reflect verbally (rather than in writing) at first. At minimum, we suggest that your initial plan for launching journals includes:
- Looking at student journal entries each time they make them and leaving comments–even if it is simply a happy-face with your initials
- Using student journal entries from the prior lesson to begin the next math lesson, so that students see the power of their ideas to shape the next mathematics learning
We recommend that you do not grade journals. Correcting poorly-written numerals is important feedback, along with circling mistakes and questioning or correcting them. However, grading journals is likely to undermine students’ willingness to write authentically about their challenges and confusions. Many teachers are used to providing extensive individual feedback in language arts journals; for reflective mathematics journals, feedback to students can be woven into instruction itself, as students use their journals to present their work to the class, and as teachers select journals to begin the next day’s lesson.