When I was in junior high, I enjoyed reading stories, writing to pen-pals, keeping a journal, and creating poetry. Fast forward a few years and now I blog about these passions: reading and writing. But now my “pen-pals” are my blog readers with whom I share book reviews, writing tips, insights on the process of writing historical fiction, and an occasional poem or two. Please leave a comment and join this conversation on literacy.
Used in all grades, the daybook is a marvelous way to hook students in all subject areas to "think out loud" through writing. I resonate with the concept since it fits with my own experience as a writer. I remember things better when I write them down and I process my thoughts and experiences by writing about them (as readers of this blog know!). Now with my own daybook, I have a place to keep my random thoughts and jottings all in one place.
The book is co-authored by five members of the UNC Charlotte Writing Project. As such, each author has contributed his or her experiences with using daybooks personally and in the classroom. The result is an easy-to-read guide on how to implement daybooks. Chapters include how to organize, sustain, and assess the books; as well as the advantages and disadvantages of going digital.
From the introductory chapter, the authors explain their thinking. "Daybooks have helped us foster ways of learning that allow students the space and freedom to be silly and messy, to be thinkers and writers just for the sake of thinking and writing, to be miners of their thoughts even if just to dig out a golden line from something that they read....The daybook breaks down the typical disconnect that occurs in schools: disconnects between theory and practice, between one grade and the next, between one subject and another, and between the way people really learn and how we often feel obligated to make our students learn in very specific and predetermined ways."(p.1, 2)
This book takes the simple, ordinary composition book and elevates it to a position of central importance in the classroom. More than a journal, it not only is a way for students to record random thoughts which they might use in a poem, essay or story; but is also a place to store favorite quotes ("golden lines"), new vocabulary words (which they pick and share with their peers), questions for book discussions, revision strategies, focused quickwrites, maps of complex texts, metawriting musings, as well as "ordinary" writing assignments.
One invaluable aspect of the daybook is how students reflect upon patterns and themes they discover in their own writing. As Karen Haag, one of the authors writes, “A key component of daybooks is self-assessment. By having their thinking in one central place, students can refer back to their ideas through the year. Writers look back over the pages and see progress…I ask my students to reflect on what is happening in their daybooks and document what they see. Students build this reflectiveness over time through daily, weekly, and quarterly assessments. These assessments become as important for growth as the work itself.” (p.85)
Using the daybook concept, teachers are creating creative and inquisitive writers.As a result, these students go into standardized testing with confidence and smiles. “Becoming a writer and feeling the joy of writing is how we spend 99 percent of our time. Only 1 percent of our time is spent on the test—and in that time, we are showing them that they already know everything they need to know.” (p. 46)
To sum it up: “Daybooks make visible students’ thinking and learning.” (p.61)