Friday, July 16, 2010

Thinking Out Loud on Paper

There are books that you read and wonder, "Why didn’t I think of this?"  Thinking out Loud on Paper: The Student Daybook as a Tool to Foster Learning   (Heinemann, 2008) is one of those books. 

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)

Now, why didn’t I think of that? 
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Anonymous said...
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elysabeth said...

So they use composition notebooks to keep up with their thoughts, and just about anything else they want to write down? I'll have to look in to this later - sounds like a good idea - E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

Where will the adventure take you next?

Carol Baldwin said...

I am so impressed with this book that I would vote it the one book that no teacher should be without! It is very easy to read and shows clearly how to use the composition notebooks in the classroom--and how their use encourages students to think!
Thanks for stopping by. Carol

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

"Becoming a writer and feeling the joy of writing is how we spend 99 percent of our time."

I like that! (For students and for me!)

Anonymous said...
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Jean said...

How exciting. It sounds like a "one-on-one" approach in a crowded classroom.

I love it.


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