Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 3: Research and Discovery - Shirley Sterling and Laura Tohe
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
K/W/L Chart
Student Work
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.

Teaching Strategies


Because they invite informal writing and thinking, journals encourage students to think and take risks in writing. Students can use journals to jot down thoughts about and make personal connections to a topic. They can track ideas for stories and essays, as well as questions about new or difficult issues. Students can also use journals to document and assess their learning processes. Journals provide space for the literacy experiments that build fluency.

Journaling in Sally Brownfield's classroom

Sally Brownfield weaves journal writing into every aspect of her unit on American Indian residential schools. As her students read Shirley Sterling's My Name Is Seepeetza, a novel written in the form of a journal, they, too, keep journals. "To be a critical reader," Brownfield says, "there must be the expectation that students read beyond the words on the page and make a connection to themselves and their own world. Journal writing gives them the space and time to make that connection."

Brownfield's students respond to My Name Is Seepeetza in their journals, then use this writing to inform their small-group discussions. They also use their journals to do "quick writes" in class to respond to a question that arises in discussion. For instance, when the class talks about the meaning of names in Seepeetza, Brownfield instructs them to write in their journals for 10 minutes on the importance of names. The students take their journals home to record interviews with family members or neighbors about Indian residential schools, and they use the journals to make "text-to-self" connections.

Finally, Brownfield asks the students to add to their personal K/W/L charts in their journals as they read. Sharing their K/W/L charts helps each student develop a question he or she would like to pursue for a research project. (See Student Work.)

In Brownfield's multicultural class, the use of journals ensures that all voices in the classroom are heard. The subject, Indian residential schools, raises personal and painful connections for some; journals act as a "safe space" for students' feelings. Additionally, as Brownfield notes, students raised in Native American homes are socialized to listen respectfully during discussions, so their voices may be lost in classrooms where students respond orally. According to teacher educator Jerome Harste, "Journals provide an opportunity to make sure that all the voices are on the floor and are invited into the conversation. What's wonderful about Sally's classroom is that the kind of social practices that are in place there are good for everybody."

Tips and Variations for Journaling

  • Though Brownfield's students use journals in a variety of ways, students can also use journals to experiment with point of view, do sketches of a novel, write letters to authors, collect quotations, or rewrite endings.

  • Teacher educator Jerome Harste notes that he often has students make four comments after they have done a reading: an "observation," a "question," a "surprise," and a "connection."

Benefits of Journaling

  • Using journals respects differences among students by inviting each student to write and think in his or her natural "voice."

  • Journals allow students to experiment with language, thoughts, and reactions.

  • By encouraging students to think in writing, journals can encourage them to make meaning of content as they study it.

  • Journals can invite students' open-minded "interrogation" of texts and the world.

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