Part 1 of the writing in middle school math series discussed increasing think and participation ratio through weekly journaling. Participation ratio describes the proportion of the class actively engaged in learning (ex: writing, answering questions, discussing math concepts, etc.). Think ratio describes the depth of thinking students are doing (translating ideas to written and verbal format, building on previous ideas, developing new ideas, etc.). Now that you have downloaded the math journal and reviewed the writing prompts, it’s time for students to start writing.
How should teachers introduce math journals to students?
When introducing any new procedure to students, the best way is to model expectations. Don’t get discouraged if it takes modeling a few times before students clearly understand what to do and can complete the task on their own. Students need to repeat actions several times before they are comfortable with a routine. Be patient and stick with it!
Set expectations for journal entries such as the length of response, writing in complete sentences, attempting the task, etc. To set a routine, choose one day per week when students will write in their journal and share the selected day with them. For example, teachers may elect to allow students to write on Fridays during the first seven minutes of class. Students may also be required to write at least five sentences per prompt. Show students an example of an exemplary response so they will gain a better understanding of expectations.
Where should students store math journals?
To ensure that every student has their journal each week, we suggest that they leave them in the classroom each day. If a student forgets a journal at home, writing prompt responses will be stored on a random piece of paper and possibly left on the classroom floor or crumbled in the bottom of a book bag.
Create a neat and organized space in the classroom to store math journals. Review the procedure for retrieving and storing journals with students on a weekly basis until it becomes routine. It may be helpful to have one student pass out and collect the journals to prevent off-task behavior in the journal storage area.
What if students refuse to write or only write one sentence?
Writing in math may be new to students, so it’s possible for confusion or lack of motivation to occur at the middle school level. Encourage students to attempt the writing prompt and reiterate that you are more interested in participation.
Create writing guidelines that students can quickly follow and post them for reference. Circulate the classroom to provide individual encouragement when needed. If the majority of the class writes one sentence, it may be time to teach a mini-lesson where you model how to respond to a writing prompt again and create a class dialog around misunderstandings.
Over time, writing responses will improve and become more detail. If students complete their writing prompt early, encourage them to revise and improve previous prompts.
What if students use interactive notebooks? Should they also have a math journal too?
The decision to use interactive notebooks and math journals rely on the teachers’ preference. It’s important to remember that ease of use and organization is key to sustainability. If students currently use interactive math notebooks, it may be more feasible to place journal writing in the same notebook. In that case, teachers may post the writing prompts and students can record their responses. If you haven’t done so already, join our community to access the printable student math journals, which includes 36 weekly prompts-enough to cover the school year!
Remember the purpose of math journaling is to provide space for students to reflect on their personal and academic thoughts about math. Occasionally teachers should read a few journal responses and write a quick note to the student.
Since middle school math teachers may teach up to 100 students over a course of a week, it’s suggested to choose a few responses to review each week. To ensure that every student receives a response, select different students each week and allow classmates to share responses.
What if I'm unable to purchase math journals or print free math journals for my students due to lack of resources?
While the actual printable journal is ideal for organizing student responses to the writing prompts, we also recognize that some teachers have limited resources at their school regarding paper and ink for printing. Don't let this limitation discourage you from implementing writing in your math classroom. To help overcome this obstacle, you now have access to the journal prompts in a slide presentation format. Using the slide presentation format allows teachers to display the prompt and students can write their journal responses on any document (ex: bottom of a worksheet or in an interactive notebook). The most important point is that students are participating in journal writing in math class.
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