September 16, 2017

If you ask any language teacher what your child can do to improve their marks in English (or Afrikaans for that matter) they will all tell you that your child needs to read more and write more. So I decided to create a Writing Journal in Google Slides to encourages learners to write more.

When I just started teaching, I shared a flat with a language teacher. One day we sat for hours trying to work out a system where she can get her learners to write something every week. But whichever way we argued it, the amount of time and energy that would go into managing it, just was not feasible.

What you really want is a blog

Writing a short piece on a consistent basis on a variety of topics is the definition of a blog. Blogging has long ago moved away from a way to share your holiday experiences with your friends and family. These days blogs are used for anything that requires consistent new content. But I have found that teachers intimidated by the concept of blogging because they do not understand what a blog is themselves. So while I still maintain that a blog is a perfect medium for a writing journal I decided to design something more manageable for teachers.

Google Slides for the win

Leveraging the magic of Google Apps, I think I have found a way that learners can be asked to write a short piece on a regular basis with minimum admin issues for teachers and learners. You might have realised by now that if I have to order the three most important file formats, it will be spreadsheets first, then slide shows and lastly word documents. So while the obvious format for a writing journal would be a Google Doc, I decided to rather use Slides, because I like the extra freedom it provides. I created a writing journal with 40 writing prompts on a variety of topics to be used over the course of a year. The journal includes some creative writing, poetry, argumentative writing and descriptive writing. The idea is that learners should write a piece of 300 – 500 words on one of these topics every two weeks. If you are planning to do this over the year, learners will end up writing about 15 pieces. I have also added 5 ’empty’ slides where students can add their own topics. I believe that while learners should be challenged out of their comfort zone, they should also have the opportunity to add their own angle to their work and giving students choices goes a long way to make them take ownership of their work.
Slides also give learners the option to personalise their journal by changing the layout, fonts, colours and adding some pictures.

How to manage a writing journal in Google Slides

While you could do this in any program, Google Slides have the advantage that both the learner and teacher have access to the file the whole time so that you can keep tabs on learners to work at any time during the project. And while it could be done without Google Classroom, Classroom just make the management so much easier.

Step 1 – Download the free sample of my writing journal with five prompts here and add your own prompts, or buy the complete Writing Journal from TeachersPayTeachers.

Click here to download the Sample Writing Journal

Get the complete Writing Journal at a bargain price for the next SEVEN days. Don’t miss out.

 TeachersPayTeachers

TeachersPayTeachers

 Teacha! (Afrikaans)

Teacha! (Afrikaans)

 Teacha!

Teacha!

Step 2 – Click on the link and create your own copy. This copy will be saved in your Drive, and you can adjust and change it to suit your needs. It is important that you make all the changes you want before you share it on Classroom.

Step 3 – Go to Classroom and create an ASSIGNMENT. Attach the file to the Assignment and remember to change the setting to “Make a copy for each learner.”

Step 4 – Off to a great start.
I am a big advocate of putting a bit extra in at the beginning to ensure long term success. So I would suggest that learners write the first piece in class. That way you can make sure that they understand what it is about and know how to add slides and change the order of the slides. This is also a great opportunity for you to practice giving real time comments in Google Apps.

Step 5 – Handing it in
Once they have done with their first piece, they should hand the assignment in. While they are going to work on the same assignment for the duration of the year, handing it in is a way to indicate to you that they are done with this piece. Just remember that when learners hand in an assignment they cannot work on it anymore until you return it to them.

Step 6 – Feedback, feedback, feedback.
While Google Classroom can cut the admin of a Writing Journal tremendously, it cannot be successful without some input from you as teacher. Learners will not take this seriously unless they see that you take it seriously and are putting effort into it. While it will be impossible to read every piece, every time, it is important that you read and comment on some of them on a consistent basis.
Here are some suggestions how you can do it:
– Keep a class list and chose 5 – 10 learner’s work every week to read and comment on.
– Share the best story every week with the rest of the class. (Just remember to tell them before hand that you are going to share their work)
– Create a Class Writing Journal where you add the best examples from the class.

Step 7 – Change the due date
Once you have read some of the learner’s journals and gave them feedback, return the assignment so that learners can edit their documents again. Also, change the due date of the assignment two weeks on for their next piece. I would also suggest that you move the assignment to the top of the Stream again.

If you have tried this, tell us how it went int he comments below. Also if you have another idea that you would want me to design, I am always open to suggestions.

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