One by one they come, making their offerings. Some with shy, downcast eyes, others with eager smiles, they place their colorful notebooks one atop another on my desk. Our first entries are awkward – my students don’t know what to write. I sense their uncertainty and distrust….is this some kind of gimmick? What’s the catch? Why would I spend so much time writing back and forth with a bunch of ten year olds?
The idea of dialogue journals, which I discovered in a post from cult of pedagogy , is very easy to implement. Like so many things in my life, I jumped in with both feet, serendipitously introducing the idea to my students while reading the book Fish in a Tree
While reading the section about journals aloud, I paused and told them we’d be doing the same thing in our classroom. Their eyes lit up. I gradually handed out journals to students that day. Each child received an ordinary spiral notebook with a friendly handwritten letter of introduction from me.
The journals are as different as the students. Some have entries that are long and rambling, while most, at this early stage, are somewhat guarded, sort of a ‘just the facts, ma’am’ format. I am encouraging my students to ask me questions as well as answering my queries in their writing.
In a class of twenty-four, it’s very difficult to get quality one-on-one time with every student. Every teacher knows that there is a solid core of students dominating the conversation. Dialogue journals, in my mind, are especially wonderful for students who rarely volunteer during group. They follow directions, turn in work on time, and have exemplary behavior. DJ gives these students in particular my undivided attention, for whatever they want to discuss.
Even Edgar – the surly one who doesn’t listen, struggles to follow directions and is an expert at covertly poking his classmates – will casually, with no eye contact, walk past me, saying, “Did you write me back yet?” Yep, I think this idea is a winner. Because really, which of my students is using his behavior to cry out for a relationship with me? You guessed it…Edgar.