If you haven’t considered math to be a discipline worthy of journaling this blog is built to change your mind. A journal is an excellent tool in nearly any academic endeavor but it’s more than simply a tool. A math journal is actually a method that helps guide instruction, it works toward differentiating a task, reinforcing learned skills and helping identify and address common math misconceptions.
It is though, first and foremost a very valuable multi-tool because it works on behalf of the student AND the teacher. It’s a multi-tool because it can be adjusted to perform no matter what the goal of the lesson is, it adapts to the individual student and their mastery or lack of understanding of a specific lesson and it’s an essential multi-tool because it guides the teacher as they work to make sure they’re developing the best approach for their students.
Here are some thoughts that can help you as journaling becomes a stronger presence in your classroom.
- It’s critical that you lay the groundwork and expectations from the beginning by conveying the goal of a good math journal.
- That means it’s essential that teachers have a clear and concise format guided by a well-defined set of expectations.
- Decide early how much ownership you’d like your students to take when it comes to issues such as; how will the students label each entry? What input will the students have in titling the journal prompt? How will you have the students create an organized and visually friendly design to record all of the necessary and desired information?
Now that you’re focused, and the students understand the idea of a math journal it’s time to let the process unfold. It will take some time, as it does in any creative endeavor, but with a well-defined set of expectations and a classroom environment driven by and supportive of creative students the positive outcomes will explode all over their journals and be reflected in their success.
So, here are three takeaways for you to be ready to unleash the power of a math journal in your classrooms.
- Total Teach Control: being able to develop a journal prompt for the immediate need of the students. Using the prompt to address the success or failure of a lesson, or expose a common misconception (my favorite!), and using the overall class response to gauge where the lesson goes next.
- Student Metacognition is critical so that they think about thinking. The openness of a journal prompt allows students to have a safe place to express their ideas. The math journal moves the student past the idea of a right or wrong answer and gives them the freedom to share their thoughts about a task. There is so much more value to a teacher as opposed to a standard assignment that only allows for right or wrong responses.
- Drive Instruction and Differentiate. Friday quizzes create as many heartaches for teachers as they do for students. It’s a bummer to learn that the students didn’t learn a particular lesson. This is where journaling in the math classroom is probably it’s greatest benefit. Creating a prompt in real-time based on how your students have responded to instruction, that day and in that moment is powerful! You can expose misconceptions and errors immediately. Journaling eliminates re-teaching by addressing issues instantly and makes you more efficient and your students more confident.
MJ Kinard-Grade 4 teacher