Journal Management - Gold Coast Science Network

“Writing Student-Focused Questions” / Michal Danin-Kreiselman, Ph.D.
In the following table I address concerns about the use of warm ups / journals in the science
classroom. Most of these concerns were expressed by science educators on the NSTA listservers
in a questionnaire I distributed in September. I added a few more of my own.
But in no way is the discussion on journal management concluded.
The warm-ups take too
much time to grade.
* I don’t grade the journals every day. Only once in every 2-3 weeks,
when I collect their notebooks. You can also have them write in a
separate section of a binder, and collect that once every few weeks
as a packet.
* I have a very simple rubric for journals:
20 point – Answers are in complete, independent sentences.
Drawing is included (if necessary); Correctness – sometimes.
* I give only multiples of 5 (0, 5, 10, 15, 20)
The warm-ups take too
much time out of the
How do I get them to
start right away?
* The journal IS an integral part of the class. Therefore, the journal
does not take any time from the class.
I get really poor writing
* Writing quality is an issue, and my solution so far is through
accountability, in the grading
* Another thing I sometimes do is exchange notebooks, so they can
read each other’s journals and comment on the writing quality, as
well as on the content.
* I sometimes offer extra points to students that allow their answers
to be displayed under the document camera, as models for writing
quality. Respectfully, the class comments on the writing (or
How do I get them to
work independently,
with minimal guidance
from me (ZPD)
* Here is where the question writing skills comes in. Over the years
of your built up experience, you learn what students can do without
much help. For every new question you write, it is a hit or miss. But
after a while it gets easier to predict.
* Sometimes you can find yourself improving the question while the
students are responding to it. Which is why period 1 serves as
‘guinea pigs’, and at the end of the day, the question is just right.
How can Tardy or
Absent students catch
* I allow absent students to copy journals that they missed form
their peers. Since I check the journals only once every 2-3 weeks,
* Journal question is typically displayed on the powerpoint even
before students enter the room, and before the bell had rung. After
a while, students are accustomed to look for the journal before they
sit down.
* The rest is general classroom management procedures.
“Writing Student-Focused Questions” / Michal Danin-Kreiselman, Ph.D.
up (without extra work
from me)?
they don’[t even have to tell me that they copied the questions. If
they ask me for permission, I say “Yes – but please try to answer the
question on your own.”
* Tardy students are a problem for anything you do. And my only
solution is consequences. But this is no more problematic to
Journals than to any other part of the lesson.
* Specifically for long-term absentees, such as severe illness or for a
long travel, since all of the journals are lined up in your powerpoints,
you can upload or email the powerpoints and let them find out what
they missed.
* On a side note, I love adding the date of the lesson in the slide
before the warm up – mostly for my convenience and reflection. But
indirectly it can help students to find what they had missed that day.
How do I close the
discussion on the
* That really depends on the questions, in terms of technique and
purpose. In my experience, the most common way I conclude the
journal is t=with the notes of the lesson. Because the notes are the
correct answer to the last question of the journal. Same thing with
lab procedures.Tjsi way I also make sure that after the discussion
students wrote the correct answer, and will not remain with their
What if a question is
not working well?
* A question that is not working for me is a question that they
students couldn’t answer at all on their own. (if they answered
independently but incorrectly, it is a winner still!). It is important to
walk the room and see if this is the case, so you won’t wait too long
for nothing. If so – either you can improve the questions ‘on the
spot’, or you can say to the students – I’m sorry, but it looks like you
need me to give you the answer. And I will – so, please write: “…….”.
No Harm done!
* On a side comment, journals can also be reflective on why things
are not going well! If it helps calm down frustrations.
* It happens to me too. So I ask them to write down the questions,
but right away, I tell them that the question will be addressed after
we complete this or that. Meantime I get their awareness of the
following step (in the journal), so the flow is not broken.
What if the question is
good, but they need
another step from the
previous lesson to be
able to answer it?
How can this work in a
block schedule? Only
one warm up for the
entire long period?
* When the period is very long, as in a block schedule, or in summer
school, I simply have multiple journals in one lesson. Even in a 52
minute period there could be more than one journal. But in a long
period it makes it transparent to students that you are now starting
another step in your instruction, if you open it with a journal.