The Language Arts journals are completed. After two months of learning and practicing how to effectively write narratives, paragraphs, various styles of poetry, and non-fiction summaries, students have put their work into a final product. And their journals are beautiful.
Students appreciate displaying their work. Individual writing assignments don’t always bring about a feeling of pride for most middle school writers. Identifying best word choice, and organizational strategy is abstract compared with assessing the visual quality of a journal project. Because of this, the final journal project is a motivator. Students want to perform better on individual writing assignments, knowing that they are parts of a larger visual project. They are more willing to edit and revise their written work in an attempt to create a quality book project. The visual quality of the journal creates a concrete experience in an abstract, and subjective world of words. With a single piece of word-filled pages, few students feel joy and accomplishment, but when those words are placed into the context of a journal project, motivation increases, self assessment matters, a culture of quality is visible, and students improve their own expectations, visually, and in their written revisions.
NEXT STOP: THE DEBATE
The next project in our unit is not visual, but an even more powerful motivator: Performance! Students are busy collecting information regarding biological engineering, cyborg technologies, and artificial intelligence. They already know that they will be writing an opinion paper next month in response to the question, “Are modern technologies of gene editing, cyborg technologies, and artificial intelligence more beneficial or potentially harmful to human civilization?” Following their persuasive essays, students will team up for a live debate in early December. Like bees collecting pollen, they are gathering data, quotes, and passages from science fiction, podcasts, Ted Talks, and articles. Our primary skill right now is note-taking….BORING! But note-taking becomes more interesting knowing that those notes might help them out in a live debate, a month from now, in front of an audience! Stay tuned for details!