Tag Archives: journaling

Time for Spring Break, Time to Write

My sleeping cat, Bellatrix, looking like I feel

I’m tired.

I think I’m ready for a break. Our spring break starts in a week. My students have been wonderful. Today, for instance, my AP Literature students presented poems through a variety of analytical lenses. They did a nice job, and in our debrief, they said that looking at the poems in this way was helpful in understanding them and also that it helped them think about others’ viewpoints and interpretations. Only one of my American Literature classes met today, but we read and discussed The Crucible. The students were particularly engaged today.

I am feeling tired, though. In some ways frustrated, too. I have a strong perfectionist streak, and as much as I wish I didn’t, I tend to internalize too many things that are out of my control. It would be nice if I were the type of person who could let that sort of thing go. Some people seem so supremely confident that they are absolutely right all the time, and I guess a lot of people would call that “arrogance.” I don’t really disagree. I think it is arrogant to feel like you are always right and others are always wrong and to refuse to see another person’s side. At the same time, sometimes I wish I had a little bit of arrogance.

In some ways, I feel very confident. In others, I second-guess myself in some pretty self-destructive ways. I’m not sure I’d be me if I didn’t have a generous helping of self-doubt, but I also admit I wish it were easier for me to set aside self-doubt when I know it’s not helping me. Sometimes, it actually does help me because I can catch myself before I make mistakes. It’s also part of being fairly reflective. I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Most of the time, I think I do a pretty good job, and my intentions are certainly good. Today, though, was one of those days I allowed myself to be frustrated over a negative situation over which I don’t have a lot of control at the expense of celebrating the learning my students were displaying and some other pretty awesome things that are happening.

I’m about to say something that is probably obvious, but I actually feel a bit better getting this out. I have always thought through things on paper much better than through talking. Talking about this situation today really didn’t help and actually made me feel worse. Writing about it here helped me get some perspective. I can actually feel it leaving my shoulders.

I’ve been trying to keep a journal on mornings when I have time and space to write so that I can reflect on what I need to do and prepare for the day. I don’t write every day, and I decided I can’t give myself one more thing to be frustrated over, so I write when I feel like I can. This practice is actually helpful when I can do it, however, and perhaps what I really need to do is prioritize more time for writing so I can think. Perhaps it will help me with perspective.

Of course, yoga wouldn’t hurt either.

Slice of LifeSlice of Life is a daily writing challenge during the month of March hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Visit their blog for more information about the challenge and for advice and ideas about how to participate.

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Quick Assessments

Happy Students by Tom WoodwardQuick formative assessments will tell you if your students understand the lesson (or if they were paying attention). They’re also a great way for teachers to check on the learning of all students, not just those who either volunteered or were called on to contribute.

I Noticed…

One quick formative assessment that I learned at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute is called “I Noticed…” Mike LoMonico modeled it for us as a closing activity before breaking for lunch or ending the day. I have used it successfully in my own class since.

How to Do It

We are going to go around the room. (Explain how—by rows, in a circle, randomly called on.) When it is your turn, you need to share one thing you noticed about class today. I will start. I noticed how Angela interpreted the character really well when we read that section aloud. (Then indicate student to start. Help them keep going if they get lost. Make everyone contributes something.)

Index Card Check-In

There are variations on this one, and you’ve probably heard of it before, but just in case you haven’t, the index card check-in is a great way to see where your students are and to guide your instruction.

How to Do It

Give each student an index card. Tell them to write down two observations or connections they made about class and one question they have. Of course, you can change this up and alter the requirements. The cards are the “ticket out the door” and must be collected before students leave. Read over the cards and incorporate discussion of particularly interesting connections or statements and student questions into the next lesson.

Finger Check

This one is another oldie, but I hadn’t heard of it until a few years ago perhaps because I think it works better for subject matter in which there are definite answers (for example: is this a mixture or a solution?).

How to Do It

Tell students the key for the answers. For example, one finger might be mixture and two fingers might be solution. When you ask a question, have the students hold up their fingers to respond. Look out for incorrect answers or students who hesitate before holding up their answers and look around to see what the other students think. They are having trouble with the material.


I know English teachers use journaling a lot, but it can be great way to close class for any subject.

How to Do It

Give students a topic related to the lesson and anywhere from 3-10 minutes (depending on complexity and level) to write a response. Collect responses. You can use these responses to begin the next class, noting particularly good insights.

If you have good ideas for quick formative assessments, please share them in the comments.

Creative Commons License photo credit:  bionicteaching

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