By Tom Braverman
As a secondary special education teacher, the students I have in my English class range from pre-primer, emergent readers to students who possess decoding skills at or above their grade level. What I have found over the years is that many of the students who are struggling readers have comprehension skills that far surpass some of the students with stellar decoding skills. For that reason, I have created journal prompts that challenge all students to respond to a series of four questions about a particular topic. Lower ability students may need scaffolding to complete their journals, and the same is true for those stellar decoders who struggle with comprehension. However, all students will find these journals challenging and will be required to think and record their thoughts in written form. Our school district recently assigned a laptop computer to all secondary students and the ones I work with have an app installed that allows them to dictate their responses using speech to text software. This in turn enables them to submit their responses electronically. Some of my students prefer to record their responses using a print out of these journal prompts. In addition to completing the journal, they must workshop it with a proofreader before submitting it. In that way, each response adheres to conventional rules of grammar and it affords students an additional opportunity for a 1:1 mini-lesson on writing. All of the students in my class are required to self-reflect about their answers and ask themselves three things before submitting them. Those three things are, does it look right, does it sound right and does it make sense?
I have many, many more journal prompts and if I see there is interest in them, I will add more to the TPT website.