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In the past, I’ve used reflection journals for language arts assignments. Allowing students to reflect via journaling was one way that I could informally assess whether students were making connections to the literature. After utilizing the idea of journaling for my language arts class, I thought that it might be useful to integrate this strategy with math. Before starting this adventure I decided to complete some homework on the idea of math journaling. In the past I’ve used standard reflection sheets. While collecting ideas, I also looked for math journal writing prompts and rubrics 1 2 3 . I found many ideas and strategies for math journaling here and at Monica’s website. If you’re unsure of how to introduce the topic of math journaling, this Word example may help. If you’re curious of where to start, I’ve found that this site provides terrific examples. So, after researching a few options I decided to label all of my journals and prepare for uncharted territory.
After giving a unit assessment, I gave my first math writing prompt:
- How do you feel about your performance on the last unit assessment?
- What type of math concepts do you find interesting? Why?
Students were also asked to include a picture with their response. Why a picture? I thought that allowing students to draw a picture may portray how they feel regarding their performance. Some students decided to draw more of a picture, while others decided to write more with words. Allowing this type of flexibility gave students an opportunity to communicate their response to the writing prompts differently. The students then turned in their journals and I wrote a short response to each individual response. I feel as though the students really enjoy the fact that I personalize my response to each student. I also feel as though this builds a positive classroom environment, as each student is shown that their opinion is valued. The journals can also be used during parent teacher conferences, although it might be a good idea to disclose this to the students before they write.
After completing a plus/delta chart, students thoroughly agreed that the math journals enabled them to reflect on how they are doing in the class. Some students even communicated that the journals were a way to set specific math goals. Currently, I give students an opportunity to complete a journal entry approximately every two weeks. A byproduct of using the journals may also lead to personal goal setting and more academic involvement from the student.
I would like to incorporate the idea of utilizing specific math vocabulary in the journals. Not only should the math journals be used for reflection, but they can also be used as another opportunity to practice mathematical concepts. As an elementary school teacher, I think it’s important for students to have a solid understanding of math vocabulary at a young age. Having consistent definitions is also important. Certain math vocabulary words that are utilized in first grade will accompany a student throughout their entire life. For example: multiply, divide, sum, fraction, etc. Overall, I feel that students will become better at understanding math vocabulary and reflect on their learning through the math journals. The journals will be used consistenly, so students will observe the progress that they have personally achieved throughout the year.