My favorite English Club project has been journal writing. It is an ongoing project that I began with my kids at the beginning of the semester. I gave each of my students a journal made from colored paper to personalize and explained a bit about what a diary was. I have been mystified by how well some of my students have done with them and how immersed they get into writing.
It has become a wonderful routine for our meetings. Students know to come in, grab their journal, and begin writing. Since many students will undoubtedly arrive 10-15 minutes after the set club time, it provides a great buffer for me to start my activity and keeps students active. The only problem I have encountered so far, has been trying to pull them out of their writing world to actually start my club activity!
Of course, writing ability varies greatly in the students that I have. So some are very simply writing their daily activities in basic sentences and still struggle even with that. Others have blossomed into descriptive diaries that tell me about amazing things they do. I am thrilled to have this new window into the young Ethiopian life, that I would not otherwise have.
We discussed as a club in the beginning if they wanted their journals to be private, or if they wanted me to read them and write back. They all decided that they wanted me to read them after each meeting. So, I now read 30 plus journals 2 times a week. Honestly, I dread doing the work, until I sit down and open the cover of the first one. I am constantly calling a Peace Corps friend or texting one of my family back home to brag or simply gush over something written in one of their journals. They constantly astound me and their writing has improved so much over this first semester.
A few young ladies have named their journals, which I thought was really cool, since I never mentioned giving them names. One young lady started calling hers ‘Life Friend’ and another began calling hers ‘Kitty’ since that’s the name of Anne Frank’s Diary! Wow?!?!
I have had days when my regular classroom will be half empty, with so many students absent, and I have no idea why. Then, when I’m reading journals, I read about their pilgrimages out to a monastery for a religious holiday with their family. Parts of their lives I would never otherwise know about or hear about, I suddenly have a front row seat. Some students write about fights at home or issues with their siblings or friends. Some entries make me laugh, others break my heart. I never thought they would enjoy it this much or be as ‘into’ it as they are. I am so happy to see high school boys sit down and write about their day and feelings. Simply the coolest thing ever!
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