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Ready-Set-Tech: Interactive Character Journals
Interactive Character Journals


This curriculum incorporates online publishing and student responses to literature, culminating in the creation of an online journal done through the voice of a literary character in the story the students are currently reading. During the unit, students will become familiar with the use of diaries as a means of personal expression. They will also deepen their understanding of point of view and perspective in literature. They will eventually assume the persona of a character in their story and create an online journal, which will be updated regularly as they read their novels. This journal will further develop the students' summarizing skills while requiring them to think deeper about what they are reading.

The project will also allow students to better understand character traits, characters' actions and motivations, and the importance of incorporating voice into their writings. Ultimately, this journal will serve as a dialogue between students as they comment on each other's journal entries.

Stephen Earley


Stephen Earley is a 4th grade teacher at P.S. 48 in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. He earned his Masters in Education at the University of Illinois, where he also took graduate classes in Journalism and taught an undergraduate narrative non-fiction writing lab. He is constantly looking for creative ways to involve students in the writing process, which has led to create this curriculum unit and start a student-run school newspaper at P.S. 48.

searley27@yahoo.com


Subject:

Language Arts, Technology

Grade Level: 3-6

Materials: Computers with Internet access, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by John Scieszka, Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary or an alternate title that has diary entries, a diary, chapter books the students will read as they write their journals, multiple classroom accounts to an online journal service such as easyjournal, blogspot, or typepad.


Objectives:

 

 

 

 


The learning objectives for this unit are:
  1. Students will write an online journal in the voice of the main character of their book.
  2. Students will create a journal that chronicles the events and feelings of the character for each day's reading selection.
  3. Students will provide comments on the character journals for other students based on what the other students write.
  4. Students will become familiar with online journaling and the pros and cons of keeping an online journal.
   


Day One:


Lesson: Introduction to Journaling

Aim: The students will understand the components of a journal/diary.

Materials:   Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, a diary

Procedure:

  1. The teacher will begin by calling the students to meet on the rug.
  2. The teacher will hold up a diary and ask the students what it is and what they might expect to find inside. The teacher will record the students' answers. If the teacher does not have access to a diary, he or she can use a marble composition book as a diary.
  3. The teacher will then ask why someone might keep a diary. (Helps you chronicle your life, makes you understand yourself better, a place to tell your secrets and your feelings).
  4. The teacher will then read a selection from the diary that the teacher has written that chronicles major events of the day and incorporates the teacher's emotions about what is going on.
  5. The teacher will ask:   Who is speaking?   What types of things did the narrator discuss?   (Date/Events/Emotions)
  6.   The teacher will introduce Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary.   Copies of the book can be distributed, or if there isn't enough, a transparency can be put on the overhead projector.  
  7. The teacher will introduce the book as one that involves a narrator who writes to a famous author in a way that is similar to a diary.   Later the boy begins keeping a diary.   Ask the children to read the entry dated November 16 th (page 12).   The teacher will then ask the students to recall the events Leigh discussed for that day, and what sort of emotions or feelings Leigh is expressing.   The teacher can put the students' answers into a chart with two columns, one for events and one for feelings.
  8. The teacher will pass out a worksheet similar to the chart, consisting of a table divided into three columns: date, events and feelings.
  9. The teacher will have the students read the diary entry dated December 12 th and with a partner, complete the date, events and feelings chart.
  10.   The students will complete the chart in pairs for the entries dated December 22 nd (page 39), December 23 rd (page 40), and January 9 th (page 48).
  11. The teacher will reassemble the class and discuss what the students wrote on their charts for each entry.

Assessment:

1. The students will correctly summarize the events and the emotions contained in each entry on the chart worksheets they complete together.  

 


Day Two:


Lesson: Online Journals

Aim: Students will familiarize themselves with online journals and create their own online journal.

Materials:   Computers with Internet access.   If possible, an LCD projector for the teacher's computer.  

Preparation:   The teacher must prescreen all examples to be shown to the class.   Because of the ever-hanging nature of journals, sites may no longer exist, or previously acceptable sites might contain now inappropriate material for students.    Multiple online journal classroom accounts must be created.   Many web journal sites offer journals that require passwords in order for others to read them.   For the sake of the students' privacy, such an account is desirable. www.easyjournal.com and www.xanga.com are two sites that offer password accounts.

Procedure:

  1. The teacher will begin by asking students to recall the reasons why people keep diaries and the parts of a diary (date, events, emotions).
  2. The students will be asked to recall the potential dangers of keeping a diary.
  3. The teacher will mention that there are several programs which make it easy to keep a diary online.   The teacher will ask the students why someone would want to keep a journal online.   The teacher will then ask the students what potential problems might arise from having an online diary.  
  4. The teacher will direct the students to several examples on online journals that the teacher has preselected for content and age-appropriateness.   Because of the ever-changing nature of blogs, these must be previewed by the teacher before the start of this lesson.

Here are some places to start:

www.blogwise.com A searchable directory of blogs online

www.blogcatalog.com Another searchable directory of blogs online

http://itc.blogs.com/thewriteweblog/ A collection of blogs done by elementary students at a school in Georgia

If it becomes too difficult to locate examples of child-appropriate blogs, the teacher can always create an example to show the class.   They are easy to create, and can be done for free at www.blogger.com , www.easyjournal.com , www.xanga.com , www.greatestjournal.com , www.livejournal.com. The ideal examples would be journals or blogs that resemble diaries.

  1. The teacher will have the students view these journals and look for the events and feelings that occur each day, similar to what they did yesterday with Dear Mr. Henshaw .
  2. The teacher will direct the students to the comments selection on the journals and ask the students to describe what kind of comments they see, and why one might comment on someone else's journal.
  3. The teacher will direct the students to the classroom accounts that have already been created, and inform them of the password required to view the accounts.   There should be as many accounts as there are literature circle groups or reading groups.
  4. The teacher will describe how to access the accounts and update them by using the owner's password.   This is different from the password that allows you to view them.
  5. The teacher will model how to post to a diary.   The teacher will then model how to post a comment on a diary.
  6. Most online journals only let one user be online at a time, so the teacher can set aside four or five computers (depending on how many accounts were created) for the owner accounts. Students at these computers can post their own test message on their account describing the events of what they have done so far, and their feelings about the events.   When they are done, they switch seats with someone else in their group and can let the next student post a message.
  7. Students who are waiting to post journal messages, or those who have already posted messages, can browse through the messages being posted by their classmates, click on the comment button, and comment on what their classmates are saying.
  8. Once the class has completed posting their entries, the teacher can direct the students to several examples from the class and ask what events and feelings the student mentioned.

Assessment:

The students will post a journal entry that summarizes things or events that have happened during the day and how the student feels about those events.


Day Three:

Lesson: Point of View

Aim: The students will examine a traditional story told from a different perspective, and then write their own online journal entries from that character's point of view.

Materials:

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by John Scieszka, computers with Internet access.

Procedure:

  1. The students will meet on the rug.   The teacher will ask for the students to summarize the story of the Three Little Pigs.
  2. The teacher will ask the students who the villain was in the story and who the victims were.   The teacher will point out that whenever something happens, you see it through your point of view .   The teacher will write these words on the board.  
  3. The teacher will ask the students why it is important to understand point of view when reading a story.
  4. The teacher will introduce The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by saying it is told through the wolf's point of view.   The teacher can ask how the villain, the wolf, might tell the story differently.
  5. The teacher will read the book.
  6. Once the book is completed, the teacher will ask the students how the wolf's point of view differed from the story they were familiar with.   The teacher can ask the children to discuss if their opinions of the wolf have changed now.
  7. The teacher will ask the students to remember the two key elements of a diary (recalling events and discussing feelings).   The teacher will ask for examples of how this book did both of those things.
  8. The teacher will tell the students they will be writing an online journal entry today from the point of view of the wolf.   They will pretend that they are the wolf and they are stuck in jail right now, but they have been given a chance to write in their journal.   Ask the students to think about what the wolf might say about the events and the tone the wolf would have throughout the journal entry based on his emotions.
  9. If there are enough computers available, the students can do this at the computer.   If there are a limited number of computers available, then the students can write their entry on paper and then post it when a computer becomes available.
  10. Students who finish early can browse the other posts and, pretending they are a different character (such as the wolf's wife or the pig's mother), post a comment about a classmate's entry.
  11. The students will reassemble to discuss point of view.   The students can share what they posted.

Assessment:  

Students will successfully post an entry on their web journal written from the point of view of the wolf that chronicles the events of the day and includes how the wolf felt about all of this.


Day Four:


Lesson: Online Interactive Journal

Aim: Students will summarize the events in a chapter by posting an online journal entry from the point of view of the main character of their book.

Materials:

Computers with Internet access, chapter books the students are reading.

Procedure:

  1. The students will review and discuss what they have already learned about diaries and online diaries.
  2. The teacher will inform the students that they are going to begin using online journaling as a way to think deeper about the books they are reading.   If the class is doing literature circles, the teacher can introduce this as a new role to be done in literature circles.
  3. The teacher will explain that after every chapter read, children will assume the identity of the main character and post a journal entry for that character.   This entry will detail the events of the previous chapter and include opinions or emotions that the character might be feeling about these events.   If there are a number of students reading the same book, this can be modified so that the students take turns writing the journal entry for each chapter.
  4. The teacher can review the previous day's entries written from the character's perspective.   The teacher can also create an example with the students' assistance based on the last chapter read in the read aloud book they are currently reading.
  5. The teacher will tell the students that they will also be reading each other's entries, even for books they have not read.   They are expected to comment on other student's entries.   The teacher will then ask for comments that might be given for the entry the class just made together.
  6. The teacher will announce that for today, they will create their journal entries in the voice of the main character from the book they are reading.   They will write it based on the events and emotions the main character experienced in the previous chapter.   If the online journal only allows a few students online at a time, then the other students can type their entries in a word processing program and then cut and paste the text online once they are finished.  
  7. The students will write a journal entry for that day, when finished browse the other entries.
  8. The students will meet to reflect on what they did today.

Assessment:

The students will write a journal entry that successfully summarizes the events of the chapter from the main character's perspective and includes some form of reflection, opinion, or feelings by the character.  

Once these four lessons have been completed, the students should be able to continue with the activity on their own.   This can be used throughout the year as a role in literature circles or as a means to aid and assess student reading comprehension.   Entries can be written at home and then posted the next day at school.   This project can be further extended by having students comment each other's entries with the voices of other characters.

 


Standards:


Examples of New York State Learning Standards:

English Language Arts 1E   Speaking and Writing

Present information clearly in a variety of oral and written forms such as summaries, paraphrases, brief reports, stories, posters, and charts.

English Language Arts 2E  Speaking and Writing

Present personal responses to literature that make reference to the plot, characters, ideas, vocabulary, and text structure.

English Language A r ts 3E  Listening and Reading

Recognize that the criteria that one uses to analyze and evaluate anything depend on one's point of view and purpose for the analysis.

English Language Arts 4E  Listening and Speaking

Recognize the kind of interaction appropriate for different circumstances, such as story hour, group discussions, and one-on-one conversations.

English Language Arts 4E  Reading and Writing

Read and discuss published letters, diaries, and journals to learn the conventions of social writing.

Math, Science, Technology 5E  Impacts of Technology

Describe how technology can have positive and negative effects on the environment and on the way people live and work.

Math, Science, Technology 5E  Computer Technology

Use the computer as a tool for generating and drawing ideas.


Assessment:


Project Assessment:
  1. Students will regularly write an online journal in the voice of the main character of their book.   The journal will use the first-person and remark from the perspective of the main character.
  2. The students' journal will accurately depict the events from the most recent chapter and include some sort of emotion, opinion, or feelings unique to that character.
  3. Students will read each others' journals and regularly comment on the characters' entries.  

Student Work:


The class journals can be found at:

class421.easyjournal.com

class422.easyjournal.com

class423.easyjournal.com

class424.easyjournal.com

To view the sites, you must enter the password: earley.   The journals are a work-in-progress.
   

 

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