The Teacher Hook and the Top 5: How to Implement Journal Writing Effectively in High School
The Teacher Hook
When your high school students walk into your classroom their minds are active and full of ideas, just not necessarily filled with the activity and ideas that are related to your class. Your job when you get the students in the door is to “hook" them into your lesson for the day. The key with this egocentric age group is to find a hook or themes that are relevant to them, and at the same time help them to examine themselves and connect to the world that they are living in. In the case of journal writing the hook can take many forms. The hook can come in the form of an article, a quick video, a quote, a story, a song, a discussion, or any other mind-catching device that will draw them in.
Top 5 Awesomest Journal Topics of All-Time
Here are 5 journal prompts and the hooks that go with them that are guaranteed to get students writing in your high school classrooms
Journal #1: R.E.S.P.E.C.T
The Hook: I know you have the Aretha Franklin song jamming in your brain by just reading the letters, so for this hook play a song that is related to this idea. You can use a song like “Respect" or “Hero" to get your students thinking about the topic, maybe even print up the lyrics and have them read along.
The Prompt: Write about a person who you consider to be a hero, someone who has inspired you, or someone you have great respect for. Be sure to explain who they are and why they have earned your respect.
Journal #2: Desert Island
The Hook: You could use a clip from the T.V. shows Lost or Survivor, or you could take a clip from the movie Castaway as a way to get your students into a desert island state of mind. Through the magic of YouTube.com and Hulu.com it is getting easier to find and download short clips to your laptop and show them to your students.
The Prompt: Our class has just won a trip to Hawaii because of the hard work that you have done during the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the airplane we travel on has mechanical difficulties and crashes on mysterious tropical island. The bad news is you are the only survivor and you will be there for the rest of your life. The good news is the island has an unlimited supply of food and drinking water and you can have 3 people and 3 objects brought to you on the island. Which 3 people and what 3 objects would you choose and why?
Journal #3: Technomania!
The Hook: Have your students watch this video on YouTube titled Did You Know 4.0 (you can do a similar entry about changes in the world based around a video called Did You Know 2.0 Video that is just as powerful).
The Prompt: After watching this video write about your thoughts on technology. You could consider some of the following questions as you write: Are you a fan of technology? How has technology changed your life in the past two years? How has it changed the way we communicate as a society? How has it impacted your education?
Journal #4: IssueFest- Take a Stance!
The Hook: High school students enjoy getting into heated arguments about any and every topic. This particular journal prompt can be used numerous times with numerous topics. Find an issue that directly impacts students or the region where you live and choose “bite-size" articles to get their brains moving. For example, the Washington Post article, “D.C. Tries Cash as a Motivator in School?" discusses an initiative to pay students for their grades and performance in school.
The Prompt: In the article you just read about a plan that is being proposed to pay students for achieving good grades in school. Are you for or against this plan? Take a stance on this issue and support the stance you take with ideas and examples.
Journal #5: 2020 Vision
The Hook: The future is a great topic for class discussion and you are guaranteed to get plenty of input and predictions. Ask your students about what the world will be like in a decade from now. Ask students about how they think schools will change, what types of technology will be used, what careers will be important. Then ask them to consider their own next decade.
The Prompt: Create a 2020 vision for your own life using a 2, 5, 10 plan… where will you be in 2 years from now, where will you be in 5 years from now, and where will you be in 10 years from now. Be sure to include some information about your personal life, your academic life, and your career life in each of the 2 year, 5 year, and 10 year phases.