Write On! Going Beyond Non-Traditional Instruction


Jarrod E. Stephens

The Ashland Beacon


   Now that all area schools have officially been closed for a full week and students have tried to normalize their days, many of us have come to a point where we are searching for ways to keep our kids engaged and learning in a meaningful manner. Unfortunately, we have no certain timeline for how long these NTI days are going to keep our students out of the classroom, but as parents and caretakers we may be able to use the days as a way to help us all reflect on what is truly important in life by preserving our days with writing.

   In 1942 a young girl that we’ve come to know as Anne Frank began keeping a journal that shed a light on the challenges that she and her family faced during World War II. While we thankfully are not facing Nazi oppression we certainly are confined somewhat by circumstances beyond our control. Reflective journal writing is one avenue that can be rewarding simply because it is personal and can help us learn what really matters.

   Journaling or whatever you want to call it doesn’t have to be complex or filled with rules. It’s simply a free time to write about or even draw whatever has unfolded throughout the day or any other random thoughts that come out. My youngest is drawing pictures and then we are writing about what he has drawn like a caption below the image. When I taught 6th grade writing I’d refer to journaling as “free range writing” where there are no fences. Write it just how you hear it coming across your mind.

   If you think your teens aren’t into daily journaling or sharing their thoughts then you’ve never stepped into their ghostly little world of SnapChat. (A few minutes looking at what they share and you may discover why you’ve never been invited into their online world.) Your kid would walk miles for a cell phone signal strong enough to send out their daily story or streaks to their friends. If you have a tech savvy kid then they can even begin their own blog where they chronicle their days in digital form.

   Setting aside 10-20 minutes each day for a simple journal writing or for blogging will keep your students fresh on the many skills that their teachers have taught them. Make it a device free time, unless of course they are blogging, and take part in the journaling yourself. If they feel stuck then give them a silly topic to write about and see where it goes. Sharing their work can be quite fun and we can all use a little of that right now. Just like the unused tools in many workshops, knowledge and skills can get quite rusty in a short period of time if they are not used.

   Let’s face it, we are all experiencing this strange occurrence together, and it feels like the script from a Hollywood thriller. Creating time for our kids to give their thoughts a chance to become words can be quite powerful. Ten years down the road when you stumble across the journals from this strange period in which we live, you’ll laugh and maybe even cry but you’ll for sure be glad that you etched out that portion of the day for your kids to record history from their perspective.