The Student, Journal Writing, and the Social Studies

Article excerpt

Students need to communicate effectively with others. Writing content is one way of communication. It is relatively easy to misunderstand what was communicated in writing unless there are definite standards followed of clarity, intent, and comprehension. Once content has been written, the message remains as is unlike that of oral communication. With the latter, one can change what has been said such as in, "That is not quite what I mean, I meant...." Or, a person says, "You know what I mean," after conveying a prior message.

Written communication then stresses conciseness, accuracy, and adequate specificity. Otherwise, there are so many loopholes in ideas being conveyed. All teachers need to assist students to communicate ideas in writing. Social studies can make a unique contribution since subject matter therein, among other items, pertains to being a good member in society. To be a functioning member in society, one communicates with others. Written communication is quite complex when thinking of the general subdivisions of writing including correct spelling of words, legible handwriting if longhand is used, sequence of ideas presented, paragraphing, complete sentences, and punctuation marks. Omitting one comma, for example, can make much difference in interpretation:

1. Bill, my cousin, is visiting here.

2. Bill, my cousin is visiting here.

The student only needs to leave out a comma when writing words In a series to notice how the Inherent meaning changes of what was written.

Thus, writing is complex and complicated. The social studies teacher needs to emphasize ideas being placed in written form when providing teaching and learning activities. The social studies and writing experiences need to be integrated and not isolated entities. Journal writing provides opportunities for students to practice writing with the concept of relevance being involved in these kinds of experiences, and not writing for the sake of writing. Thus, when students engage in writing activities, there Is a purpose and that is to communicate effectively with others in society (Ediger, 2000, Chapter Twelve).

Journal Writing in Ongoing Lessons

There are ample opportunities for students to write subject matter learned from ongoing lessons, in a journal entry. The following are examples:

1. we learned about the geography of the Holy Land, Jerusalem and Jericho are eighteen miles apart and yet the elevation varies from 2500 feet above sea level to 800 feet below sea level respectively. Four miles southeast of Jericho is the Dead Sea which is the lowest point on earth in elevation -- 1300 feet below sea level!

2. we also learned that east Jerusalem has an encircling wall two and one/half miles In distance. This is the third wall built in history around old Jerusalem and was completed in 1542 when the Ottoman Empire rule the Holy Land. Inside the wall there are three holy sites: The Dome of the Rock, an octagonal, beautiful mosque built In 691 AD which is sacred to devout Muslims; the western wall, adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, which is the only remnant of the ancient Jewish temple and sacred to devout followers of Judaism; and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built in 1142 AD, holy to followers of Christianity and believed to be the place of the Tomb of Christ (See Ediger, 1998, 1-10) for a discussion of elevation or specific regions in the Holy Land).

The above entries were written by a sixth grader in a class where the author supervised a student teacher and cooperating teacher. Subject mater acquired is used to write journal entries. The entries may be written individually or cooperatively by students (See Dunn and, 1979, for a discussion of learning styles). Proof reading journal entries provides another avenue for reading as well as diagnosing/remedying deficiencies in writing.

Journal Writing and Current Events

Listening to current events on radio and TV provides excellent subject matter for writing journal entries. …