Entries Tagged 'Writing Across the Curriculum' ↓

Writing historical diary entries based on real journals

For a project that springboards from authentic historical journals, students will be writing historical diary entries using their own words.

A while back, I talked about how much our family enjoyed using journaling ideas for writing across the curriculum. Even though the journaling tips and examples would work for all ages, they are especially effective with younger children, even pre-readers.

Studying Real Historical Journals

For for a project that springboards from actual historical journals—true living books written by men and women who experienced the times—students will be writing historical diary entries of their own.

Because of the more challenging vocabulary found in most old journals, this activity is probably better suited for your high-school aged students, though some junior highers with more advanced reading skills could do this as well.

Writing Diary Entries 

  1. Historical journals, narratives, and diaries abound, both in books and online. Have your student read the actual narrative or journal of a person you’re learning about in history.
  2. Ask her to choose five key events or times in this person’s life.
  3. Then, in her own words, have her write five diary entries for those pivotal times or incidents.
  4. She must include the time and location for each entry.
  5. If the incident is a major historical event, she must show the role the person played.
  6. In addition, she needs to weave into her diary entry any background information that’s needed for context and understanding.

Online Resources for Historical Journals and Diaries

Below you’ll find some links to resources for online journals. As always, parent preview or supervision is recommended.

The Diary Junction - Internet resource linking to hundreds of historical diaries. Search alphabetically or chronologically

American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology

First-Person Narratives of the American South

American Journeys: Eyewitness Accounts of Early American Exploration and Settlement - Columbus, Cartier, Sir Frances Drake, Lewis and Clark, many more

. . . . .

Looking for a more structured program to incorporate writing writing across the curriculum? WriteShop lessons can help your teens learn important writing skills while offering flexibility of topics. Visit our website at writeshop.com to learn more!

Photo: Barnaby Dorfman, courtesy of Creative Commons

Projects: Great writing alternatives

kids' used watercolors up close Who says writing must always mean a report or an essay?

While it’s important that our kids know these skills, let’s face it: not everyone loves to write.

A More Painless Approach

Ben wasn’t so keen on writing when he was a kid. Even as a young teen, writing gave him no end of grief. Imagine his joy when I would give him a choice between a history report and some sort of project. The project always won.

One year, he made an amazing tri-fold display of the Renaissance and Reformation. He loved searching through old National Geographics (bought for a dime apiece at our library bookstore) for the perfect photos. Then he spent hours arranging them just so for a beautiful display. Writing a short report on the Renaissance didn’t seem so painful when it accompanied the project.

And what young boy doesn’t love all things soldier-ish and warlike? So it came as no surprise that Ben opted to make a Greek Hoplite helmet and shield as his 6th-grade Ancient Greece project. The little article that accompanied it, on the subject of Hoplite soldiers, was actually fun for him to write because he’d had such a great time learning about their armor, weapons, and ways of war.

Projects as Writing Alternatives

Special projects allow students to explore a subject in more depth without having to prove their knowledge the “traditional” way—via a long, dreary report.

Projects make great hands-on ways to study topics of special interest. Sure, some might end up as reports, but often a project will incorporate writing while allowing the student’s skills, talents, and passions to shine through. A project can:

  • Appeal to different interests and learning styles.
  • Immerse your student in a subject he’s crazy about.
  • Call upon his unique skills and talents to create the project.
  • Incorporate writing without the need for the writing to dominate.

flip bookOne of Ben’s favorite projects was the construction of a sand pyramid and Sphinx. Living just an hour from the beach afforded us the freedom to head south for the day so Ben could make his project. He carefully carved and sculpted a fabulous Great Pyramid with a really cool replica of the Sphinx. We preserved his efforts on camera, and for his actual project, he made a flip book detailing the steps of the process in photos and words. The waves long ago washed away his sculptures, but they remain forever captured in his imaginative flip book.

Disguising the Broccoli

Writing across the curriculum gives students a chance to dovetail writing with other subjects you’re studying. Combining writing with history, art, music, or literature gives a child greater reasons for writing than “because I told you.” And just as hiding broccoli under cheese sauce makes it easier for veggie-phobes to eat their greens, combining a writing activity with a fun project makes the writing part easier to swallow too.

So as you begin to plan your lessons for summer or fall, why not provide your struggling or less-than-enthusiastic writer with an opportunity to gain some success through a project?

Projects shouldn’t take the place of other writing. After all, your kids still need to know how to write stories, essays, reports, and letters. But a project that includes writing will expand your student’s knowledge, vocabulary, and writing skills as he builds, draws, sculpts, paints, cooks, compares, or composes.

I’ve got so many great ideas for projects that appeal to all sorts of learners. Check back now and then for more ideas to spark writing in a brand-new way!

And if you’re a WriteShop I or II user, you’ll be excited to know there’s a Writing Across the Curriculum section in Appendix B to help you tie each WriteShop assignment into other subjects you’re studying. No projects here, but at least you can direct the lesson toward history or science and kill two birds with one stone!

Paint box photo: Liz West, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Journaling across the curriculum

Journaling across the curriculum lets kids write diary entries as if they were a historical figure or animal. Ideal for unit studies!

When we were homeschooling, I absolutely loved writing across the curriculum with my kiddos. It was such a natural way for them to write about the very things we were studying for history, geography, or science.

I’m excited to share one of our family’s favorite writing exercises—journaling across the curriculum—where kids write first-person diary entries as if they were someone (or something!) else. This is a great activity for kids of all ages—kindergarten through high school; pre-writers or prolific; reluctant or motivated. Continue reading →

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