I recently read the article, How Dialogue Journals Build Teacher Student Relationships, published on the blog Cult of Pedagogy. Blog founder, Jennifer Gonzalez interviews Liz Galarza, a middle school writing teacher in New York, who uses dialogue journals to build relationships with her students. A dialogue journal is a simple spiral or composition notebook that students and teachers write letters back and forth to one another.
The first post is written by the teacher to the student, handwritten and personalized (using information she has found out about her students from an intake form). She notes that in this first letter she asks many questions to begin communication. Once she has written the letters to her students it is the students’ turn to respond, and the conversation has begun. The students are asked to write a minimum of one letter a week and turn them in once a week (she staggers them on different days for different periods). Teacher responses take about an hour a class period (when class time is busy she begins a two-week rotation). These journals are not graded, just marked for completion. This is about relationship building (with a little bit of writing practice sneaked in).
I am in love with this idea! What a great opportunity to get to know your students, and allow them into your world too. While this relationship is building, learning is preparing to make its mark on the entire situation, on paper and in the classroom. I believe, if students feel they are connected to the teacher, and know that he or she cares for them, they are more open to listen to what he or she has to say. I am reminded of the movie/book entitled Freedom Writers, an English teacher who also uses journals to build relationships with her students. She does not respond back to the students; however, she reads them all. They share incredible, horrific moments in their life, the journal gives the students a voice, and in this rough neighborhood it is one that definitely needs to be heard. This journal changes the dynamic in the classroom and the learning begins to take place once the students know that their teacher has their back.
It is quite the time commitment, yet how else does one get the opportunity to connect one on one with 100+ students each week?
Until next time – a latte of sparkles & giggles,