Back to Living, Teaching with Intention

Empowering and inspiring today's learners to be engaged, caring, confident leaders, writers and citizens.

Photo of Thomas Leyba
10 31

Written by

Last summer these three boys (pictured above) rode up on their longboards to a rocky spot along the Carlsbad shoreline. They each found a large stone upon which to sit and write in silence. Not on their phones or tablets, but in their journals. I was moved to capture the sight because this type of grounded reflection, hand to paper, wireless and present, quiet and real, is largely gone from the curriculum. 

The goal today is to keep them engaged with what they know--technology. 

However, without slowing our students down and creating a space for them to reflect intentionally on pages they can burn rather than in traceable code, we keep them from writing real and from the heart. 

There is great power in telling our stories and having them heard. My grandfather taught me that. Engaging us on a journey through his past validated his struggles and gave meaning to the work he did with his hands. It honored his soul, which is important because a neglected soul tends to express itself painfully, appearing symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, and violence. Deny students their stories as our culture does, and they eventually turn to the language of violence. 

As teachers in the humanities, we encourage students to explore the inner life. But at school they interface with computers and in a variety of learning labs where they are plugged in and turned on. At what point do they stumble on an inner life? 

When do they discover the questions of the heart? 

The first goal of education—if we think it has anything at all to do with values and empowerment—is to bring students to a knowledge of the world within. We do that by inviting them to go truly wireless, put pencil to paper and write in their journals. A journal is a room of one’s own, that private quiet place where the past and the present become sacred.

From there, students can transform their personal musings into peer-reviewed digital projects, papers and essays that are interesting, real, polished, and thoughtful.

Intentional, in life and online.

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

Attached is a paper I presented at a recent ASU language and literacy conference where I shared my student experiences as well as a review of the research that argues for more journal-based writing. Attached is an article that argues for story in academic writing as well. Other attachments include two full lesson plans and worksheets I use to help students turn their sacred writings into powerful arguments that include text-based evidence. An attached powerpoint offers guidance in their use.
View more

Attachments (9)

The Art of Persuasion.pdf

Lesson plan for developing powerful voice in students by engaging them with today's media and propaganda and providing opportunities for them to journal toward vulnerability and to finally create a digital production that conveys true soul and a keen awareness of others.

Word Choice & Imagery.pdf

Lesson plan for building a community of caring writers and storytellers, through journaling, with the goal of producing work, digitally or with crayons, that honors their citizenship, both here and online. Includes my own family crest as an example.

ATI Grading Conference.pptx

Education conference slides with instruction on how to help develop powerful literacy in students by helping them to formulate arguments that can be sustained with text-based evidence. Features Webb's DoK and ideas for engaging even reticent learners in higher-order activities.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kevin Day

Hey there, friend...!
What a pleasure -- and I mean, a deep, teachable PLEASURE -- to read through this and your attachments more carefully today. I sketchnoted my way through your idea, and it led me towards the following:
- How might we use social media to power/produce/evoke/iterate/sustain our writing way inward?
- How might we use social media to amplify our written way outward?
The first of these occurred to me as I reflected upon how social media might invite writers to share snapshots of their way "inward" -- not the complete, completed journey, but the mile under their feet. In this way, I think your idea invites our students (and their teachers!) to re-imagine how Twitter and Instagram might help us turn aside to figure out what matters to us..., and turn aside again to share an early peek at where we find ourselves going -- all in a way that propels us into our journal for the REAL journey of wrestling true words to a true story.
The second of these occurred to me as I thought about your point of sharing our finished stories with the world. After all of that invisible, world-rounding work of finding and telling our story, now let's let our story be HEARD -- and, in that way, made real.
Anyhow, I'm eager to hear how you see your ideas here coalescing. And I'll be glad to share the sketchnote if you fire an email my way:

View all comments