Happy Easter! Student Journals: from the (pencils) of babes

I with this photo wasn't out of focus. So cute.

Because of the upcoming holiday, we’ve dedicated our reading comprehension time this week to the story of Easter. On Monday, their journal topic was simply “What is Easter?” (Before you start thinking “I can’t believe she’s teaching them about that at school!” please understand that the population in American Samoa is 90.5% practicing Christian, and 100% Christian on our island. When and if someone asks you what religion you are, they are really asking your denomination/ what church you attend.).

So I was pretty surprised to discover that none of my kids had any idea what I was talking about when I said Easter, even when I asked it in Samoan. Concerned that maybe I wasn’t pronouncing something correctly, I asked a Samoan teacher to translate the question for me. She told me they won’t know what Eseta is unless I call it the holiday with the eggs. Two of them did mentioned that they thought Easter might have something to do with Jesus. I’m not trying to criticize because I know that most kids in the States (even the church-going ones) think Easter, much like Christmas, is just another awesome day for presents (or chocolate eggs), but I was surprised at how little these kids knew about the holiday. We are talking about kids who attend church at least three times a week, pray in school three times a day, have Samoan school at the Reverend’s house, regularly write about how much they love the Bible, church, and Jesus in their journals, and think walking during the evening prayer time (sa) is one of the worst things you can do.

Bookmarks and hearts the kids made

Anyway, Monday’s journal responses were all about Easter eggs and chocolate. Almost all of my kids were able to tell me who found the last egg at last year’s school-wide Easter egg hunt, but none of them could tell me how Jesus died. So, on Tuesday we read a children’s version of the Easter story I found online, and then put the events of the story in order. Wednesday we read it again and then summarized. (This is reading comprehension time after all.)

Popsicle crosses. Easy peasy.

We spent a little time each day this week making bookmarks and crosses out of the limited materials in my classroom (popsicle sticks and palm branches), coloring Easter-themed pictures, and just talking about why they celebrate Easter. It was more Sunday-school-ish than anything I’ve ever done in my life, but hey, there’s a first time for everything. (I wish I had a picture of those palm crosses because they are super cool and the kids loved making them. I can bring one back for you if you want! For realsies, just tell me in the comments if you want one.)

Tuesday’s journal prompt was the same as Monday’s: “What is Easter?”
Here are their journals from Tuesday:

Start on the right page and then read the left.

One of my favorites

She's very proud of her 15 sentences

First page (and a cute attempt at cursive)

Last page

Now, that’s better, eh? And since I’m in the journal-sharing mood, here are some more! (Please note: The first two journals are from the same boy and I did not prompt him to write about God. They love writing about God and they do it all the time without me asking them to.)

This was a journal right before Thanksgiving:

November 21, 2011

This was for a free-writing assignment from the last week of March:

March 29, 2012

And this, oh gosh, this…this was a recent journal on an opinion topic. The original question was “Do you think all children should have to go to school?” But, because the kids had questions about various things they have heard about schools in other parts of the worlds, we ended up have this long, long, long talk about things like segregation, women’s rights, and other things that confuse and blow the minds of 8 year olds. The big “WHAT?” in the middle of his journal is my favorite.

Opinion: "Do you think all children should be allowed to go to school?"

I don’t have a photo, but here is another response to the same question:

Yes, all children should go to school, because you can learn everything you want. I love school. School is nice. Everybody go to school. All kids play at school. Alright, some kids stay home. They don’t come to school. Many people go to a big big house and talk, that they think everybody can go to school. I love school every-day. I tried to go to school because I want to learn. Girls can go to school. Boys can go to school too. Like girls, too. I love school. THE END.

And just for fun, here’s a free writing response from the same girl:

If I am on the moon then I can’t breath on the moon. I imagine that I fly up to the moon and I have white wings. It is cool if I fly up to the sky, and that’s how I get there. When at summer I go up to the moon. And that time I go up to the moon. And when I sleep I imagine that I feel worried because the aliens gonna come and eat you up. What can on the moon nothing. All that I can see when I dream and sleep last night, All that I can see is aliens and the big black wholes. That what I can see on the moon. I wish that the moon orbit the earth and if you are on it, the moon, you will fall down and no one will catch you. And you fall down and then you die on the grass. And its hurt verry much. And your blood will come out and your blood color is red, verry red. I scared if I go on top of the moon it is scarry to me. And was scared. ( Wait. Turn the page please, said Mrs.Allyson)
Because I think that the moon turn you that way, this way and you will fall down. It is bad for me to think that. At night I see in the sky, and I said, Hey mom! Dad look at that, there is a moon on the sky! I see the moon there’s no peoples on that moon my mom and my dad said to me. No more peoples on the moon. And if you sleep and you wish that the man is on the moon and the aliens. And I was so scared, very scared when I go on the earth. I am scared, verry scared on the moon. THE END.

The new student I got in January who couldn’t write the alphabet on his own, or write a sentence more complex than “me see the cat” turned in 15 sentences two times this week! I mean capital letters, punctuation, and everything!

This is his very first journal entry on his first day here:

First journal--alphabet only

Here’s one of the journals from this week:

Lookit those sentences!

Obviously, I didn’t teach him to read and write in two months. He could do those things when he got here, just not very well at all. But look at him now! He is such a hard little worker!

I adore reading over their journals. These kids are hilarious and incredibly supportive of one another. This week when my new student wrote 15 sentences, the rest of the class started clapping and telling him good job and then sternly informed me that he deserved a sticker. They like to write about how much they love each other, their families, their churches, and their teacher. Their journals have also been an incredibly helpful tool for me to assess overall improvement. I can see how well they’re retaining spelling words and grammar lessons, check their language skills, and get a look into their writing process. But mostly I just like to read what they write. It’s such a privilege, really, like nothing I’ve ever experienced, to spend so much time with them, to know that I am influencing them in so many ways. Lately I’ve been on the verge of tears several times a day just thinking about not seeing them next year. Totally normal first year teacher stuff, I’m sure.

Side note: Am I the only one who thinks its funny that I used to get so annoyed when people assumed I’d be using my English degree to teach? I thought teaching was the last thing I’d ever ever ever do, and now look at me. I just wrote 1500 words about my students.

Have a wonderful Easter!

Happy Easter from Level 2!

About Cat Q.

For three years, I lived on a tiny little island in the South Pacific called Ta'u, where I taught elementary and high school English. Much of this blog is a chronicle of my time there, and of the travels we were able to do while we were on that side of the world. Now, I'm doing a different kind of travelling in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two children.
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4 Responses to Happy Easter! Student Journals: from the (pencils) of babes

  1. Chadwick says:

    The lisp in your photo caption is precious.

  2. Cat, I remember having a chat with you and Carly at some point about what we would be doing in the future, and I remember that both of you mentioned your English degrees were not going to be fore teaching. Hah! Look where you are now. Some of those journal responses are great, and it seems like some of your students have more English fluency/creativity than some of my 8th graders. Keep up the good work!

  3. My favorite response in all of those is “Jesus make people funny.” haha Love it! I still get mad when people assume I am going to be teaching!! It’s so awesome that you are making a difference in their lives!

  4. Hot.Dog.Arms. says:

    LOVE the journal entries!! Of course, the Easter ones were my favorite but the one about how “girls sit at home and make food” is a close second.

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