While sitting through a Professional Development two years ago, I found myself excited to learn and ready to get back into the classroom. Our presenter was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun and I really started to get into the ideology of writing in a mathematics classroom and how I wanted to implement that as a new procedure in my classroom. I had always had students do a Problem of the Day that they recorded the problem and solved it on a sheet that would be turned in at the end of the week as part of a small formative grade, but after listening to our speaker I decided I would try journaling instead. Since I have taught in an urban setting for all of my career my colleagues and I asked how to get students to build their writing skills. Following the different ideologies from Collin's Writing and how to Build Stamina for Writing we discussed the three following types of writing that are useful in developing understanding and writing in a mathematics classroom:

1. Descriptive Writing: the first step is to just get students to write their thoughts on paper; ask for a specific idea or concept that students should already know. A way to differentiate would be to give a list of 5 specific questions or topics and have students pick at least 3 to write about, and students who can or need to be pushed can write about all 5.

Ex. Describe the classifications of triangles.

a. Give a description of each classification of triangles by their side lengths.

b. Give a description of each classification of triangles by their angle measures.

2. Procedural Writing: The second type is to expand and have students write about procedures, such as How to make a PB & J? Students should summarize a process, explain how to do correctly solve a problem. It is a good way to start having students process steps in mathematics and give more information.

Ex. Explain the process in drawing a right scalene triangle.

3. Conceptual Writing: The third is then to convey understanding check for clarity, correct vocabulary usage, correct mathematical concept usage.

Ex. a. What are the differences between the given triangles? Explain how you found those differences.

b. Can a scalene triangle also be a right triangle?
Using these three types of writing in a sequential order, students become more comfortable after doing multiple descriptive writing responses, and you can expand on their writing by making more procedural writing prompts, or conceptual writing prompts later in the school year. Finding prompts (

Journal Prompt Search) is always easy as well, Googling Math Writing Prompts yields many results with various forms and formats.

While using this process I have found a systematic way to have students complete the journal each day before class. Every Monday Wednesday and Friday students write on their

Geometry Journal Page. I also found these

Stamina Building Phrases to be useful. Since we write on certain days of the week, the other two days in order to help with understanding and fluency in mathematics I have also implemented

Number Talks, which helps me build not only students writing but also their oral fluency in mathematics. Students in my classroom are writing and discussing to build on their understanding, they are writing to learn mathematics, not learning to write. With these formative tools I feel I have improved my classroom understanding.

Reading and grading all of these journals seems like a tedious, time consuming event, but if done right no teacher has to read all of the journal responses. The instructor during our professional development explained that in order to validate writing, students need to have their writing read, so to make sure everyone has their responses and opinions read, students in my classroom trade journals with a partner and then do a partner response. Usually the response is for students to read their partner's writing and give one piece of advice or to state whether or not they agree with their partners writing. Having the partner response and original response be a combined grade on the page holds everyone accountable. I usually assign 2 points for each individual response and then 1 point for each partner response on the page. Then I only have to glance at each section on the page to grade the journal page, making grading easy.