Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises That Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring! 2nd ed.
By Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston
(Routledge/Prufrock, 2023 – Learn more)
Reviewed by Anne Anderson
Teachers are destined to find multiple potential writing topics in Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises That Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring.
This second edition includes updated prompts along with fifty new prompts. Readers will find that DiPrince and Thurston have included writing ideas that are “flexible, varied, challenging, interesting, and even fun to do.” (p.2)
Students will find these prompts interesting and challenging; teachers will appreciate the flexibility and variety. Everyone will have fun – even the most reluctant writers or the weariest teachers!
Think about the number of times we remind students to use strong descriptive language. How often do we advise students to revise their writing so that readers can see what they are describing? And haven’t we occasionally begged for details?
As I perused the 250 prompts, I jotted down my thoughts for incorporating several prompts from unjournaling into a classroom writing routine. I spotted numerous opportunities to talk about metacognition and writing.
A word of caution: I think it would be a mistake to spoil these delightful prompts by turning a fun writing experience into a full-blown writing lesson. Focus on the enjoyable experience of writing.
Want to improve word choice? Looking for strong verbs? Replace those old worksheets with this fun prompt. Students will tackle this assignment with enthusiasm – and perhaps a thesaurus.
King Kong stomped along the street. He crushed cars with his toes. He ripped people from their cars. In five sentences, what else did he do? Use descriptive verbs. (p. 15)
Need to revisit previously taught skills? The authors include numerous ideas for skill maintenance with prompts #51 (hyperbole), #80 (onomatopoeia), #84 (similes), #100 (word choice), and #140 (passive sentence vs. active sentence).
Activate those creative brain cells with these challenging prompts:
•Write four sentences made up of four four-letter words each. (p. 31)
•Write a four-line song or poem about mayonnaise. (p. 33)
This writing exercise will spur their imaginations:
Maxmillian Mariano Mancini married Melissa Macduff. They named their children Montague, Meryl, Myron, and Missie. Their dog is Mutty. Their cat is Muffin. Describe the Mancini home, using as many “m” words as possible in your description. (p. 56)
Some prompts, like the one below, ask for answers.
Unbeknownst to most people, the chicken had a lot of reasons for crossing the road. What were at least five of them? (p. 27)
Other prompts, like #129, provide students with an answer and ask for five questions.
These writing exercises are intended to be completed individually; however, prompts #235-#237 might be appropriate for a small group project. Within these three prompts are several real-life skills.
In addition to the 250 prompts, readers will find a sample response for each. Before reading the samples, you might try your hand at writing a response.
The possibilities with this book are endless! Include a prompt in your emergency sub folder or share one or more with the in-school suspension teacher. Be sure students save these writing exercises. Later they may return to one and develop it into a polished writing piece.
Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises That Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring! lives up to its title.
Anne Anderson always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She graduated from East Texas Baptist University with an English major and History minor and did graduate work at Louisiana State University and Louisiana Tech University. After teaching 8th graders for 24 years, Anne served as a content coach. Since retiring in 2011, Anne has worked as an educational consultant, presenting at national conferences and onsite trainings for public and private schools.
Calendar Celebrations: March, April, May is part of Anne Anderson’s trilogy on quick, engaging activities and resources for months of the school year. (For MiddleWeb she wrote about spring resources here and here.) Anne has also published articles in IDEAS Plus and Voices from the Middle, publications of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is a frequent reviewer of professional books for MiddleWeb.com.