This year, my school district adopted the Journey's curriculum from Houghton Mifflin. Like any new curriculum adoption, the path to discovering the best pieces is full of surprises and challenges.
After wading through the clutter, clunking around through all of the books, and frantically clicking through the entire online platform, I think that I've found the best pieces for my needs. Please keep in mind that these may not necessarily suit your needs the best but I hope to help you find a good starting point for using this curriculum if you're new to it as well!
When I first started digging through the boxes, I was overwhelmed. There were so many books. So many teacher's editions, so many little readers...just so much stuff! To top it off, my district doesn't require us to use this curriculum. Rather, we are provided the curriculum as supports and resources to meet the standards in the way that we feel is best. That left for more for me to consider. What fits. What works? What's practical?
Let's get to digging...
Resources Worth Using....
Journey's Reader's Notebook
Why do I like it: It's so easy to find fault in resources like this. I've heard it all. "They're just worksheets." However, I try to be realistic and look at the value that this resource CAN add to your classroom instruction. Not every single page in this book is gold. Actually, most of the page are probably more like silver BUT, I think that the value here comes in the preparation, consistency and ease of use that this resource provides! It's so easy for teachers to try to be innovative and reinvent every single thing. However, I try to be realistic and use what adds to my day but doesn't drain me. I need to save this creative juices for the right moments.
Where do I find it: The student workbooks are consumable. You have an answer key in your boxes somewhere! :)
How do I use it: I assign pages from this book for students to complete during their Daily 5 rotations. Usually, I have students work on the pages that are connected to the story first. Then, I add one or two pages related to spelling or grammar work. I think that these are very important topics but they often get overlooked in today's classrooms due to time constraints. This helps me get spelling and grammar in with minimal support on my end.
The Weekly Planner
Why do I like it: I love using the weekly planner because it gives me a quick glance at the week. I prefer to use the weekly planner when I sit down to do my lesson planning because I get an "at-a-glance" look at the texts we're using, the skills and strategies that we're working on and all supplemental lessons (grammar, writing, spelling, etc.). There are also lists of the CCSS at the bottom of the page so I can make sure that I have the correct CCSS statements up for the next week.
Where do I find it: In your teacher's edition, this page is just a few pages behind the "Whole Group" tab for each week. Each week has a new planner in the whole group session.
How do I use it: First, I look at the skill and strategy for the lesson. For example, this week's skills are: theme, dialogue, sequence of events. Then, I consider what I know about my students. Who needs help with determining theme? Is there anything that I can do in small groups this week to prepare them for this next week? Where can I put in quick checks or think alouds to support theme in my read aloud or other parts of the day? Then, I pull the materials that go with this. I'll grab the sequence of events graphic organizer, get sequence of events stuff together for small groups, and then check out the teacher think alouds and questions in the text. Next, I'll look at what small group readers are available and schedule those out for small group time. In addition, I flip through the grammar and phonics lessons to see what we really need help with and add those items to my Daily 5 checklists for the week. This helps me maintain a focus in my literacy instruction while also using my own instructional skills in the topic.
My Write Smart
**Note: This is the online version but the same topics are also available in the Journey's student book and teacher's edition.
Why do I love it: There are honestly just so many reasons to love the My Write Smart component of Journeys. First of all, students today expect to use technology at school. They've lived their entire lives with access to the internet and electronic devices and...guess what...they LOVE it! They want to do things on the computer. Want to make reading quizzes more exciting, make them on the computer! Anyway, the My Write Smart program functions like an online word processor with access to prompts, scoring rubrics, and digital versions of the student texts (with read aloud options available). Second, this maintains online records of student scores and all of their work is right there. There's no more worrying about papers without names, students who just shove their assignment in their desks, etc. Third, practicing written responses in this manner will support students in preparing for their online state tests that require them to do something very similar to this. The students think it's just super cool...for an added bonus!
Where can I find it: If you're online, from your dashboard, the My Write Smart tab is the very last one on the right side. I have to scroll over to find it. Your district has to have your classes set up through your Journey's account for it to work so make sure that's complete. If you want to browse which assignments you can assign in Journey's, go to the assignments tab on your dashboard and then click for "searchable assignments." You can type in Write Smart or Write About Reading for starters. If you've seen those "Write About Reading" prompts in your textbook, those are available as assignments in My Write Smart. There are also performance assessments and other writing assignments as well.
How do I use it: I have my students practice composing answers to prompts on paper first. I'll print out an "exit ticket" style sheet of paper for the "Write About Reading" prompt in the book. Then, we'll discuss what quality writing looks like in 5th grade and what things are required for a strong written response to the prompt. Then, the students write (on paper) about their thinking. Some days, I'll have students peer edit their responses but typically, they just get approval to move on and they go into their Write Smart assignment and type up their work. This is great for me because I can ready typed work and they get extra keyboarding practice too!
The online tests are one of my favorite components! Like I said before, students today are driven by technology. They want to be on it! The online tests are fantastic because it breaks down your data by student, class, and CCSS strands. I love being able to pull up a quick record of who needs help with each specific standard. Along with that, it breaks down the different components of the teacher's editions and student editions that I can use to teach it! I can add it to my planner or assign it to the students' accounts all right there from the test menu. The tests are customizable and you can assign it in its entirety or just small chunks of it! The written parts are graded by the teacher and you're given a scale to score it on and a place to leave feedback.
Now, getting all of the tests set up is pretty daunting. I actually created documents for my team that walk them through every step of the process. The only part that had to be done by someone else was importing my students into the system. That was done by the technology person at our district office.
I really encourage you to play with this tool! It's a great thing to add to your instruction if you can get it all sorted out!
The last major thing that I think you really must look into are the Performance Assessments. I love these assessments because they really help prepare your students for state testing and Smarter Balanced Assessments. Now, this is not really why I like it. Sure, it helps you get everyone set. However, these assessments are composed of valuable skills that students really need to know!
The assessments provide multiple texts and the students are required to write a piece integration information from multiple sources. This is a great place to start as a teacher to model what needs to be done while giving the student time to practice. There are multiple assessments included here for your class and they're well worth the time!
Now...perhaps I'll do another post on Journey's and how I'm using different things in my literacy instruction but for now, this is it.
Do you use Journeys? What are your favorite parts?