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VINE VOICEon May 22, 2007
Unjournaling sells itself as a book to get students writing without the usual prompts that insist on soul-baring. Instead, you have a book of humorous, goofy writing exercises that don't make the students/writers expose their deepest private thoughts.

However, this is a sneaky book with more to it than a quick glimpse would indicate. It may be lighthearted, but it's definitely not lightweight. The exercises are frequently challenging, like the first one in the book that asks for a paragraph about a girl named Dot, without using letters with dots, like "i" and "j".

They also use humor and whimsy to teach lessons about passive voice, cliches, wordiness, details, using a thesaurus and onomatopoeia.

Appropriate for a wide range of ages, these exercises get the mind racing. About the only thing more fun that taking off and writing away would be reading your responses aloud. How many journal exercises are that fun, and funny?
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on July 22, 2007
Writing and reading came to me about as naturally as breathing. Even as a child I read books the way other people eat popcorn, and when I was about 8 a family friend had a tee-shirt made for me that said "I'd rather be writing my novel" (actually, I had the plots for THREE different novels going before I was 10).

Therefore, I sometimes struggle to teach writing BECAUSE it came so natural to me. Want me to write somethin'? Sure! Like Ishmael I cry "Get me a condor's quill! Get me Vesuvius' crater for an inkwell! Friends, hold my arms!"

Until I remember that there are a great deal of students at every level of education who struggle with writing for various reasons: it's boring, it's too tedious and confusing to create and then animate characters, English grammar is boring and difficult, or--as Ms. DiPrince and Ms. Thurston point out in the introduction to "UnJournaling"--it's too personal.

Actually, I hadn't thought about that last one. Not everyone is comfortable sharing details about their lives with classmates or teachers, and yet that's one of the most popular writing genres out there: "tell me a story about a time when..."

That's where UnJournaling comes in. With 200 different prompts, excercises and story starters, none of which are personal, even the most reluctant writers can be drawn out of their shell.

What's more, these aren't all just some story starter ideas, most are downright challenging, starting right off with #1: "write a paragraph about a girl named Dot, but use no letters with dots (i, j)" and moving right into #49 "you can use 25 words--no more--for a billboard advertising a product called `Zebra Wink'. Sell your product with those 25 words."

The authors are clever. Slipped in prompts teaching metaphor and simile (describe a car by comparing it to food), generating topics, finishing starters, language use (use the word "crumpled" in three different sentences and create a completely different feeling in each sentence) and describing things in great detail both by using and by NOT using certain words. Of course, there is the distinct possibility that any of the 200 excercises in this book could lead to a full-blown piece of polished writing; many schools here in FLA require students to have at least 5 polished pieces of writing in 4 different genres, and to have at least 10 published/polished pieces of writing by the end of the year.

These really are interesting, un-boring topics and I found myself highlighting many of them right off as I plan for the beginning of the 07-08 school year. "ooh! I could USE that!" I think, especially considering our School Improvement Plan heavily emphasizes writing this year, and I'm excited about sharing this book with other teachers in my school. In fact, I'm SO excited, I can hardly wait for the year to begin just SO I can use some of these prompts!!

...well... maybe not THAT excited...

Highly recommended for anyone who teaches any child of any age anything about the process of writing. Get this book, and it will quickly both have a place of honour on your bookshelf. In fact, you might need two copies--the first will probably get dog-eared and worn out right away.
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on May 13, 2007
I use this with my 8th graders and it is really makes them think. The topics that ask them to write a paragraph about a happy person without saying the word happy and to write sentences using only certain letters of the alphabet really make them think before they write. I love using this book. The only problem some people may have is the length of the topics. If you are writing them out, it may be difficult to use many of the prompts because they are almost an entire page long. However, if you are typing them and giving them to the kids they are great prompts to use!
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on August 25, 2007
I recently purchased this book and immediately put it to use. I teach 8th grade writing and was looking for a book with prompts that would help students develop skills in all types of writing. The prompts in this book cover narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive writing. My students have seemed eager to write and share their responses to prompts they have been assigned so far. I also like the fact that an example of a response to each prompt is given in the back.
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on April 11, 2006
I have been using Unjournaling every day for about 2 months as oral prompts for my journal writers. The kids really enjoy the prompts, and great discussions are generated. They are also writing more than they ever did with other topics! These topics are funny, clever and really bring out the creativity in my 6th graders. It would be a great addition to any teacher's file.

I love it! Kids love it!
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on January 21, 2016
I returned this book. I have taught writing for many years and I've enjoyed many clever writing prompts books This is one I just did not like at all. There is too much trying too hard to be clever and very little substance. There are too many pointless exercises such as "Write a paragraph about a girl named Dot, but use no letters with dots (i,j)." There are many prompts that require you to puzzle over words like a bad word problem in math, but unless a writer is particularly good at puzzling this way, all it does is frustrate them and waste time. The prompts force too much "cleverness," but they don't draw the writer into more vivid descriptions and clarity in their writing. A child can spend an hour trying to write a paragraph with no i or j in it, but what is the point? What have they learned about actual writing? Nothing. There is just too much of that nonsense in this book for me to waste my time pulling out the nuggets that are useful.

I almost gave it one star, but if you want to wade through all the nonsense you might find some useful prompts here. I loathe boring writing books and I applaud them for their effort, but this one just doesn't do it for me.
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on August 24, 2007
The quality of the writing prompts is beyond what I expected. I just received the book from Amazon and have used the prompts on writing students with great success. Highly recommended.
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on November 10, 2011
I purchased this book because of the positive reviews. I am a parent, not a teacher. I think this is a great book to get prompts for an advanced class if you are really looking for something "out of the box". I was a little disappointed because this wasn't my purpose. My son's teacher said that he is struggling with "style" in his writing (6th grade). So I bought this book thinking that we could do one prompt per day to practice. However, all these prompts did was really frustrate him! Writing a story with out letters with dots (i's and j's) is kind of funny, but not at all helpful in developing writing skills. If I were a teacher that needed to come up with endless prompts to entertain large classes of kids, I would probably find this book helpful. As a parent needing practical help to tutor my son in writing...this book was a waste of money. We have since bought "Razzle Dazzle Writing" by Melissa Forney and it has been VERY helpful for our purposes.
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on June 2, 2007
I bought this as a gift for my wife, a 5th grade teacher. She raves about how useful it has been in a short time, as a classroom resource in prepping her students for taking the Virginia SOL writing exam (they just achieved a 100% pass rate). This has loads of creative ideas and yes -- it is also useful for putting together work for those days when one needs "a sub" or is exhausted like most teachers at year's end!
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on August 6, 2007
Not every student knows that he/she can write, and many students are hesitant to share personal experiences. This books is perfect for bringing out the writer in every student while allowing them to express their creativity without revealing their innermost feelings. Perfect start to a journaling activity or as a base for a more drawn out composition.
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