If you are anything like me, you are always in search of ways to keep your writers writing. When I can integrate writing with another subject area, it is a win-win! During our study of pioneer and The Oregon Trail, pioneer journals are fun way for students to use their creative brains, practice their narrative writing, and share what they are learning with others!
Wagon trains earn points which help them move along the trail. As they move across the Oregon Trail map, they learn about the landforms, native people, and the dangers pioneers faced as they made the treacherous journey.
One of the ways students document their trials and tribulations along the trail is by writing in their pioneer journals. This is a great way for students to practice narrative writing while learning about a history!
Before my students make their journals, we talk about how important the journals of the pioneers are to preserving history. Much of what we know about pioneer life and the trip west we know because of these primary documents. After that introduction, we get busy making our journals!
At some point, you will need your students' pioneer portraits. On the day my class was building their journals, we held our photo shoot. I photo edited (more on how to do this later in the post) and had the photos printed over the weekend so that we could finish our journals the next week.
The first thing your students will need to do is cut the bottom out of their bag. Using a good pair of scissors, model for them how to cut down one corner crease and then around the bottom section of the bag. When you are done, you will have one large section. If your bags have handles, they can be used for a latch which I'll explain later.
Now students can either measure how big their covers will need to be or, how we did it, eyeball it!
When the covers have been trimmed, you will now need to hole punch them. I suggest punching 4 - 5 holes.
After journals are bound, have students title their journals. Each of my students have pioneer names to go with their pioneer identities. Students used Sharpie markers to write on their journals. The Sharpie bled through the covers, so next year, I'm going to have to remember to plan for that.
If you are adding Pioneer Portraits, each student will need to leave a large space in the middle of their journal for their picture.
Now that the journals are done, let's talk about the Pioneer Portraits!
This year, I tried something a little different for our journals. I included a Pioneer Portrait of each student. They turned out amazing and were very easy to do. All I used was my iPhone and a photo editing app called Snapseed.
On our journal making day, I asked all students to bring clothing and props that we could use as part of our photo shoot. Students brought hats, bonnets, vests, scarves, aprons, and more. I put up a brown piece of butcher paper on the wall and each student stood in front of it as I took their photograph. While I took the photographs, the rest of the students were working on their journals or getting dressed in their pioneer garb.
The first thing I did was open up the app Snapseed on my iPhone.
Finally, I opened the tools and chose "VIGNETTE".
When I was done editing all of the photographs, I sent them to Costco for printing. They cost me about 17¢ each to print. Well worth it!
Once the ovals were cut, the photos were added.
Since the events and language need to be historically accurate in the writing, journals and diaries written from the perspective of a historical figure or an imaginary person during an important time in history is a meaningful way for students to construct a deeper understanding of the past and share that understanding with others.
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If you are interested in more things "Pioneer", click HERE for my post on our annual Pioneer Day! It's a day full of pioneer activities, crafts, food, and fun!
Thank you for visiting Literacy Loves Company! If you have any questions about the project or ideas that would enhance it, please share in the comment section! I'd love to hear from you.