Initially, the students would write two (or three) loosely based sentences to complete their journal entry. A prompt of, "What is the weather like today? Why do you think it is different from a month ago?" would initiate student responses like, "It is sunny. It is less sunny than last month because of seasons." The students would 'satisfy' the requirements of completing the journal by answering both questions, but only a fraction of the students would go into detail about their response.
As the school year has progressed, the students have viewed many teacher examples to the journals - as well as in depth literacy instruction as to how they can strengthen their own writing. Students were identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives, and exposed to new vocabulary words daily which has vastly improved their writing skills. The above prompt, may now elicit the student response like, "It is sunny and bright outside, but windy too. It is getting colder and colder outside because it is going to be winter soon. We will still have sunlight in the winter, but it will snow." The student is better able to comprehend and interpret other subject areas (Science...ect) into their writing abilities and are beginning to see that writing instruction is not its own exclusive subject.
Students have also used their oral skills and computer skills in completing writing assignments. A student may orally dictate (or elaborate upon a written assignment) to my CT, and she types their story to be in print. In doing so, my CT prompts students to elaborate upon their preexisting ideas - and the students are better able to convey their 'story' to the reader. By translating their written ideas onto a word document, the students are then able to view their writing as a book (in which they color and illustrate pages). Students may now feel that their writing and ideas are more meaningful, because they can be viewed by not only their peers and classmates (along with demonstrating their artistic ability), but they can compare text that they read and see that they too can produce a concrete story/book for others to read.
In my own classroom, I would like to give my students the opportunities to demonstrate their writing abilities using a method in which they feel most comfortable using. For special needs students, they can write an assignment using picture words, using speech-to-text technology software, or any other method that may suit their needs. I also feel that ALL students should be exposed to the various ways in which they can demonstrate their writing abilities. Rather than limiting the students to paper and a writing utensil, they would be able to use computers, voice recorders, concept maps, illustrations...ect to demonstrate their own creative voice in the truest form.