Big sisters used to scream “Mom” when little brothers were caught breaking into their secret diary to read what their sister wrote about the cute boy on the bus. Today, while few of us have traditional locked diaries, many people do purchase beautiful, empty books in which to write about, or “journal,” daily activities, thoughts, disappointments, feelings, activities and dreams.
But have you ever considered bringing the act of journaling into the classroom? When students write their responses to your prompts, it can bring some surprisingly wonderful outcomes. Whether you teach second graders or high school seniors, here are some of the reasons educators say you should ask your class to journal:
Builds student confidence. After several months of journaling, students can look back at prior entries and will recognize how far they’ve come. They will not only improve their writing, grammar and punctuation skills, but will find it is more fun than ever to express themselves.
Writing without fear. Over time, students will grow as writers, but be careful to never grade their work. Journaling is meant to provide students with a safe place to write, make mistakes and learn about themselves. You can teach English in class, but not during journaling.
Great way to start the day. Journaling first thing as students arrive is a great way to start the day off on a positive note. This transition time will get students focused on learning earlier in the school day and creates a routine that kids crave. Prompts can be simple (what is your favorite cartoon) or more complex (if you met the President of the United States, what advice would you give him), depending upon the age of your students.
Platform for healthy dialogue. Journaling can be a great way to broach controversial subjects in a safe, non-confrontational way. Is there a difficult social issue that has been discussed recently on the news? Is Election Day looming? Did town officials make a decision that some citizens do not agree with? Pose a question about it to your class and ask them to explain their views without fear of judgment. Asking kids to question their own beliefs, or the beliefs of others, is a great way to get them thinking about the world outside.
Feel better, behave better. Some kids are talkative and easily express their emotions. Others struggle with identifying what they are experiencing and why they are feeling the way they do. Journaling gives quiet kids the opportunity to say things in writing that they would never say out loud. Letting kids vent in a constructive way will teach them a healthy way to handle negative emotions, and can help reduce frustrations that would otherwise not be expressed.
Identify potential pitfalls. Reinforce learning of subject matter by asking kids to explain the steps to solving a particular math problem. Or determine teaching effectiveness by asking, “the problem I found most difficult to work was ________ because ________.”
Read AND respond. Daily read over students’ entries and respond accordingly. A personal note, even if only a few words, will let students know they have been heard. Or add a special sticker or smiley face. Make it fun!
Don’t forget the most important rule — keep confidentiality! For journaling to be truly effective, you must gain the trust of students so they are assured their entries will be private. You might be surprised at what students will reveal about themselves when they journal.
About the Author: Jennifer Dobson
Jennifer Dobson is an early childhood teacher who invites you to visit her favorite online store for educators, MPM School Supplies. The site offers tons of great products including everything from classroom decoration and craft supplies like tru-ray construction paper to school furniture and educational rugs. Visit http://www.mpmSchoolSupplies.com today and save 10% on your first order!
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