We've heard a lot about social emotional learning and emotional intelligence in the classroom, and I could be head cheerleader for any work that allows students an opportunity to turn inward for direction. So, naturally I have taken my own passion for creative journaling into the classroom with my own workshop designed to help children learn how to put pen to paper and reflect on their own emotions, feelings, thoughts and even compassionate coping skills. And what I realized is that our children not only really enjoy the activity (especially when it's art-based) but they benefit greatly from a classroom that uses journal time for self-expression and teacher review and guidance along the way.
OK - the Why comes with a long list, so here goes the high level benefits I get most out of this activity...
On the act of journaling for personal empowerment:
Take a break, a pause in the day. This is oftentimes much needed as kids face a busy, pressure-filled academic and social schedule.
Clears the mind. Letting thoughts and feelings flow on the page gets them out of your body, where we can unintentionally store unprocessed info about ourselves and situations we are facing.
Reflection! Personal development is a never-ending journey. And you need to be mindful (aka present withe yourself) in the process in order to be true to yourself.
Can be guiding. If you focus on a specific topic or even ways to work through a certain situation, prompts and structured questions can lead so that you don't feel overwhelmed.
EDUCATOR TIP: jump in on the journaling with students by having a two-way dialogue with anyone who needs guidance. Educators can prompt questions that will encourage an inward review and reflection. This will help students develop problem solving skills and inner confidence naturally.
Tracking - a cool and creative trick for journaling is to make logging pages. There are so many things we may want students to track, like their mood, gratitude, intentions, goals, growth and progress.
Self-compassion, my personal fav :) This journal can also be a form of creative care for ones self. Meaning, students can learn the skill of 'talking' to themselves like they would a best friend (learning positive self-talk) and even identify different tools/activities that make them feel calm when struggle comes around.
And of course, from a more form educational perspective, journaling can help students:
Improves writing and communication skills
Mentioned above is tracking, which is a great way to log simple activities like reading, homework, studying, to name a few
So, what do you need and how do you start? KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Honestly, you don't need to overcomplicate it in the classroom. I know an educator's day is hectic, and there is no better way to help a child get into themselves than by letting them take the lead.
Grab a few varieties of journals and a handful of markers and pens. Carve out journal time, or if it's possible allow for two times throughout the day for students to decide what they like best. Some kids may enjoy a morning check-in while others may want to reflect on the day before they leave.
You can offer standard pages, including:
What are you feeling today?
Note to Self - offer yourself a compliment and/or compassion phrase
3 good things (gratitude page)
Dump it out - for anyone who has thoughts or feelings that are big, get it on the page
Learning list...write out all they are working on and how it's going
Doodle it out (your breath, your day, your view) to allow for a mindfulness moment
You can also use real experiences that happen in the classroom to bring topics of the day onto the pages.
Again, keep it real simple. Enjoying the journal journey for educators and students is important. It should never be a forced activity. Let it flow naturally, as a class. And you'll start to see the students shine their light!
Let me know what works for your class, and message for any more info about integrating journaling into the classroom environment.
Looking for journal ideas, here are some of my faves. And the Dollar Store is a great place to start for economical options.
Dot Journal. Amazing for creative thinkers and a fantastic tracking tool. Older students love these pages.
Blank Pages. Simple blank pages that allow kids to use their creative imagination depending on the mood they are in. Can find bulk option on Amazon.
Lined booklet. For the writers out there, a lined booklet is a perfect form of self-expression. Students can date their entries and reflect on their progress.
Draw and Write Journals. Great for both drawing and writing reflections, typically used in younger grades to offer both form of expression.