Journaling: Thinking and Writing About Things

By Edward F. DeRoche

“Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. 
What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.”                                                                                          -Natalie Goldberg

As you may know, we have sixteen educators on the Center’s Advisory Committee.  We are constantly in communication about character education issues and resources.  They keep me up-to-date about the “real world” of P-12 education. 

Last month, I received this idea from a committee member.  She suggested that a blog on “journaling” might be of interest to readers and listed a few “journaling questions” for teachers to use as prompts.  

  • What are some of your biggest strengths?
  • Can someone turn a weakness into a strength over time?  Why or why not?   
  • What are your top five positive qualities?
  • What do you LOVE to do?  
  • What activities make you feel the best?
  • How do you feel today?
  • What are some hopes you have for the future?
  • What ways do you feel you learn best? 
  • When was a time you succeeded at something? 

I am a fan of question-asking.  Q&A fosters curiosity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-reflection.  So I asked myself these three questions: 

What is journaling? 

What are the benefits?  

Can teachers use it and, if so, how?

My experience with journaling is making out “To Do” lists.  Thus, I did what any college professor (or anyone else) would do—I “googled” it!  And I am amazed about what I discovered.

The WHAT 

It appears that journaling is part of what some call the “self-care movement.”  As several authors wrote: 

“Journaling is an outlet for processing emotions and increases self-awareness.”    

“Writing in no stranger to therapy.  Writing’s power to heal lies not in pen and paper, but in the mind of the writer.”  

“Typing out journal entries on a laptop or even on a phone can yield effects that are just as positive, particularly if it’s more comfortable and convenient for you.” 

“A journal is not a record of the minute details of your daily life.  Instead, it’s a private space for exploring what you think and feel about the people, events, or issues that are important to you.”

The BENEFITS  

The practice of journaling may increase “mindfulness, memory, and communication skills.”  In addition it may lead to better sleeping habits, greater self-confidence, and a better understanding of one‘s emotions.  Here’s a thought:  Have you ever felt better just talking about a problem with your friends or parents?  Well, consider your journal as a friend who is always there.

I found an article published by PositivePsychology.com that listed 83 benefits of journaling that “can help you clear your head, make important connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and even buffer or reduce the effects of mental illness (depression, anxiety, and stress).”

The benefits of journaling for children [I am reporting five of the twelve they listed] include:

  • Exploring and identifying their emotions.
  • Allowing themselves to feel “taboo” emotions like anger.
  • Examining the pros and cons of something to help them make a decision.
  • Reflecting on their thoughts about something after the fact.
  • Gaining insight into their own motives and the motives of others.

I may be wrong, but from what I read journaling may be one major anecdote to the abuse of the Internet and social media websites.

HOW Teachers Can Use It?  

Here is one answer. 

“Teachers can use journaling as a kind of window into how students are thinking about what they are learning.  This is a great assessment tool as well and teachers should learn how to incorporate journaling in their classroom.”

I discovered many ways that teachers can use journaling in their classrooms—for assignments, for projects, for assessment purposes.  Here are a few suggestions.

Motivational journal that sets your day in a positive direction by reflecting on inspirational quotes. 

Gratitude journal that lifts your spirits by focusing on the things you are grateful for.  

Writer’s journal that prompts you to reflect on famous quotations, social issues, or literary themes.  

Thematic journal that invites you to record your thoughts and progress on specific problems or interest areas.       

Success journal that documents today’s triumphs to help cheer you through tomorrow’s slumps. 

Free-form journal that allows you to write about anything and everything, providing insights into how your thoughts and emotions unfold over time.   

Writing to heal journal suggests that writing about emotions and stress can boost immune system.

In my search, I found so many excellent resources to help teachers use journaling as an instructional strategy that I decided that the December issue of News You Can Use should focus on journaling resources and references for teachers and parents.  Something to look forward to!

Edward DeRoche, Ph.D.
Director, Character Education Resource Center
Department of Learning and Teaching
School of Leadership and Education Sciences
University of San Diego
November 2021 

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