The Joy of Journaling: How Journaling Helps Students In and Out of the Classroom

Journaling has been around for decades and is a popular way to help students put their thoughts on paper. It can be very therapeutic and it can also help students of all ages find a voice when writing. It's also been known to help develop and refine their writing style. Read on to learn about how journaling can build students' confidence and help place a focus on their feelings inside and outside of the classroom.

Developmental Gains

Many teachers agree that when they schedule time for their students to journal, they notice students begin to write more freely. There is no pressure of knowing they are going to be checked for mechanics, spelling, and grammar. Students are actually able to focus on their thoughts and words. They learn that writing can be an enjoyable activity. Students then begin to view journal writing time as a "safe writing" time. They know they are not going to be judged and marked down for their mistakes, much like a traditional writer's workshop. Eventually, teachers begin to see growth overtime. They notice their students begin to use proper grammar, mechanics, and sentence structure, which they begin to independently apply after mini-lessons and direct writing instruction in the classroom.

A journal can be used across the curriculum as well, not just in reading class. Many teachers notice the benefits of using a journal to record students' responses about terms, a concept, or an experiment in math or science class. They are benefiting because they are working on responding to educational prompts and use a variety of frameworks to write their response. Writing in different subject areas also helps students write in different formats. They aren't just writing a narrative. They are asked to sequence, to respond to problem and solution situations, and even compare and contrast objects or concepts.

Some teachers use journals as a way to acknowledge individual differences and interests. They can design their prompts for individual students or offer several from which students can choose. When it comes to journaling, students need to be writing about what interests them for the process to be effective and to help them become more fluent, meaningful writers.

It's also important to remember that effective journal writing doesn't happen overnight. Students have to build up stamina for writing and the more practice they get, the more they will develop into effective writers.

Emotional Benefits

Journaling helps some teachers strengthen the bonds they have with each of their students. They read each entry (or they choose one per week for students to hand in) and write a short response to their work. It's as if the journal serves as an ongoing dialogue and it quickly establishes a trust and confidentiality. They know what they write will stay between one another and many teachers remark that they are surprised with some of the information their students reveal to them. They are certain that the words that they write would never have been words they would have spoken to them out loud, especially in front of others. Journaling is highly beneficial for students who are shy or lack confidence with their writing abilities and don't wish to read what they wrote aloud to the class. So, the journal serves as an emotional and creative outlet overall.

Many teachers are taking a different approach when it comes to journal prompts, as well. Instead of allowing students to choose a prompt, they actually start a conversation with each student in their journal. This helps students take on a casual (yet conversational) tone and gives the journal a more personalized feeling.

Some children hold on to a lot of emotions and don't know how to express them. Journaling allows them to write what they are thinking and what's upsetting them. It provides them with a blank space to pen their frustrations, rather than act on them. Children are often encouraged to write down anything that is bothering them before bed ito allow for a good night's sleep and have a clear mind and conscious. In fact, many teachers are giving their students two journals: one to keep in school, and one to keep at home.

The major purpose of journal writing is to be able to write freely about anything. When given ample opportunities to write every day, students' creativity, confidence, and emotional well-being soars!