by Samantha Maynard
Writing can be an intimidating task. Sometimes the mere mention of the word can raise students’ affective filters to the maximum level. One way to help students overcome anxiety toward writing is to increase the frequency of the practice while emphasizing its many benefits. Journaling can help students raise writing proficiency, while providing a host of other positive effects.
Read on for five reasons to increase the practice of journaling in your classroom.
1. Journaling Increases Motivation and Self-Awareness
For many of our students, personal space is a hot commodity. Relaying to students that a journal is a personal space of a different sort provides an opportunity for students to explore their personal goals, recognize behavior patterns, evaluate relationships in their lives, and further develop personal credos. A journal provides the room to explore self-awareness without having to vocalize that process. When students are given a chance to record and revisit their personal thoughts and feelings without the constraints of using proper grammar, publishing a polished product, or even using complete sentences, they are able to authentically develop the “why” behind the “what”.
2. Journaling has Mental and Physical Health Benefits
At Five Keys, our mission is to help students improve their lives in a holistic way. Journaling has been proven to increase not only the strength and quality of writing skills, but to benefit the writer’s mind and body. According to psychcentral.com, the health benefits of journaling affect mental health by clarifying thoughts and feelings, knowing yourself better, reducing stress (more room out than in!), solving problems more effectively, and resolving disagreements with others. Additionally, journaling has been shown to affect a writer’s physiological health by lowering blood pressure, increasing life expectancy, boosting the immune system, and decreasing fatigue.
3. Journaling Improves Memory and Problem Solving Skills
Writing about events forces a writer to recall and organize details about the situation, and solicits critical thinking in a user-friendly way. The physical act of writing creates connections in the brain that cement cohesive memories. These connections help writers to be able to step back and learn from prior experiences. Engaging in a regular practice of journaling gives students another tool in their arsenal to solve problems in healthy ways. Students become better problem-solvers by training their minds. Types of journal prompts that cultivate this particular skill set are morning reflections, bullet point journaling, gratitude expression, artistic journaling, relief letters (that are never read by the recipient), and goal setting.
4. Journaling Develops Stronger, More Confident Writing (and Writers!)
5. Journaling Allows Teachers to Gain Student Insight
Students, our onions, often come wrapped in many layers that take time and care to peel away. In giving students personal, private space in their journals, we also are privileged to be able to peek at some of those inner layers through the words left on the pages. Students often feel more comfortable sharing their experiences through the written word. Reading students memories, reactions, and opinions can inform our instruction, as well as giving teachers insight into the underlying factors of student behavior and habits. Keep in mind that there is also insight to mine in thinking about what isn’t written on the page. One way to increase students’ tendency to share their experiences is by evaluating student-selected journal entries. Students choose 1-2 pieces for you to read, while leaving the rest of the pieces unread. An added benefit of this strategy is that it encourages students to revisit and re-read their writing when selecting pieces (see #1 above!).
Do you use journaling with your students? Please share your strategies below!