Why I Love Journals

I am participating in #SOL21. Thanks for the space to write, read, and grow.

When it comes to finding ways to unwind, for some, there is nothing more cathartic and calming than recording your thoughts in a journal. Clearing your mind by putting your own thoughts on a page is freeing. For me, I can almost feel my stress lift and worries melt away when I am writing with a pen and journal I’ve especially chosen. Now, the question is, where am I unloading these feelings? The journal and pen are what make the experience so personal. I need a journal that is spiral bound and will lay flat. It had to have a pretty cover and the right size – smaller than the black-and-white marble notebooks but substantially larger than a notepad. I write in colors – pink, purple, turquoise blue, bright green. Choosing a color to write in is also part of the process.

Sometimes I keep a gratitude journal. I want to get back to that. Recording what I am grateful for daily makes my heart sing. I don’t know why I stopped. It helps me to start my day with something positive and beautiful. Today I would write:

Hyacinths decorate our rooms – kitchen, dining room, living room, and den. The hyacinth on my writing table is in full bloom. Two stalks – one tall and one half its size – are filled with tiny white blooms, each individual bloom containing six petals. The spring-flowering bulbs have long, narrow leaves that are folded lengthwise. The highly fragrant flowers are intoxicating. I am grateful for their presence in our house – reminders of spring, rebirth, and wonder.

Picture books often inspire entries. Right Outside My Window by Mary Ann Hoberman and Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow are two examples that have spurred me on to write and reflect. Of course, I often take a journal when I walk at Longwood Gardens. I’ll sit on a bench at the end of the garden walk or near the topiary garden and write about the beauty and peace I am experiencing there.

I often encourage students to use journals. Reaction and process journals can be used by upper elementary students through high school. Below are some questions to help students get started with both kinds of journals.

Reaction Journals

  • If I were the teacher, what questions would I ask? Assignments? Projects?
  • Explain a theory, concept, vocabulary term to another person.
  • Summarize, analyze, synthesize, compare and contrast, evaluate an idea, topic, person, event.
  • Reread a journal entry from last week. Write a reaction to what was written.
  • Reread a journal entry from a classmate from last week. Write a reaction to what was written.
  • Connections with prior knowledge and/or experience.
  • Doodles, words, and pictures that reflect feelings and/or thoughts about a topic.
  • Response to higher order questions posed by the teacher or a group member or a self-question.
  • Free-writing (quick write) for five to ten minutes about a specific topic or whatever comes into your mind related to the unit of study.

Process Journals

  • What did I understand about the work we did in class today?
  • What didn’t I understand? What was confusing?
  • At what point did I become confused?
  • What did I like or dislike today?
  • What problems did I have with a text assignment?
  • Notes, jotting, lists relevant to my upcoming assignments.
  • My reflections on cooperative/collaborative learning group processes.
  • My predictions & expectations about a new topic.
  • What was the most difficult part of the homework assignment and why?

Writing is a great joy in my life. This writing community offers so many opportunities to connect with other writers, some who are good friends, and others who are new friends. I am thankful for every day in March when I usually begin writing a post for Slice of Life at six a.m., just after I open the back door to let the dogs out in our backyard. The coffee is perking, the sky is slowly filling with light. I am ready for an hour or more of writing before breakfast with my husband. What could be a better way to start each day?

7 thoughts on “Why I Love Journals

  1. I love how this post describes both the joy of journaling in our personal lives and the power it can have for our students. I’m like you, very picky about my journals and pens! I also like how you include snippets about your home (letting the dogs out before you write, the hyacinths decorating your house – I want to be there!) and your personal writing process, as well as good tips for journaling in the classroom I will return to. Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Journals are calming for me as well. I’ve written in a journal daily for the past two years, but I have no idea what to do with my notebooks. I’m too attached to them to throw them out yet. On rare occasions, I read past entries and think, “Yup! That’s what was what I was focused on at the time. Sounds just like me! Glad I’m not there anymore or hope I have another opportunity like that.” That’s about all. What do you do with your old journals?

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  3. I have a box of journals in my office but rarely give myself time to look through them. Your slice today gives me the inspiration to dig them out. Maybe I’ll surprise myself. I think I’ll start with the gratitude journal I used to keep in the mountain house.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like this, Lynne. Each journal serves a particular function. Writing things down is a great way for us to record what makes us happy, what plans we are making, and put into words some of the unspeakable things happening in this world of ours. Writing can help keep us sane.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This year, I finally gathered up all my journals and put them together. They took up two storage boxes. I always tell my daughter that she will be the “Curator” of my journals when I die. Loved this slice, Lynn. I can easily relate to your feelings. Writing is one of my key ways to “melt stress”, too. I’ll have to share your ideas for process journals with my daughter, who is a middle-school reading specialist. Keep writing and sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I write almost exclusively on the computer. But when I started working on a masters degree I bought myself a notebook (cheap, spiral at the top). I’m now on my 6th course and haven’t quite filled it, but it’s been so useful to me! I think I need a new one to help me through my thesis – and new coloured pens too!

    Liked by 1 person

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