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.
- 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.
- 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?