Guest Author - Shannon Swanson
How do I know what I am thinking unless I write it down?
Many times we think of journaling as a personal, private experience that is done on our own time. However, although it is not included in lesson manuals, it is a great way to start (or even finish) a lesson.
This is because journaling in the beginning of a class allows the mind to prepare itself for learning. It promotes self reflection and helps set the stage for questions and answers and class discussion. It also helps the mind learn since when the body is moving and interacting, the mind absorbs information more effectively.
As British author E. M. Forster stated, “How do I know what I am thinking unless I write it down?” meaning that we may have many questions and thoughts, but how can we show ourselves who we are or what we are thinking unless we know how to form our thoughts into words and complete ideas and see them for ourselves?
Using a journal in class may be easier than you think. In the past, what I have done (at least for teen aged classes) is to buy simple, small notebooks (one for each student) and bring a set of pens and /or pencils to each class. I would pass out the journals and pens and then open the class with a reflective question that related to the lesson and give the class about five minutes to respond in writing. During this time, I would allow myself to either look over the lesson one more time, which also allowed me to feel a little extra prepared.
I would then have a short class discussion about the question and allow each student to respond if they wanted to and then lead the question into the lesson. Usually, I would have the students put their journals under their chairs so they wouldn’t doodle or write during class time until the end of the lesson and then I would collect them and keep them until the following week (so they wouldn’t lose them).
I would only read them if the students wanted me to. When a student moved out of my class, I would then give them their journal to keep and encourage them to read it and keep it up on their own.
This format is suitable for the Youth, or teenagers, but Primary would go a little differently in terms of the types of questions. Instead of asking, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” you may ask, “What are five things you need to get done today?”
Some other examples for Primary might be, “What is your favorite Family Home Evening?” or, “Tell about a time when you shared with your brother or sister.”
Again, after everyone is done writing, you can discuss the students’ answers together as a class. And if they graduate out of your class, talk to their parents about helping them keep up their journal by asking them questions on their own. Imagine how much they will enjoy reading it in years to come!
You can always get creative with your classes and journaling-asking different types of questions or even drawing a picture one day. But the outcome will always be increased learning and something to look back on.