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Activities,  January 30, 2007

YouthLearn's Guide to Using Individual and Group Journals

When most of us think of a journal, we imagine something like a diary in which people record their daily thoughts or activities. Writers use journals to spur their creativity and compose their work. Accountants do calculations in a journal. Travelers, explorers and bird watchers use journals to record their discoveries. Remember the first line from every Star Trek episode? "Captain's log, star date…"

We can use journals with young people to do all of these things and more.


On the first day of the term or session, give everyone a blank book to keep as a journal. Have them make them their own by writing "My Journal" on the cover, or something similar, along with their name, the name of your center and anything else you (or they) would like. As we said, our use of a journal is much more than a diary—in fact, it's important that kids not think of it as a diary, if for no other reason than that, although it is personal, the journal is not private. One of the important uses of the journal will be to encourage sharing and communication by having kids show their work to each other and to thegroup.

But if it's not a diary, what is a journal? It's more like an "everything" book. It's a place you'll use to encourage kids to write their thoughts and ideas, but it's also a multimedia project where they can draw and paste things they find or make, whether it's a photo, a leaf or a souvenir from a field trip. Think of it as the "default" medium for your activities so that the kids become so attached to their journals that they carry and use them wherever they go. Whenever they have an idea they want to follow up on or a thought they want to remember; when they are feeling creative and want to doodle, or feeling reflective and want to write a poem, you want them to turn to their journal as a trusted friend and a safe environment. In order to achieve that, you'll have to do two things:

Integrate journals regularly and repeatedly into many activities, everyday, in every session—especially the fun ones.

Keep a journal of your own which you frequently share with the kids in your program. In the spirit of good modeling, it's got to be a real journal, one that you truly care about and maintain outside of the program. If they feel your pride and sense of enjoyment, they'll emulate your behavior.

We want students to feel pride in their journals and to develop a sense that it's an important reflection of themselves so that they use it on their own, in and out of the program, at home, at school and wherever they go. Good modeling on your part, combined with regular use of journals in your center, will help reinforce in students a lifelong habit for writing, observation, reflection, self expression, critical thinking, and much more....

Posted by wrivenburgh on January 30, 2007 | Activities