Journal writing is one of my very favorite aspects of teaching.
There are so many benefits:
Conducted at the beginning of class daily (or on certain days), it establishes a routinely procedure.
Regular writing improves writing skills, stimulates vocabulary.
Teenagers are in a constant self-discovery mode. Journaling allows them to unearth their truths, their authentic selves.
These prompts provide a variety of topics, both personal, trivial, and thought-provoking. Once a month students can choose one to expand upon, polish, or research further.
Writing can be a fantastic, safe outlet when students of all ages are troubled, confused, angry, etc. Journaling in class can be the gateway to becoming a lifelong writer.
The BEST part: Reading and responding to their journals builds a wonderful student-teacher bond. They often divulge more information in writing than they would in a face-to-face interaction. Over the course of a year, you really get to know them, and, in turn, they learn their voice is heard, valued. There is much joy in connecting with students, and they develop trust knowing their information remains confidential. They should be reminded, however, that teachers are mandated reporters, and have to respond appropriately if necessary.
Here are the prompts. When students journal first thing in the morning, they know to get their journal before class starts, and have 10 minutes to write; another great option is in the last 10 minutes of class. Setting a routine (i.e. M/W/F or T/Th) works very well. Quotes are a great brain stretch on Mondays, or can be interspersed throughout. Students can explain their interpretation of the quote, if they agree with the message, how it relates to them, and examples/relevance in our world today and of characters/novels we have read. I don’t require students to copy the prompt, but ask that they begin the entry including a reference to it. [Exceptions are the quotes, where they do copy them and respond.] Some topics have literary references to characters in books; feel free to reword the prompt eliminating the reference if it isn’t relevant. Prompts don’t have to be used in order; switch them up to be pertinent to your discussions. I require half a page of writing for full credit, and recommend having a make-up journal listing all topics and dates for students who miss class (perfect job for a student/TA).
Topics with a * indicate a possible research paper topic to be expanded later.