Keeping a personal journal might be a therapeutic way to describe feelings and life events, but it can also be a useful tool for relating educational experiences, processing new concepts and reflecting on progress. An English teacher, for example, might use journal writing to help students generate ideas about a novel and discuss what they can relate to in the story, while a science instructor might ask students to journal their experiences and observations of outdoor environments. Regardless of the subject, keeping a journal is an effective way to help students personalize their learning and practice writing skills.
Write With Routine
Consistency is key to making your journal a useful learning tool. The more entries you accumulate, the more you'll be able to reflect on your learning process. Many instructors provide students with time to write in their journals at the beginning of class, often responding to a specific question or prompt related to the day's activities. Similarly, students may have to compose additional entries for homework. Whether your instructor gives it as an assignment or not, take time to write about your experiences and new knowledge on a daily basis and make journaling a habit.
Journals are different from many classroom writing assignments in that they require the conversational, personal tone of the informal voice. Where the use of first-person point of view and observations like "I think" and "I believe" might be prohibited in academic writing, you should feel free to write in your journal much the way you would actually speak. The informality of journaling also gives you freedom to explore areas of interest or confusion rather than composing a structured response with a thesis statement. Feel free to ask questions and discuss your personal responses to what you're learning.
Write With Detail
Whether you're describing a personal experience or engaging with a book in English class, journal entries demand description to capture your reactions on paper. If you're discussing a significant moment in your life or something that happened to you recently, try to recreate the story through imagery, dialogue and detail. Describe how you felt during the experience, how things were resolved and how you are currently feeling as you write about it. If your journal focuses on your response to learning in the classroom, you might discuss ways that you relate to the topic. For example, you might describe how you specifically relate to a character in a novel or how reading it affected you emotionally.
Write With Reflection
Ultimately, your journal should give you a tool for looking back on your growth as a learner, taking note of how far you've come and where you still need to improve. Periodically, go back and reread your past entries, analyzing the questions and observations you posed. Then, try writing another entry where you reflect on the learning that's taken place over the past several entries. Discuss your strengths and weaknesses in the subject, how your views have changed and what you might do differently to make your journal habits more effective. You can also use this entry to set goals for future learning, such as becoming a more critical reader or working to strengthen your writing skills.
- Lincoln Land Community College Learning Center: Keeping a Personal Journal
- Writing Across the Curriculum at University of Wisconsin Madison: Informal Writing Assignments
- YMCA George Williams College: Writing and Keeping Journals: A Guide for Educators and Social Practitioners
- Journal of Athletic Training: Journal Writing as a Teaching Technique to Promote Reflections
- Prince Edward Island College of Physiotherapists: What Is a Learning Journal?
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