A journal is a log that a student uses to record their thoughts about something. This post will provide examples of journals as well as guidelines for using journals in the classroom.
Types of Journals
Normally, journals will have a theme or focus. Examples in TESOL would include journals that focus on grammar, learning strategies, language-learning, or recording feelings. Most journals will focus on one of these to the exclusion of the others.
Guidelines for Using Journals
Journals can be useful if they are properly planned. As such, a teacher should consider the following when using journals.
- Provide purpose-Students need to know why they are writing journals. Most students seem to despise reflection and will initially reject this learning experience
- Forget grammar-Journals are for writing. Students need to set aside the obsession they have acquired for perfect grammar and focus on developing their thoughts about something. There is a time and place for grammar and that is for summative assessments such as final drafts of research papers.
- Explain the grading process-Students need to know what they must demonstrate in order to receive adequate credit.
- Provide feedback-Journals are a dialog. As such, the feedback should encourage and or instruct the students. The feedback should also be provided consistently at scheduled intervals.
Journals take a lot of time to read and provide feedback too. In addition, the handwriting quality of students can vary radically which means that some students journals are unreadable.
Journaling is an experience that allows students to focus on the process of learning rather than the product. This is often neglected in the school experience. Through journals, students are able to focus on the development of ideas without wasting working memory capacity on grammar and syntax. As such, journals can be a powerful in developing critical thinking skills.