Regular writing in a journal is incredibly useful for promoting self-awareness. By including prompts with topics that require students to consider their feelings, emotions, and personality, journal writing can be a powerful tool. Prompts should be general enough so that students can explore their feelings, but specific enough so they have a clear direction. For example, one prompt might read ‘When is the last time you felt sad? Why? What other situations might make you feel sad?’. You can also ask students to write fictional stories about characters experiencing such situations, like a story about a character who was happy. These prompts can be adjusted for the age of the students you are working with.
If you are going to use journal writing to promote self awareness there are some adjustments that should be considered.
First, it is important that students feel their journal is a safe space to write how they are truly feeling. They should be encouraged to write private thoughts. Some students may be hesitant to do so if they think the teacher will be reading all of their entries. Therefore, by indicating to your students that you will only be scanning their journals to ensure they are writing instead of reading their entries closely, they will be more likely to truly reflect on themselves and write those feelings down.
Alternately, you may want to make only certain journal prompts geared toward self-awareness. This way, you can still read certain journal entries to monitor student writing while clearly indicating that some entries will not be read or checked. Another option might be to allow students to mark which entries should not be read. This gives them more ownership over their writing while making it clear they can share whatever they want in their journals. However, there is always the chance of a student writing something alarming in their journal. In this case, it is best to use your discretion when reading journal entries. If you are particularly concerned about the way a student is acting, their journal entries may provide some more insight. This is a fine line to walk, so use your best judgement and consult administration if needed.