More on Learning Through Writing and Reflection: Thoughts on Sharing Journal Entries With Others
From The Me I See, 2 Edition ©2009—an easy-to-use collection of journaling prompts produced by the Wood ‘N’ Barnes Collective.
Journaling is a powerful reflection tool that helps individuals solidify and understand their thoughts and work through their personal feelings and reactions to the world around them. The practice of reflective writing can empower learners with self-knowledge and give them the confidence to share what’s on their minds. There can be great value in encouraging writers to share their journal entries in certain educational and therapeutic settings. If you choose to invite participants to share journal entries as part of your program it is important to be intentional about how and why journals will be shared and establish some ground rules about how this will happen.
It can sometimes be daunting for writers to share their work. As facilitator, prepare for the sensitive nature of, and possible risk involved in, sharing one’s innermost thoughts and feelings by helping your group establish some positive group norms around what and how work is shared. Whether you are sharing one on one as counselor and client, or having students share journals with peers, help create and maintain a space in which everyone feels emotionally safe and comfortable, and where feedback and reactions will be constructive and useful.
As a facilitator, ensure that the following is in place before participants engage in sharing their journals:
• Clear goals and expectations about why and how information from journals will be shared.
• Students demonstrate a capacity to trust and be trusted by other group members.
• Respect for privacy is understood—“What is shared in group, stays in group”—unless someone is at risk to themselves or others. Make participants aware that anything indicating harm to self or others will need to be addressed. In the classroom setting, students need to expect that what is written as part of school assignments will likely be seen by the teacher. Remind students that reflective writing in school is different than private journaling, as school is a public place and journal sheets could be lost or left behind in class.
• If reflective writing is going to be shared in group/class, participants need to have some choice and control about what they share with the group and have the option to pass.
• Participants need to have a clear understanding about any grading requirements/expectations before they start.
If you are going to share work in a classroom or group setting, guide the group in creating its own agreement about the ground rules for sharing. This can be done by brainstorming a list or agreement. The following are some possible ground rules for sharing:
• What is shared in group, stays in group (unless a safety issue arises).
• Use positive, supportive language.
• Believe in the best intentions of others.
• No judgements.
• Share only what you are comfortable sharing.
• Be honest.
• No sarcasm.
• Be fully present when listening to others share.
When sharing journals in a group setting it helps to build comfort, trust, and confidence by starting with pairs and then moving to dyads before discussing with the larger group. Another effective way to make sharing with the group more comfortable for participants is to begin by inviting the writers to share something they particularly liked about their writing or ask for specific feedback they would like to have from the group.
Give adolescents an opportunity to reflect on what is important to them and on their beliefs and feelings about the choices they make. Participants may find they have opinions they are not even aware of just waiting to come out.
Here are some examples of pages from The Me I See, 2E that educators have found useful in engaging students in self-reflection followed by group sharing:
Click on the page to print.
This lesson is compliments of The Wood ‘N’ Barnes Collective.
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