This toolkit accompanies the story corner “Michael,” and provides classroom resources for making student journals, as well as prompts that encourage students at all grade levels to express who they are through writing.
Journaling can be a great way for students to express their interests, passions and feelings in a space free from others people’s judgments or expectations. This toolkit includes instructions for making basic student journals, journal-writing prompts for different age groups, and strategies that invite students to think about who, what and how they would be if they didn’t have to worry about other people’s expectations or judgments.
Making Student Journals
You will need cardboard, colored paper and/or fabric, string, scissors, a hole punch, glue or tape, and blank paper for writing.
- Cut the cardboard into a rectangular or square shape. For each journal, you will need two pieces of cardboard that are the same size and shape. This will form the back and front covers of the journal.
- Cut the paper to be slightly smaller than the size of the cardboard pieces. This will be the writing paper inside the journal, so cut the number of pieces needed for each journal.
- Punch two or three holes in the writing paper.
- Cut the fabric or colored paper to be slightly larger than the cardboard. This will form the outside cover of the journal.
- Lay the cardboard pieces on top of the fabric or paper, with a little bit of space between the two pieces.
- Fold the fabric or paper over the cardboard and tape or glue the fabric/paper to the inside of the cardboard.
- Cut two or three pieces of string (depending on how many holes you made in the writing paper).
- Pull the string through the holes in the paper, then tape or glue it to the inside of the cardboard.
- If you want, you can glue or tape fabric or colored paper to the cardboard to make an inside cover.
The prompts below are meant to allow students to think and write freely and openly about their own interests and identity.
- Sometimes I like to __________________________________.
- When I grow up, I want to ____________________________.
- I dream of _________________________________________.
- I wish I could ______________________________________.
- Something unique about me is _________________________.
- If I could be anything I want when I grow up, I would be a __________________________________________________________.
- If you really knew me, you would know ________________________.
- If it did not matter what others thought about me, I would ___________________________________________________________.
- The real me is _____________________________________________.
The activities below are meant to help students share their writing in a safe way that focuses on honesty, pride and acceptance.
- Have students label their entries as “private,” “OK to be read by the teacher” and/or “OK to share with classmates.” To create safety, you could start off by having all entries be private and introduce the idea of labeling some as OK to be shared once students have been writing for a while.
- When students label an entry as “OK to be read by the teacher,” have them leave their journals on your desk or in a designated place with a marker indicating the entry to be read. You can add comments, then return the journals to the students.
- When students label entries as “OK to share with classmates,” ask them to place a token or symbol, such as a colored index card, in the designated place. Once there is a significant number of the tokens, you could use one of the following formats for group discussion:
- Designate the last 30 minutes of class one day as an open-mic session and let students know they may read aloud a journal entry of their choice to their classmates. Interested students should choose a passage no longer than five minutes, and sign up on a performance list.
- Make copies of the entries that students designated as “OK to share with classmates.” You make them anonymous by leaving off students’ names and crossing out identifying parts. Place five to eight of them around the room on desktops. Ask students to walk around quietly and read each other’s entries.
- At the end of either option 1 or 2, ask for a few reactions from students focusing on appreciating what they heard, saw or learned from each other.