Keeping a thinking journal isn’t a new concept; American writer Thoreau once said it was a space and place where he could ‘meet himself face to face.’ Many adults keep a journal, especially writers who use them to collect ideas and snippets of observations that they later use in their stories.
Anyone who practises P4C will be familiar with the concept of asking children to voluntarily capture their thoughts; they are sometimes called learning logs, think books, daybooks, notebooks, jotters or journals. I’m calling them Thinking Journals – the name doesn’t really matter - it’s what children are encouraged to do with them that’s interesting.
Here’s an example of a child’s journal entry after some P4C sessions on the theme of ‘uniqueness’.
The aim of Thinking Journals is to encourage children to write or draw their thoughts (not to make it compulsory). Most children, I have found, quickly begin to love their journals and really want to record their thoughts and those of others.
- are a place where children can honestly write about their own thinking and learning.
- can provide a means of structuring a really effective learning conversation between home and school – children can invite their parents to write in it and teachers to look at it.
- offer an opportunity for children to express their opinions, fears, confusions, questions and concerns.
- are a place of safety – there are definitely no wrong or right answers there.
- build self-confidence and offer practice in self-expression – children’s concept of themselves as thinkers and writers grows immensely.
There is no one way to use Thinking Journals; they can be used at any point in the day in a range of contexts and linked to any area of learning.
Evidence suggests, however, that doing short bursts of writing at reasonably frequent intervals is better than asking children to engage in longer, infrequent sessions.
One of the more obvious uses is immediate assessment/ self-assessment. Teachers often ask questions during and at the end of a lesson to assess understanding and gauge the levels of learning.
But how often are children asked to record their thoughts in response to questions in the first person?
What did I learn today?
What did I find interesting / not so interesting or useful?
What would I like to know more about?
What questions do I have about today?
A Thinking Journal (alongside the time to think and write in it) is a great way for a child to reflect at a personal level about their learning.
As I was writing and compiling ‘Let’s Think Homework’ it became obvious that thinking journals needed to be part of it. The activities in this digital book offer frequent bursts of opportunity for thinking and talking – both in school and at home.
I wanted children to have somewhere to record the rich conversations and thinking that arise from the activities - both at school and at home.
Have a look on the website for more information about The Thinking Child Network- offering lots of ideas to promote thinking skills.