Journaling is the process of writing down thoughts and feelings. On its own, writing in a journal is healthy technique for developing self-awareness, managing emotions, and improving self-regulation skills. Specifically, social emotional journaling is using the writing process to also work on social emotional learning skills at the very same time.
The idea behind SEL Journaling is simple: highlight a social emotional skill by providing a prompt, write about it, and discuss it. Keep reading to find out the reasons to give SEL journaling a try and how to get started on your own.
Reasons to Use SEL Journaling
- A journal provides a safe space to open up. Some social emotional skills can be difficult to discuss at first. Kids and teens might feel vulnerable or unsure of themselves. Just a few of these skills include peer influence, relationships, bullying, or hopes for the future. Using a journal allow students a way to share their thoughts and questions without publicly opening up to others until they are ready.
- Social emotional journaling integrates writing with social emotional skills. Let’s face it- time for teaching SEL skills directly can be limited. So often, academics take the front stage. By integrating SEL and writing at the same time, it’s a win-win.
- It creates a permanent record of feelings, thoughts, and skills learned. Sometimes, you just need to go back and review skills. Being able to say, “We learned about this when…” and flipping open to the journal page can help learners remember previous skills and strategies.
- It provides the perfect venue to work on SEL skills. In many ways, social emotional journaling is the perfect way to work on social emotional skills like empathy, friendships, goals, conflict resolution, and decision-making. Any educator or parent can easily say how important these skills are, but sometimes it is difficult to find ways to explicitly teach them. With SEL journaling, you can.
- Social emotional journaling fits a wide range of ages and abilities. You can adjust the questions and skills based on your learners. For younger learners, that means writing about ways we are kind to one another. For older kids, it’s important to delve into more complex SEL skills like healthy vs. unhealthy relationships and conflict resolution. The level of difficulty is entirely up to you and your learners.
SEL Journal for the Year
Anyone can start using social emotional journaling, which is one of the many reasons why I love this process. Below are some steps to help develop a SEL Journal, but if you want to get started right away, I have already developed a complete yearlong Social Emotional Learning Journal with prompts for every day of the year. Some of the skills it covers include:
- Self-Awareness: strengths, confidence, good character, emotions, positive thinking
- Self-Management: planning ahead, organization, self-control, coping strategies, resilience
- Social Awareness: respect, perspective-taking, empathy, diversity, kindness
- Relationships: friendships, communication, working with others, dealing with conflicts
- Decision-Making: responsibility, problem-solving, ethical decisions, peer pressure
Check out the SEL Journal here or click on the picture below!
Strategies to Get Started
Social emotional journaling is for everyone! Whether you are using the journal above or starting on your own, use some of the tips and strategies to get the most out of the process.
1. Consider SEL Topics. There are 5 core domains of social emotional learning: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships, and decision-making. You can choose the skills from each domain that are most important to work on for your students. If you’re using the journal above, you can just go straight in order! If you’re coming up with SEL journaling topics on your own, feel free to pick the SEL skills you think are best for your learners at the time. This might include anything from building confidence to making responsible choices.
2. Plan a Daily SEL Journal Time. Social emotional journaling is best when done every day. Consider when in the schedule a journal time would work best for your students. The morning time is a favorite because you can assign SEL journal work as students walk in. It can even help support your morning meetings as you continue to discuss the skills.
3. Assign One Question Per Day. With a target skill in mind, assign one SEL skill. For example, if you are working on understanding strengths, you might ask students to list and explain five of their strengths.
4. Plan for Discussion Time. After students write, it’s always helpful to let them chat with a partner or the whole class. This allows for shared learning and building relationships.
5. Give Feedback. After students write in their journals, take time once a week to give some feedback. For example, you might write feedback to your students on a sticky note and place it right in their journals. This helps keep their journals truly “theirs” but also allows them to know you are reading and supporting them.
6. Highlight the Skill Throughout the Day. Help learners generalize the SEL skills you are working on in your SEL journal by mentioning them throughout the rest of the day. For example, if you are working on self-control, you might point out when you see someone raising their hand or waiting patiently in line.
Start With a Free Week
If you’re interested in social emotional journaling but aren’t sure how it will work for your learners, try a full free week of journal prompts focused on self-awareness, strengths, and working through challenges.
Just one more note: If you’re not entirely sure how it will go, just give it a try! Start with a prompt and see how your learners respond. You can always made adjustments to the process as you go!