Social-emotional journaling is the process of responding in writing to SEL-focused prompts and questions. In many ways, SEL and journal writing are activities that go together seamlessly, especially for middle school learners. A journal provides a safe and consistent place for students to share about SEL topics that are important to them. Journaling can also fit a wide range of ages and abilities; questions and response strategies can be modified to meet the needs of the individual learner. For example, some students might write a full page response to share about kindness, while other learners might draw a diagram or picture to show what they know.
Most importantly, SEL journaling integrates critical social skills that young adults need with their academic time. In today’s busy classroom, this is always important, given that there is often limited time to fit everything in.
Getting started with SEL journaling is an easy process! Plan a daily (or weekly) SEL journal writing time, plan SEL-focused questions, and assign them. It helps to discuss the questions and share responses after writing to allow for shared learning and student discourse.
Social Emotional Learning Journal Prompts
- What are your biggest strengths? Think about what a friend might say about you.
- What are some of your biggest academic challenges? What strategies do you use to work through those challenges?
- What does honesty mean to you? Explain why is it an important quality to have.
- Be proud of yourself! What is something you have done well recently? How did it make you feel?
- If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- Respond to the quote: “Self-control is really just showing your future self-compassion.” What does this mean to you?
- Perseverance is working towards a goal even when challenges are in the way. Why is this an important skill for you now and in the future?
- Respond to the quote: “Always be kind. You never know what someone else is going through.” What does this mean to you?
- What are skills you need to use when working well with others? List them out. Then, choose your top three skills.
- Being responsible means doing what is expected of you. What are some jobs and activities that are expected of you? How do you show you are responsible?
Use a SEL Journal
Use a full social emotional learning journal to build SEL skills throughout the entire year. From strengths and growth mindset to empathy and responsibility, this journal has over 150 SEL-focused prompts to build meaningful social emotional skills for your learners.
More Important SEL Journal Writing Tips
Use an actual journal or notebook. It helps to keep journal pages all together. This provides a record of skills students are learning in one place.
Allow share time. Shared learning is good for everyone. It helps kids build confidence as they share a piece about what they wrote. Group discussion about writing prompts can also build meaningful relationships in the room.
It’s okay for kids to pass on sharing. Some topics can feel personal to kids and teens. Be comfortable letting kids pass on sharing answers to SEL topics with the class.
Integrate interests into prompts. Consider adding student interests right into your prompts. If your students love basketball, you might ask how to have good sportsmanship skills when we play. This can be a great way to relationship-build and make the learning more personalized.
Be flexible! Journal writing activities don’t always have to be writing in paragraph form. Allow kids and teens to think outside-of-the-box with writing by creating bullet lists or even labeling a drawing to show what they know.
Continue to integrate SEL skills. After journal writing time, try to integrate those same skills into what you are currently teaching in the classroom. For example, if your target journal question was focused on including others, bring this up when students are leaving to head to lunch. If your question was about teamwork, highlight those same skills and ideas when students are about to work with their math group.