Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Reflective Journaling
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson teaches students how to journal about their own experiences and feelings. It is intended to be taught in conjunction with a student project of civic engagement or service. The project provides content and a context for journaling about personal experience.



One 50 minute class period


The learner will:

  • keep a journal record of his/her actions during civic engagement and community service.
  • share one journal entry with a peer group.


Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Read a journal entry aloud to the class. Select one from your library or see Materials for a sample of a student journal entry.

  • Discuss with the class the impact of the journal entry. Ask the learners to brainstorm why they might want to journal about an experience rather than use another writing genre. Explain that a journal’s contents are different from a diary, which usually lists facts without reflection or evaluation. A journal usually includes personal observations, reflections, goals, and evaluation.
  • Tell the learners that good writing shows the reader the experience rather than just telling about the experience. Showing rather than telling might include descriptions of feelings and reactions, as well as colors, shapes, sounds, smells, tactile sensations, and tastes.
  • Assign a brief journal-writing exercise that students will share with their classmates. The journal entry should be about a special event for the student--a trip, a celebration, a tragedy, a victory, a defeat, or a time they helped in the community. The journal entry should include their (evolving) feelings, emotions, and reactions (fearful, excited, stressed, etc.). Encourage the students to include actual conversation, using quotation marks, in their journal entries. They should conclude their reflection by summarizing the significance of or meaning this event had for them or others.
  • Allow 10 or 15 minutes for the in-class journal writing. Then pair up the students and have them read their journals to each other. The peer should not evaluate the writing or thoughts, but they can discuss the process of journaling--how journaling compares to other writing, what they like, how their writing flowed, and for what it would be appropriate, etc.
  • Tell the learners that they will be using this writing strategy as they document and reflect on their experiences in giving time, talent, and treasure for the common good. Their ongoing entries may serve as a resource in Lesson Four when they write a personal reflection narrative about their service.
  • Have the learners write a journal entry after each experience of planning and implementing a service project or volunteer experience. 


Learners can be assessed on the inclusion of personal feelings, reflections, writing mechanics and goals in the journal entry.  Reflection itself should never be assessed on it content.

School/Home Connection:

Encourage learners to continue journaling their life experiences, remembering to reflect on the meaning and significance of an event.

Bibliographical References:

Alvarez, Julia.  "March to August 1960". In the Time of the Butterflies. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1994. (ISBN:0-452-27442-7)

Lesson Developed By:

Sharon Rocker
Curriculum Consultant
Learning to Give

Barbara Dillbeck
Learning to Give


Philanthropy Framework:

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