Reflective Journaling

9, 10, 11, 12

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.


Lesson Rating 
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.
Home Connection 

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


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


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the community, state or nation, such as petitioning authority, advocating, voting, group problem solving, mock trials or classroom governance and elections.
      4. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.

Academic Standards

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