Journaling in Health

The longer I teach, the more layers I add to my teaching, and this year I intend to add role play and also opportunities for my students to blog or journal. In my #healthed class my students choose a health topic about which to advocate, and this is based on our school YRBS data (I have previously blogged about this here). Some of my students writing is exceptional and I learn a great deal about them when share their reflections on paper, and as such I want to find more ways in which to incorporate writing opportunities into my teaching. One of my aim in health class is to provide an outlet for them to develop their advocacy voice and I’m convinced that they’ll have greater success if one of those outlets is writing.

I reached out to my awesome PLN to see what other teachers were doing in the classroom and immediately received a great response from Amy Prior who tweets at @teaching_health. She is a MUST FOLLOW for #healthed teachers!

Amy’s blog post suggested SEVEN benefits of using journaling in her classroom and I urge you to check it out (and all of the other great offerings from Choices.

Illinois’ 2017 Health Teacher of the Year Scott Todnem (Another must follow) rose to the challenge and put pen to paper to write about ways in which he uses journaling in his health classroom. Visit Scott’s own blog here.

Journal Ideas for Health Ed
-Scott Todnem
Journal writing is a voyage to the interior. ―Christina Baldwin
The idea of journaling is to prompt self-reflection. Therefore, journal activities in education allow students a chance to focus their thoughts, prepare for a lesson, or debrief from an activity in order for further learning to take place.
When promoting life skills, as teachers it is our duty to allow development through practice. For that reason, journaling is in fact practice, mostly in terms of scenarios or conversations that could take place in future social interactions or inside one’s own head. This social and mental health development in Health Education requires practice, just like any other life skill reading, mathematics, fitness, etc.
Here are three types of journal activities for use in Health Class (and teaching in general).
Pen and Paper
The classic type of journaling is of course the basic premise— to put thoughts on paper. Pencil/pen and paper is the most simplistic approach to journaling, but it is always useful because of its immediacy.
Give a prompt, specific or general in its aim, and let students write. Responses can be collected, kept in a notebook, or the teacher can let the students decide. It may seem counterintuitive to leave such a decision up to the students in the belief that many won’t write or will simply throw it away, but oftentimes this freedom is effective. Student choice can be advantageous. Journals that are turned will generally include quality reflections that can be used as a student examples or to offer up as anonymous reflections in the next lesson. As for the students who never share with the teacher? Let journaling stand on its own in value. Use other assessments to monitor specific student progress.
An additional benefit to student choice in sharing is the class knows, with confidence, that the teacher won’t necessarily read their musings; learners are provided with a chance to be honest with themselves. This is the idea of journaling in the first place: honest self-reflection.
“Pen and Paper” Example Journal Prompts

How have you been an advocate in your past? Explain what made your advocacy a success.
How can social image factor into why teens do or do not start dating? Explain how technology impacts dating relationships, both in a positive and negative manner.
Online Entry
Another type of journaling to consider is the online entry. In the 21st century, the use of the internet and cloud storage is only natural.
Use a running Google Doc, or something similar, that is always accessible online. Teachers obviously need computer and internet access for this to take place.
Provide a journal prompt or thought-provoking statement/article/video, and give students time to develop a think piece. A simple 4-5 minute journal activity is generally enough time to get thoughts on the page, and teachers can also give students the option to continue on their own time.
As a teacher you can ask for the document to be shared with you online, or else let it serve as personal notes as the course continues— something learners can have for themselves. If you date or title each journal entry, students can refer to it as a prompt for the next day or it can be used days/weeks later for additional work or as a social bell-ringer.
“Online Entry” Example Journal Prompts

Why is it important to feel a range of emotions in life? Explain a time when your feelings “clashed” and you felt multiple emotions in the same scenario.
While being respectful to those involved, briefly explain a bullying scenario you’ve seen online. How could those involved have put healthy decision making skills into action?
Reflection Binders
One final journal activity to consider is to use blank computer paper as handouts for students. (This is particularly useful in this day and age as we move towards paperless work and students show up empty-handed.) Provide a journal prompt, like usual, and then collect those who are willing to have it shared in a common binder. Typed or hand-written both work. With a 3-hole punch, put the accumulating pages into three ring binders that stay in the classroom.
The binders offer up something for all students to read if and when they choose. For instance, before class, with downtime after other classwork, or at other times during the course as reference. Students can read reflections from their classmates and also from other class periods and/or school years.
For added benefit, sort the journal entries, labeling the binders into at least three categories: mental health, social health, and physical health (or else Nutrition, ATOD, Disease Prevention, etc). Within these reflections will be an imperfect blend of thoughts and recommendations straight from the students themselves. Obviously, the teacher can monitor what goes in for content, accuracy, and potential usefulness. Remove and replace every quarter, semester, or year.
Health skills can be embedded in such journal binders. For example, incorporate communication, influence analysis, decision making, and coping strategies and provide even more tabs within the running binders. Since these are “public,” students can either leave their work anonymous or have their name associated with their page(s).
“Reflection Binders” Example Journal Prompts

Analyze the influence that movies and TV stereotypes plays on teen development. What is important for a young person to keep in mind while viewing video clips?
What can you explain about drug use and the human brain during adolescence? Feel free to write about brain development, tolerance, relationships, stress, and/or self-esteem in a way that may benefit future readers.

Great advice from Scott, and I love the prompts. These will be something that I will look to develop next semester. I’ll finish this blog post with parting words from Georgia Dougherty, who was recently awarded the PENZ Outstanding New Professional Award. Georgia uses blogging to reflect on her teaching, and also uses blogs with her students.

Blogging in Health Ed
-Georgia Dougherty

Students in my classroom have begun to write blogposts to share and reflect on their learning. I find blogging has accelerated my growth as a learner because of ongoing reflection and the increased confidence to share. These are two skills/qualities I deem important for my learners, therefore I am encouraging my students to blog. Blogs are not graded, but I do use as evidence for ongoing ‘assessment’ of learning, to gauge students strengths and weaknesses.

Not all of my students enjoy it currently, but I know there is great potential for them too. They enjoy reading each others posts, and thinking about what they have learnt that period. Unfortunately we only have Health one period per week, and I think if we had more periods, there would be greater opportunity to write posts, and for students to engage with their posts.

I feel blogging and reflective writing cannot be rushed, otherwise it appears to not be as effective, or enjoyable. I also have found in PE, that students like to have success criteria for what to include in their posts, and then students have choice about how they meet this success criteria. This encourages students to explore a variety of texts and media to support their learning further, for example including a short video to help explain the things they have learnt.


Hopefully, Amy, Scott and Georgia’s ideas will inspire you to consider using journals and blogs in your class. I create a list of goals at the start of each year and hope to not only use journaling with my students, but also, with their permission, share some of the best examples.

Here are this week’s #slowchathealth questions. Answer them all at once, or as they are tweeted daily on Twitter.

Q1. (Poll) Do you use blogging/journaling in class? Yes, no, or I plan to do so.

Q2. How do you frame blogging/journaling to maximize student buy-in?

Q3. What tips do you have for checking student journals/blogs?

Q4. What have you learned from using journals/blogs with your students?

Q5. Who reads your student journals/blogs – how big is their audience?

Check out previous slowchathealth blogs from Scott and Georgia:

Scott – Three Simple Things

Georgia – Te Whare Tapa Whā


2 thoughts on “Journaling in Health


    I plan to have my students journal with good old pen and paper. That way, if they want to draw what they think, write a comic strip, poem, etc they have that freedom. Journaling will occur at the end of class as a reflection. Journals will be randomly selected to check for participation.


  2. Pingback: The PE Playbook – July 2017 Edition – drowningintheshallow

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