Children as young as kindergarten should be encouraged to journal on a regular basis. Some teachers have students journal for morning work while others use it as a transition. Alternatively, families can use journaling for an after school or before school activity, a calming step in the night time routine or a part of the homework hour. No matter when they do it, when children learn that writing is a normal part of their day, they begin to strengthen their writing skills as well as their thinking and communications skills.
The same goes for discussions. When children have more opportunities to discuss topics by offering ideas and opinions, they learn not just more about themselves but more about their surroundings.
But, sometimes, whether in writing or in speaking, it’s easy to fall on the same topic:
- Write (or tell me about) your day.
- What happened today?
- Did you have a good weekend? What did you do?
While questions like these are great in small doses and can help kids to with list-making and recall skills, they aren’t forcing their thoughts beyond the normal.
How to create higher-level thinking journal and discussion prompts
- Never ask questions that require a one-word answer. But if you must, then extend the question by asking why or how.
- Ask for an opinion of a reading or event, rather than a summary. Summarizing is not higher level thinking. Instead, ask what would you have done in this situation? How could the outcome have been different? What do you think should happen next? What do you think happened before this situation?
- Give extra time. Don’t always expect an answer right away. Previewing a topic will often offer an opportunity for children’s minds to wander. Or advise kids to read the topic and then sit quietly for a minute before writing.
- Offer an opportunity to create through words. Great creation questions often include words like create, make, change and build.
- Refer back to previous work by asking students to go back to a previous entry and change an element.
Sample higher-level thinking journal and discussion topics
- Read this article. How would it have been different if you were there. Would you have made a difference in the story? What would you have done? (Distribute with an article from a magazine or newspaper)
- “Paint the town red” means to like run wild and have fun. If you could paint the town, what color would it be and what would everyone do?
- George Washington was a revolutionary soldier. What made him revolutionary? In modern times, who is a revoluntionary person and what makes him or her so? What types of revolutions do you think are important today?
- My friend told me she hates rainy days. Why do you think she hates rainy days? How could you change her opinion?
- Tomorrow we’re going to talk about lunch menus. Think about all the lunches you enjoy and how a healthy lunch is important to your day. What would you include on a new lunch menu? Share a few meals that are healthy and interesting and why.
- Our class is learning about communities and we’re going to work together to create a fictitious new park. What do you enjoy about parks? Write your ideas for a new park and explain why each is an important part of our community’s new park.
- Last week, you created a story about a snowman and a bird. Reread your story. Now rewrite your story changing the ending (or the main character or the setting.)
- Create a poem about an abstract topic, such as quiet or loud.
© 2015, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.