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Journaling is a form of creative writing that is sometimes used in the Creative Writing Workshop, but more often, it is used after ANY workshop in some Rotation churches.  


Some Rotation lessons and curriculums make strong use of it as a "post-lesson" reflection. Others do not use it at all.


As the following discussion demonstrates, YOUR experience with journaling after a lesson may vary. Some have had success, others not so much. 


One critical aspect is the amount of time you have at the end of the lesson. If you're short on time, journaling typically gets squeezed out.  


We begin with an original post by member Jan FPC of Napa raising the issue of "what works":




Some of the questions those looking into journaling are asking include:

  • Do you use journaling at the end of each session to reflect on the lesson?
  • What if there isn't enough time?
  • Does it make things too much "like school"?
  • Can you really "reflect" if the time is rushed?
  • Do you journal every week, or only once per rotation? 
  • How do you handle journaling with younger children or those who might have difficulty writing? 
  • Do you ever do journals on computer?
  • Do you have spiral notebooks for each student? Do you have prepared sheets for each workshop with a different topic to be written about?
  • Can anyone who has done this a few years affirm that the journals are a useful tool in future years (i.e. confirmation) or is it more to solidify learning as it happens?



Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
Original Post

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It is to the kids' benefit to journal at the end of each lesson.


Over the course of a few lessons, they will find it interesting (and memory refreshing) to look back over their comments. 


The children will be more likely remember specific items about the lesson if they write it down.


We create special journal booklets for each rotation.


At the end of each rotation, we give the students their journals to take home.


Some children miss certain lessons, so we make sure that lesson's content is briefly covered.


It's a good reminder to the parents as well.

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

Journaling is working well for us.

We call it "Shepherd Time." This is meant to be a time of reflection and introspection.

The Workshop Leader finishes his/her part of the lesson plan by 11:50 and turns it over to the Shepherd.

Each workshop plan includes discussion and thoughtful questions for the Shepherds to share.

The students may respond either by writing something or drawing something, so the Shepherd has a supply of blank and lined paper and pencils, gel pens, and markers for them to use.

The Shepherd and Workshop Leader encourage the children as they work quietly.

Some lesson plans suggest the Shepherd have a page with something preprinted on it (using the computer) such as the memory verse or a movie ticket shape.

The children put their names and the dates on the pages and the shepherd collects them and puts them in a separate folder for each child. Visitors may take their page home with them.

If someone is really stuck, they are encouraged to just draw a picture from the day's story, list highlights of the day's activities, or write out or rephrase the memory verse.

The journal pages will be saved and given to the children at the end of the school year.

I have posted our first two lesson sets that include the Shepherd Time sections -- Zacchaeus and Esther, both from River Community Church here on the lesson exchange if you want to see examples:

Hope this gives you a few ideas!
Amy Smile

Last edited by Luanne Payne

We have small journals that we photocopied ourselves and stapled together. Clip art on the cover; one page per month. We call them Faith Journals.


My thinking is that even if they don't get done EVERY week there is still a place for them. Sometimes I am on the ball enough to have questions made up for the teacher's to pose to the students for journal time and sometimes not.

We started using journals in our first year for Rotation and I really thought before starting out that in theory journals were a great idea. After our first year, I still believed they were a good idea!


Journaling cause the child to reflect back on the lesson and bring something out of themselves about it that they record either in words or pictures.



Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

I think of our journals as "faith scrapbooking."


We include photographs from the rotation, the memory verse of the month, and if they did something 'flat' that could be included, recipies from a cooking workshop, and some thoughtful questions/response for the older kids, we include those.

It's a lot of extra work, and with some lessons it's too much. 

Perhaps we should focus it in ONE or TWO workshops, or institute a "Faith Scrapbook" workshop!

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

We have found that journaling doesn't seem to work for us.


We set up spiral notebooks for each child, color coordinated for each class, with the shepherd responsible for the journaling time. Problem is, we have 45 minute workshops and by the time the workshop is over, there is little or no time for journaling. We have tried offering ideas for journaling, allowing younger children to draw rather than write...Only rarely do we get some quality response from the children.

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

I'm wondering what kind of "quality response"  we should expect in these journals.


I know that sometimes I am disappointed by what I see the children writing down or remembering as the important aspect of the lesson. But just because what they consider important doesn't jive with my thoughts, maybe they are just seeing something different, but just as valid for them.

I know that often I expect too much from the children and have to remember that their faith is developing layer by layer and not necessarily at the pace that I want.

When we find the time to do the journaling (about 1/2 of the time) I think it provides a good reflection time after a sometimes rousing workshop. It provides a quietening down time. Even if nothing else gets on the paper except a sticker.


Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

I too have wondered about journaling time -- the children are at the end of 1+ hours and are thinking about burning off some energy upstairs. It's rather like the 5 minutes before school ends --what "pearls" can we expect at this point?


Could journaling then be part of the intro/review last week time at the start of the workshop? If the children view it as an integral part of the lesson then they might give it their best.


I did see some journaling in our group last Sunday and they did draw/reflect on what they felt about the crucifixion. (One child even asked me what "cricified" meant.)


You are right about the layers of learning. Much of the time we just have to pray it's going in! All the signs I see tell me it is (through review games, questions, memory work, recapping the lesson) but largely with those who are there consistently. One lesson is not enough -- which is why we chose rotation!

Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

We started with journaling but the kids didnt like it and most of the Shepherds decided they would rather spend the extra 10-15 min. praying with the children instead of journaling.


I, however, thought it was important, and so I am working on re-thinking HOW and WHAT we do, and IN WHAT WORKSHOPS we do it in. For example, I'm going to try to get everyone to start journaling in the movie rotation as our movies are usually about 30 min which would leave enough time to journal and pray.


Another idea I had was to have a reflection time at on our 5th Sunday. We usually have a game day when the 5th Sunday comes. This seems like a good time to have children reflect on what stories they remember and what they remember from them.


Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm
I appreciated all the thoughts on journalling. Our rotation format started in September 2003 and after seven complete lesson sets, we still struggle with incorporating this. Our 50 minute time period is rushed and it seems that the teachers are halfhearted in their support of the jounalling. We even provide the questions! ----SO I have considered handing out journals prior to the bible lesson to see if the kids would record questions they thought of or words they didn't understand during the class. My fear is that they 'doodle' and are distracted from the story. Any thoughts out there?

Posts moved from other areas on this topic:

Posted by Julie Burton on 8/23/02:
I also got pocket folders for our kids. I left them empty and provide both types of paper for them to write/draw on. There's a hole punch for them to make holes in if they want to fasten it in, but I've found most just put them in the pockets. I let the kids decorate the front of the folders.

Posted by dana on 8/25/02:
Sometimes the workshop leader puts a copy of the scripture used in the workshop - example )the Lord's Prayer, 23rd Psalm, Footprints, etc.) to paste in the journals. We also offer appropriate coloring sheets for our 4/5 year olds to color as they usually can't write very well. This way they have a little remembrance of the unit topic.

Posted by Catherine on 8/25/02:
We've tried a variety of methods for journaling. Right now we prepare a journal sheet for each unit. It contains the lesson title, the memory verse and a place for the child's name and workshop name. (For the youngest kids, we found it best to fill in the name of the workshop or they spend the entire time spelling the workshop name).

In our lessons, we provide ideas for simple journaling. Often, if time is tight, journaling doesn't get done so a simple backup plan is good. A sticker, or prayer or something to paste onto the page is easy. Older kids can do acrostics with either their name or some word or phrase (Jesus or He Lives) that ties into the lesson.

Other concrete ideas: name one thing you will do this week...., or one person who needs your prayers, etc. Specific instructions work best for kids. For little kids: Draw yourself in prayer, draw a picture of your favorite thing about church, etc.

We file all these in a folder for each child to keep for the year. We've also sent the sheets home with the children each week to share with parents. Or, send them home at the end of a unit stapled together. We keep trying different ways. There is no one right answer.

Posted by Jaymie Derden on 8/26/02:
Our journals have evolved over the last 2 years... We use pocket folders with prongs too. We color code everything! So all our 1-2 grade journals, nametags, etc. are purple, 3-4 graders are red, etc. We let the kids use stickers and markers to decorate their covers. We keep our journals from year to year and at the end of their elementary years we give the journals to them as a record of their faith journey.

The first year we stuffed them with a few "fill in the blank" type sheets on prayer, etc. Then each rotation we added pages as we went. It got to be a real pain to have to add all those pages every 4-6 weeks.

So last year I stuffed all the journals ahead of time ( I got my teenage daughter and her friend to help me!). I used blank pages (just plain, un-lined paper) for grades 1-4 and black gel pen notepaper for 5-6 graders. (which by the way, I am unable to locate this year...anyone know where I can find it?) We include markers/colored pencils and gel pens (for 5-6 grade) in a pouch in the journal box so everything is all together. Each rotation I type up a sticker (a 2X4 inch label) with the name of the rotation, the date and the memory verse. Each rotation, I go through and stick this on a fresh page in the kids' journals. (this gives me an opportunity to see what the kids have been thinking and if they're "getting it.") Then I also make labels with specific journal questions for each workshop and each age group -- these are given to the teachers with their lessons. (I also color coordinate these to make it easy to see which questions go with which age group)

When it's time to do journals each child gets a label to put in their journals. Shepherds and teachers sit with kids in small groups to reflect on the day's lesson and to talk about the question.

I make up several extras for new kids. We give visitors a journal, unless it is obvious that they are a "one-time-only" visitor, such as a cousin from out-of-town visiting. Those kids get a sheet with the question and get to take it home with them.

This summer we did a 13 week unit on Paul and rather than using our regular journals we made passports. The questions were typed out and the whole passport photocopied.We had stickers that coordinated with each lesson and that really helped some of the kids "get into" it more. This next year, I am going to try to find stickers that relate to the lesson and put those in the Journal boxes too.

Some kids really get into this and write pretty amazing things. Others just go through the motions. But, I believe there is value to reflecting and trying to put your thoughts into words. We typically do journals about 50% of the time.

I just did a Celebration Bulletin board and one of the things I put on it were some samples of kids' journal pages (I got permission first!) Neat way to see what they are learning!

Posted by Barbara in Portland on 9/20/02:
I do not use journaling in my program-I think it would put too much pressure on kids who don't like/can't write, whether from a disability or whatever. Also, unless they took them home, they wouldn't see any prayers or whatever in them; if they took them home, we'd never see them again. HOWEVER, I do have journal type book in the Bible Skills and Games Workshop that they use and leave there. I has a time line for them to mark when the story takes place, and a picture of a "Bible Library,'like books on a shelf, a different volume for each book of the Bible, divided into O and N testaments. They color in the book of the Bible where the current story is located. The younger ones may not get the time line concept, but in the long run they will. I was getting tired of the "is Moses before or after Jesus?" question. All the sheets fold out of the cover as they are too wide. Hope this helps.

Posted by Hoopcoach on 10/16/02:
My 2 cents...We tried to use journals last year in our first year of rotation. Our church school includes grades K-5.We even bought journals with great designs on the covers and provided colored pencils for the children to use. It was the first thing to get dropped when the teacher was running out of time. The shepherds ( all but one) reported time and time again that the kids balked at the journaling time. Many comments such as "feels too much like school" were heard. We tried to have the younger children draw a picture in response to the discussion but those ended up being mostly unrelated.
This year we decided to use the last five minutes of class for a "discussion/review" time. We have the shepherds make up questions related to the lesson. Sometimes we throw in a "prize" such as a pencil with the 10 commandments written on it or a books of the Bible bookmark.
So far the shepherds report that this is more effective way to review the lesson.

Posted by Jaymie Derden on 10/18/02:
We are in our third year of rotation and have used journals since the beginning, though their use has evolved quite a bit. We provide specific age-appropriate questions for each workshop, though we find that on average they get done about 50-75% of the time. We also include our rotation memory verse which has the name of the rotation, the dates and the verse. I type them out on address labels so they can easily be stuck to journal pages. For 1-2 graders we often ask for a simple one-word answer and ask them to draw a picture. We use this time as a wrap-up and reflection time. Shepherds and teachers talk with the kids about what they have experienced and guide them into the specific journal question for the day. We try to have it geared to the specific focus of that workshop. Some kids do not enjoy this, but many do. I am constantly amazed at what some of the kids come up with. I review the journals at the end of each rotation. (I put the new memory verse sticker on their journals). It helps me to see what they are learning and how often they are journaling. It also helps me evaluate what is happening and see if there are issues that need to be addressed. For example: this summer we studied Paul. One of the key themes was that God can do anything! We even sang about it..."All things are possible with God..." But when looking through journals I noticed that several kids had answered this question: "Why do you think God does not answer all of our prayers the way we want?" with this answer: "some things God just can't do." That was a real heads-up for me and we have reinforced the message that nothing is impossible with God over our last few rotations. If it hadn't been for those journals, I'm not sure I would have known about that.
I also enjoy seeing the growth in children's faith and their development through journals. I believe their journals will be cherished mementos of their faith journeys which they will probably appreciate much further down the road than confirmation! (like so many things in our lives!) -- Jaymie Derden

Posted by JCarey on 9/19/03:
Our children's and worship kids do journaling so we do not actually do it during our rotation time but journals in general are excellent. I do the computer part of our kid's journals. We have them draw a self portrait and answer some wondering questions; I like..., I wonder..., I want to know why..., I am thankful for..., I would like to ask God... I then scan the drawings individually into the computer. I set up a page with all of the wondering questions around the outside like a border and in the top left corner I have left a place for their reduced drawings. Basically, they have their own personalized stationary. Some stationary is printed with just the border and drawing and some is printed with that plus some other prompter questions in the body of the paper. I print on a variety of cool papers and they then choose what paper they wish to respond to each week. We tried journaling in rotation but only for one four week unit. Our morning just does not allow for enough time to get thoughtful responses. If your church has time, journaling is excellent.

Posted by rhondab on 9/20/03:
There is a brief article on journaling on this website: The information is limited, but might answer some of your questions. Basically, it seems hard to find the time as [previously] explained. However, there are benefits and it's worth trying, at least periodically.

Posted by M. Amick on 1/31/04:
We do journaling at the end of our workshop time. The paper is ready for them in their individual notebooks/journals. We try to get two or more journal entries in a month. We date their journal entries and we intend to give them to the kids when they are confirmed and/or finish rotation... they should be able to see how their faith developed over the years. Michele

Posted by Hilary S. on 2/11/04:
We do journaling at the end of most lessons. Sometimes a picture with few words, sometimes it's in answer to a question or a "what I have learned" sentence. The kids had to find their own notebooks (from the dollar store). They keep their journals (these are private) so that they can look at what they wrote, pray the prayer they thought of or finish off what we hadn't got time for at church! I think it's a great way to close: journal reflection and prayer. Blessings, Hilary

Posted by Jenny on 3/8/04:
We have been doing Rotation for a couple years now. The question I have is about journaling. We started out journaling every three weeks. We bought the kids black note books and used colored gel pens for the older kids and bought plain paper notebooks and markers for the younger group. It was fun at first now I can't even remember the last time we did it. What do you all do? Would it be best to forget it or should we try to start it up again?? Thanks

Posted by Hilary S on 3/8/04:
From my small experience of doing rotation since the fall, I would say journaling success is hard to measure. What is important is to make sure the discussion and digging has been stellar from the leadership. Writing "just anything" down is a time-waster. When journaling poses a good question/reflection, then use it. When something else is more pertinent, go for it. For example, we recently taught a rotation about Danuiel and his strength from prayer. At the end of one lesson the kids wrote a prayer together (which they wanted very much to pray again the following week) and also began writing prayers in their own prayer book, created that day.

Posted by Trishlynn on 3/8/04:
We started out with Journals but our shepherds decided they would rather spend the extra 15 minutes praying and talking with the kids instead. We were being rushed to finish the workshop, do the memeory verse, journal, and pray. Some of them still do it occasionally but most do not. The kids didnt really appreciate it anyway so we thought it was best just to leave it up to the shepherds.

Last edited by Luanne Payne

Writing Fun With Bible Friends"Writing Fun with Bible Friends" by Anita Reith Stohs. ISBN-10: 057005320X ISBN-13: 9780570053200

Published by Concordia Publishing House--no longer availabe on their Web site, but I did see it on other sites when I googled it.

The book is a great resource for thinking of journaling questions. She has 44 Bible stories included (OT and NT) with a variety of ideas for journaling. Just to give you an example or two: writing in a baby book (for Isaac, Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus); diary entries where you give the kids part of the first line of the entry; writing an obituary. And the suggestions go on.



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  • Writing Fun With Bible Friends
Last edited by Luanne Payne

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