Activities To Foster Creative Thinking In The World Language Classroom History of Journaling

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History of Journaling

An important part of any writing endeavor is using a journal to generate ideas for future writing projects. Journaling is an active learning process that helps us focus our thoughts to give them meaning when they were previously floating around aimlessly in our minds. A journal also gives us a place to record our observations and memories before life gets too fast to remember the little moments that once brought us joy. The reason for writing in a notebook is not new. Creative writing classes and the use of journals in these classes Long ago, field notebooks or journals were a vital tool for scientists conducting their observations in biology, sociology, and anthropology. In social work and nursing, journals have also been used during practice to record personal development and student observations.

Journal entries can be traced back to 56 AD in China, and journal writing became a common practice in the Western world during the Renaissance, when self-image was important. In 10th-century Japan, court ladies used pillow books (so named because they were kept in the bedroom or between drawers of wooden pillows) to record their dreams and thoughts through poetry and drawings. Travelers in both the East and West used journals to record their travels, although Eastern writers were more likely than Western explorers to incorporate pictures and poetry into their writings, expressing facts and details of the places and people they encountered. British marine explorers such as James Cook and William Bligh, whose notes were later published, recorded their observations, provided accurate records of events for the chain of command, and recorded important navigational concepts for other sea captains.

Samuel Pepys, who wrote his famous diary between 1660 and 1669, is generally considered to be the first diarist. Not only did he research current events, but because he was a high-ranking government official, he had access to many of them. He used generous detail in describing the people he met, and at the same time tried to make amends for his past sins by writing about how he could have done things differently. During the 18th and 19th centuries, diaries were published in record numbers in Europe and America, and writers influenced by the Romantic era and individualism recorded their thoughts and feelings.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, journals became an important tool in the writing class process for recording free writing, brainstorming notes, and notes on research and topic construction. Outside of the writing class, journaling is also used to gain knowledge about spiritual pursuits, and many women use journals to record their thoughts, feelings, and observations, and to write against their inner critics. Journaling is also an important tool in psychotherapy, as patients can record their thoughts before an appointment, thus speeding up treatment.

Journal work often focuses on people who are working on a problem and need space to develop their thoughts. Writer and teacher Ken McCrory likens a journal to a “seed bed” that needs watering and time to grow into a mature work. He claims that “Journaling forces the writer to put something in the stocking every day or so. Often, when you look through what’s there, you see things that fit together and build.” Another professional writer and scholar, Toby Fulwiler, points out that a journal sits somewhere in the middle of the continuum between a diary and a notebook you keep in class. He states that the language in the journal should be kept informal and the writer should use the first person so that he reflects the issue personally and does not use other sources that would take him away from the material. Fulwiler also lists that a “good” journal should have observations, questions (and more questions than answers), hypotheses, self-awareness, distancing, synthesis, revision, and information. In addition, the writer should make frequent entries and these entries should take up some space on the page so that more ideas and hypotheses are captured.

Today, we have journals to record our vacations, dreams, and goals. Like history journals, we should think of our journals as a tool for future generations to see what we were struggling with and know that their dilemmas are not so far from ours.

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