Faith Enhancing Practice*#5 – Reflective writing (Classroom)

One of the best and most popular practices that teachers can use to encourage student faith development is the strategy of reflective writing. Reflective writing assignments help students to think more deeply about life and to make sense of it. As Thackeray said, “There are thousands of thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen and writes.” The writing process helps connect the writer to their inner life – to their own emotions, beliefs, and forces them to make thoughts and ideas concrete. When we write something we are forced to try to articulate what it is we want to convey. This practice is an opportunity to connect a student’s head with their heart, to ask them to bring expression to what they understand and what they believe. It is one of the better ways for teachers to understand a student’s thinking and thought process – their mind and heart.

The purposes of the use of reflective writing as a Faith Enhancing Practice in a Christian school may be several:

  • To encourage students in their relationship to the Lord by causing them to
    reflect annually on matters of personal spiritual growth.
  • To provide evidence of this journey for students each year as they are asked to
    reflect on their growth.
  • To provide a medium for teachers to discuss student spiritual growth, both with
    student and parents.
  • To provide a final portfolio keepsake at the end of the 8th grade that will be given to students and to parents.

If reflective writing is adopted as a school wide strategy, I recommend that teachers spend time at each grade level developing appropriate student prompts. These prompts should provoke student reflection at a developmentally appropriate level on significant spiritual issues. Examples for various grades could be:

  • Kindergarten – a picture of my favorite Bible story
  • 2nd graders: “What I believe about God”
  • 4th graders: “Who or what has helped me love Jesus more and why?
  • 6th graders: “How did you see God in 6th grade? (Things learned, in your teachers, your learning, in your friends, chapels, field trips)
    (Prompts above were developed and are in use by teachers at Holland Christian – more examples and the Faith Enhancing Practices modules available on the CSI Member Community Center website.)

There needs to be significant discussion around the issue of who sees the student portfolio and full disclosure to the students about not only who will see their writing, but the purpose of the writing.

Reflective writing is a very significant tool for Christian educators to connect head and heart. When this practice is used over time it can demonstrate to students their journey of spiritual growth.

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8 Comments

Filed under classroom, distinctively Christian, student outcomes

8 responses to “Faith Enhancing Practice*#5 – Reflective writing (Classroom)

  1. Jason Kindler

    I agree that reflective writing is a very useful and practical tool to help students grow. Writing organizes thoughts in a way that simply thinking or talking can not. I find that writing also keeps thoughts more focused, which can help the mind to delve deeper than usual. Writing is especially useful to track growth, whether its spiritual, emotional, social, or intellectual. I remember writing reflective papers at the beginning of school years and then looking back at them at the end of the year to see what I had learned and how much I had changed. Since our spirituality is such a complex part of who we are, reflective writing can help us understand ourselves better. I really like the age appropriate prompt examples;I think they are a great way to help students develop their understanding of God throughout their youth.

  2. Amanda Learned

    Reflective writing is an effective way for teachers and students to grow. It is a way for people to express what they feel and what they think. In my own personal life, I have found this kind of writing to be very helpful and impactful in my life. It is a way to organize and express myself in a way that I could not do any other way. Putting your thoughts and feeling on paper is important for everyone do to. I agree fully with this article about how teachers need to have students do this kind of writing, especially reflecting on the spiritual aspect of their lives. I know in my life the spiritual aspect of it is the most confusing and i have so many questions about it. For students to do this it “connects the head and heart.” this will allow them to be able to get their deeper thoughts out in some form and help them to make more sense of it. I feel that reflective writing, focusing on our personal walk with the Lord, is an effective way for everyone to develop a better understanding of God and life.

  3. Jeff Roon

    I think reflective writing is an excellent tool that can be used in all classrooms. This type of writing is a practical way in which students can express themselves in ways they might not normally do in front of a large group. Sometimes what we write down on paper is much more thoughtful and it also can helps teachers understand the emotions and growth in each of their students. I think that teachers should use reflective writing in classrooms more because it will enable students to write things down giving them practice in going beyond the cover of an issue or question. It teaches them to write down everything that may come into their head and just write it down. There is no right or wrong about reflective writing. It’s something that anyone can do and it’s an easy thing for students to do. Take a few minutes each day writing about a question simply writing down whatever pops into their minds. I also think reflective writing is amazing way to connect with God and understanding more about our own spiritual walks with God. As students grow they always have questions and by letting them express the feelings they have by writing them, it will open up doors and help them on their walks with God. Reflective writing is a wonderful and effective tool that can help students of all ages focus on all areas of their life, but even more importantly focus on their personal relationship with God.

  4. Mike Vasilievas

    I think reflective writing is an important tool that should be used in the classroom. I think letting students think on their own and reflect on a question can bring out many emotions in them. They may learn things about themselves and the teacher can also learn things about the students. Reflective writing can help students organize their thoughts and see where they stand on a certain question. I like the idea that they will keep their assignments in a portfolio. That way, students can look back and see what they have learned and how they have grown over the year. I think this is an important tool with helping the students grow.

  5. Alyssa De Groot

    We see reflective writing in the Bible. Psalms is one book that is an example of reflective writing. David writes about his trials and sufferings as well as his concerns and joys. This is exactly what students should do which helps them shape their worldview. Writing allows you to wrestle with your doubts. It gives you a sense of freedom to be able to write out what is occupying your mind. It can also be called prayer writing I think. Students can have the freedom to write out their prayers. What a good thing to be able to come back and read! As to incorporate it into the cirriculum I believe that would greatly enhance the growth of a worldview. When writing down your prayers, concerns, or whatever is on your mind you are taking time to talk to God. Recently a tradigy happened on a the campus of the large Univeristy of Virgina Tech. It would be a great opportunity to have my students write out a reflection on this. From this they could grow in their relationship with Christ.

  6. Jill McIntyre

    Reflective writing in any situation is a great tool for understanding the ideas flowing through one’s head. Faith and religion can be very confusing for students and having them journal reflectively about it would really help them get their thoughts out in a non judgmental setting. I believe the most important thing to remember is to keep reminding the students that these reflections will not be looked at from a scholastic stand point. Their reflections are just that reflections that are their own private thoughts and that will be respected.

  7. Bill DeRuiter

    Reflective writing is very helpful, and important no matter what age. To get words down and be thinking about yourself, your thoughts, actions, and motives is helpful to see where you have been and where you can go. Taking a step back and looking at what has been done really gives a beam of light on our path in life. It doesn’t ever have to be very formal, but instead can end up like a diary or journal. The writing doesn’t have to be perfect grammar either. A big question I have is if reflective writing should be a requirement. Part of me says yes, but the other half says no. Yes because it does help clear up a foggy mind, and cements ideas in the head. But no, because then it is forced and, it shouldn’t come out unnaturally. Reflective writing should end up being enjoyable and worth while.

  8. Nicholas Swies

    When students actively participate in refelctive writing they open their minds up to new ideas and concepts that enables them to comprehend information on a far higher level. Reflective writing is a great way for students to express how they feel about any topic. Engaging student thinking will also help them free their minds and improve thier thinking and writing skills. I see no downside to writing reflections only good things come from personal thinking and growth.

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