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.