List Journaling: What Makes 4th Graders Happy?

I really, really don’t have time to write a blog post, but I must interrupt my unplanned blogging hiatus to share with you how I thoroughly enjoyed the brief time I had with a group of fourth graders earlier today (my little one’s class). We talked about and played with some of the things that bring me joy–writing, list journaling, stickers, and washi tape!

The kids must have been as excited as I was: One of the parents sent me a text message thanking me for taking time out to do something special with and for the kids.  I joked that the kids are really my captive audience–since very few of my adult friends want to play with stickers and make lists just for the fun of it.

I spoke with the kids about list journaling, showed them a “100 Things That Give Me Joy” list I wrote a little over a year ago, and challenged them as a class to write 100 things that make them happy.  I figured, if everyone worked toward writing 10 each, maybe, we’d get to 100 collectively.IMG_5593

They had a blast selecting stickers and washi tape and decorating their new journals. In fact, some of them spent a lot more time on decorating than they did on writing!

If you’ve ever wondered what makes kids happy, here’s a list–in their own words:

  1. God/Jesus
  2. Family
  3. Friends
  4. Animals
  5. Robots
  6. Writing
  7. Playing
  8. Singing
  9. Dancing
  10. L.A.R.P.ing (If you guessed that my child wrote this one, you are absolutely right! Just in case you don’t know, LARP is an acronym for “Live Action Role Play”)
  11. Owls
  12. Reading
  13. School
  14. Bunnies
  15. Lions
  16. Tigers (and bears, oh my!–I added that part for dramatic effect.  Did it work?)
  17. The Philippine eagle (very specific!)
  18. Owls
  19. Panthers
  20. Falcons
  21. Basketball
  22. Soccer
  23. A great view
  24. Drawing smiling faces
  25. Singing happy songs
  26. Rollerskating
  27. Watching television
  28. Physical Education (PE)
  29. Resting
  30. Swimming
  31. Dressing up
  32. Doing hair
  33. Sleep (Yes!)
  34. Going to restaurants
  35. Movies
  36. Reading the Bible
  37. Eating
  38. Love (Hugs for this one)
  39. Brother
  40. Mom (Of course!)
  41. Flowers
  42. Ice cream (Surprisingly, I saw this only on one list)
  43. My pet
  44. This journal (Aww…)
  45. My toys
  46. When people play with me
  47. When my parents buy things for me
  48. Acting
  49. Taking care of animals
  50. Drawing
  51. Watching the flags outside the school
  52. Swimming during the hot summer
  53. Working out at the gym near home (This child is inspiring! How many nine-year-olds work out?)
  54. Watching stars in the sky
  55. Superman movies
  56. Football
  57. Iceskating
  58. Sleepovers
  59. Zoos
  60. Candy
  61. Flowers
  62. Stars
  63. Cake
  64. America
  65. Sewing
  66. Quilting
  67. The color pink
  68. Emojis
  69. Space

IMG_5595We fell a bit short of the 100-mark, but most of the kids wrote at least 10 things. It just so happens that many of the same things make them happy.  As a whole, they seem to value and find joy in things that really matter–God, family, and friends were on almost every list. I like that they take pleasure in participating instead of passively watching.

Their lists did not reflect the materialism that is so much a part of our cultures.They proved the point that no matter how much they whine, beg, and “barter,” electronics, clothes, and the latest “things” don’t really make kids happy.

We ended our short time together with their making a commitment to continue working on the lists and writing in their journals.  That was the goal–to get them writing for pleasure on a regular basis.

Thank you, Mrs. Johnson, for sharing your class time with me!

Just in case you have no idea what I mean by “list journaling,” it is simply journaling via list, usually based on a prompt. Although it is an easier way to approach journaling, it is amazing how much we can learn about ourselves through listing.

If you’re interested, there are many wonderful list journal “communities.”  My favorites are:IMG_5597

  • The Reset Girl’s #ListersGottaList–provides monthly list journaling prompts for adults and children
  • Kam and Amy’s 30 Days of List–provides journal prompts for three months out the year.  A small fee is required.

You can go all the way out and embellish your journal with stickers, stamps, washi tape, art, etc. or you can keep it simple and just make lists. It’s all up to you!

That’s it for now.  Be sure to “tune in” again soon. I plan to share with you artwork by the same group of fourth graders! Children’s art–one of the things that give me joy!

Leave a comment

16 Comments

  1. Cy

     /  October 22, 2015

    Such cuteness!

    Reply
  2. What a beautiful and inspiring project.

    Reply
  3. …one of your posts convinced me to become an active letter writer, and now this (smile). Thanks for the great post. EMM

    Reply
    • Awwww…this actually made me feel “warm and fuzzy” inside. Should you decide to take the plunge into list journaling, I think you’ll find it enjoyable and relaxing. I love listing at the end of a trying day.

      Reply
      • I love lists too! A few years back, I read an interview with Umberto Eco and his Louvre exhibition about lists. I bought The Infinity of Lists, the book based on the exhibition, and greatly appreciated it. Here’s the link to the interview: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/umberto-eco-on-why-we-love-lists/266728/

      • Thanks for the link and the Eco title. I just ordered it for $6! I can’t wait till it comes.

      • Cool! It’s a beautiful book–though it’s missing a black presence.

      • I expected that. I received the book a couple of day ago. It was one of those “gleeful” moments in my day! I skimmed the pages, but I’m looking forward time to really spend with the book. Thanks so much for the tip!

      • I’m so happy to know that your book arrived! I would love to know your thoughts once you’ve had a chance to sit with it. Eco certainly impacted my historical​ and aesthetic understanding of lists.
        I follow folk on Instagram who visualize their reading lists through photographs of the books they’re reading or by staging ideal, evocative scenes of reading. While I find their relationship to books and representations of reading interesting, my enjoyment of these sites is cut short because of how they cast reading as an elite affair; too, their understanding of “texts” is limited…and the fetishization of Harry Potter blows me away…

    • (My reply “sent” before I was finished). Thanks for dropping by and for the “feel-good” compliment. 🙂

      Reply
  4. I love this. So often we forget to fix on what makes me happy! And what makes our children happy. Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Ladybug! I need to hop on over to your blog this weekend and catch up on all your posts. I hope all is well in your world!

      Reply
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