National Writing Project

Learning From Athletes' Writing: Creating Activity Journals

By: Richard Kent
Publication: English Journal
Date: September 2014

Summary: English teacher and soccer coach Richard Kent, also the former director of the University of Maine Writing Project, explores how journal writing helps athletes be more reflective, learn more from games and practices, and better connect with coaches and teammates. He suggests viewing writing not just as a mode of communication, but as a mode of thought and introspection, and explains how this understanding can be applied in the classroom as well.


If I were teaching high school English again, I would augment my list of journal prompts to include a strand that focused on my students' lives beyond the classroom. Think about your students who work part-time at a fast-food restaurant, serve as an officer in the drama club, dance at a local studio, or wrestle for the school team. Picture what these kids face at their jobs or in these activities.

Now, develop a series of all-purpose prompts such as the following that ask students to look closely at their activities (e.g., job, club, sport):

  • Write a letter to someone who is about to join your activity for the first time. Offer insight, advice, or share stories about the job, club, or team.
  • It's often said that we are who we spend the most time with. Who are the five people that you spend the most time with? In what ways do they affect who you are when you're involved in your activity?
  • Think about a supervisor, advisor, or coach in your activity. Make a list of the five qualities you believe that person should have to be effective. Write a few sentences about each of these qualities.
  • Write about one of your favorite coworkers or teammates and discuss the person's characteristics (e.g., qualities, habits, or quirks). You might also share a story about this person.

Activity-based journal prompts invite students to examine their lives. In doing so, these young people may further discover how writing can be used beyond the classroom to help them plan, reflect, and learn. They may also realize that writing can help them work out problems. When you assign such prompts, you may hear from a ballet dancer about his relationship with the mirror or a fast-food worker who is concerned about the amount of junk food she is eating. You might even score some fun drawings (see Figure 3).

About the Authors

RICHARD KENT is an associate professor of Literacy at the University of Maine, and is the director emeritus of the University of Maine Writing Project.

Kent, Richard. "Learning From Athletes' Writing: Creating Activity Journals." English Journal 104:1 (2014) 68-74. Copyright ©2014 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Reprinted with permission.

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