Watch this video to see 'Spiral Journal' in action...

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The purpose of 'Spiral Journal'

Promote focus and reflection while allowing individuals to compose responses thoughtfully and calmly in writing. This can help generate and gather large amounts of data quickly and can amplify or punctuate large group interactions.

Activity description

  • Useful for
  • Preparation
  • How to do it
  • Duration
  • Adaptations
  • Examples

First day of class, beginning or end of class, beginning or end of a module or such. 

Useful for encouraging focus, and especially helpful for reflective, shy students, or people who need more time to think before participating, or people for whom your language of instruction is not their first language. 

It is useful in how it allows students reflection time, and not everything they write and think about during the activity needs to be shared, but they get time to reflect and choose what they wish to share (contrast with Mad Tea which is a much faster process with little reflection time, but has lots of energy).

  • Prepare slides with the four questions for four quadrants (see slides to download and adapt below).
  • Ask participants to bring paper and pen(cil).

colored pencil lined up on top of white surface

  1. Invite participants to fold a sheet in half-and-half-again (1 min)
  2. Invite everyone to place the point of their writing implement at the center of the page and start drawing a spiral as tightly-and-slowly as possible (2 mins)
  3. At the conclusion of the spiral drawing, invite participants to complete the four quadrants with different prompts for each one. Spend ~1 min/quadrant (~4 mins)
  4. Ask participants to circle/underline one thing or one word they had written (~1 min)
  5. Optional: Send participants to breakout rooms in groups of 2-3 to share one thing (~4-5 mins)

About 10-12 minutes. The video above models it from start to finish. Additional resources below give you access to the slides and additional prompt ideas you can use to adapt the slides for your own purposes.

Here are some adaptations and alternative prompts: 

  • Although the example above uses questions that are general about someone’s thoughts and feelings about the new semester, you can adapt it to have content-related questions about a reading or course module.
  • Can be done asynchronously, where the teacher sends the video and asks students to post one thing on discussion forum and respond to others.
  • Can skip the break out rooms and replace by asynchronous pairing via email or class discussion board.

Example prompts for each quadrant:

  • You can create content-based prompts for each quadrant. E.g. after a class reading, students can reflect on a key thing they learned, a big question they have, a word or quote they enjoyed, and how the reading made them feel.
  • List 7 things you’ve seen, heard, felt/did, and compose a small drawing.
  • What have you noticed & observed, so what seems important about that data, now what’s needed next.
  • In times of grief/trauma: Yes it is true that [Affirmation]… It is hard because [Despair]… I will always remember/I will never forget [Reconnection]… Now that I have shared my loss, it may be possible to [Active Hope]…

Additional resources

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How do I use these resources?

We have created a welcome video and some introductory text that explains in detail how to use these resources. You can also find answers to some key questions below. 

Yes you can. We have included descriptive text and slides that you can reuse / adapt for this reason. We have suggested some variations for activities to help you make adaptations.

We show how much time an activity should take and what resources you need to help you make a decision.

As we include more resources over time you will have a greater choice of activities and more information about the different contexts within which they work best. 

Any technique can block some people out, make them feel unwelcomed, or be used in a way that privileges some and makes it harder on others.

All of these techniques should be used in conjunction with pedagogies of care and what we call Intentionally Equitable Hospitality

If you try an adaptation of this activity, or try it as is and have interesting results to share, please contribute your adaptation/reflection in the comments or get in touch through social media / email.

Coming soon: there will be room to discuss these activities in private discussion forums in OneHE’s.

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