How One Educator Uses Make This Journal to Prompt Creativity and Stress Relief with Bar/Bat Mitzvah Students

As a longtime educator, Sandy Newman knows that kids love having opportunities for free expression.

“We don’t do it often enough,” she says. “And yet, research shows that having a creative outlet is important to their development.

With her pre-b’nai mitzvah students this fall at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale, Arizona, Newman – who is also a national school leadership trainer and a retired high school and middle school principal in Philadelphia—provided that outlet in the form of Make This Journal: My Bar/Mat Mitzvah Year.

Pre-teens can open to any page and pick from a wide variety of funny, thought-provoking, and clever prompts that encourage them to draw, write, and create. Some of the prompts relate to their b’nai mitzvah preparations, and others take a snapshot of their lives.

Some sample prompts:

- Scribble WILDLY on this page when you are REALLY stressed out.
- Write a top 10 list called “Things I have done and am proud of.”
- Draw a ladder. Write on each rung something you would like to do before you are bar/bat mitzvah.

“I know that getting kids to put their thoughts in writing is an incredibly important thing,” says Newman. “I love that the journal is so open-ended. The kids were really into it–they got a chance to be creative and do things their way. And it also lightened their mood.”

Newman gave each student a copy of the journal and spent about 15 minutes at the beginning of each session talking about the pages and doodling before they turned to learning about the weekly Torah portion.

“I got colored pencils and markers and other crafty things. I would tell them, ‘This is yours. I’m not looking at it.’ They don’t hear that very often,” Newman says. “When they’re 12, they can’t imagine that they might someday be 20 years old and want to look back to what was on their minds at 12. What a gift they’re giving themselves.”

See a finished Make This Journal! here:  


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