Sometimes, students need to simply sit down and write. Kids who feel that they can write freely will do so more often thus creating better written material. While your students may never become life-long journalers, the habit of daily (or almost daily) writing, will serve them well in improving their communication skills.
High School Journal Topics and Activities to Improve Self-Expression
Journaling that is for the purpose of simple expression should never be edited, critiqued or in any other way corrected. When you're looking to give students the opportunity to simply practice, assign one of these topics.
- Describe something you did this past summer.
- Describe the perfect date.
- What is courage?
- Describe a hero. It can be either someone you know or simply qualities of a hero.
- What was your most difficult or most joyous life experience?
- List one of your pet peeves and write about why it annoys you.
- What is your favorite activity? Who do you do it with? Why do you think you enjoy it so?
- Write about a good book you've read recently.
- What is something that you appreciate about your parents?
- What will you do differently when you're a parent?
Journal Topics to Encourage Creativity
As our society becomes more inundated with electronic toys, it gets harder and harder to get kids to think outside of the box. Sometimes, taking a journey through writing is one way to encourage creative thinking.
- Write a month long diary from the perspective of another person, character, animal, etc.
- Re-write the ending of a historical event. For example, what if Columbus had never sailed the ocean or what if he had landed where he intended?
- If you were going to write a book, what would the main character be like?
- What do you think should be invented and why?
- List one major world problem and how you think we should solve it.
- Do you think that there is or ever was life on another planet?
- Do you think that we can ever sustain life on International Space Stations? Why or why not?
- What would happen if it suddenly started raining spaghetti and meatballs?
- Is it important that the President not lie? Why or why not?
- What is the most important issue facing teens your age today? How should they deal with it?
Journaling as a Response to Literature
Having students keep a journal of their impressions, thoughts and ideas while reading a book is a very effective way of teaching. In addition, it lets you know whether or not they are truly reading the book. One way to effectively use journaling as a means of assessment is to assign journals along with chapters and then randomly collect a few every day. Be judicious in spreading out long assignments and shorter ones.
- Summarize each chapter, listing the characters and what the book was about.
- What do you think the author is trying to communicate through the book?
- Which character is most like you? Make sure and explain your answer.
- Choose a situation and tell what you would've done differently.
- Re-write the ending.
- If you were to bring one of the main characters to school with you tomorrow, what would they find surprising about your day?
- What problems do the characters have that you also have?
- What is the main conflict in the book?
- Do you like the book? Why or why not?
- What is the setting of the book? Would you like to live in the setting? Why or why not?
Journaling as a Means of Keeping Records
One aspect of journaling is that it can be taught as a life skill. While you may argue that simply keeping a record does not make for a great writer, it does teach life skills and may inspire writing simply by having to record what you do every day. Here are just a few ideas for journals that keep records:
- Keep a detailed list of the money that you receive and that you spend. Make sure to note specifically what you've spent money on.
- Keep track of what you eat, when you eat it and how it makes you feel afterwards.
- Keep track of the exercise you get. Anything that picks up your heart rate counts!
- Keep a daily journal of how you're feeling. It doesn't have to be long, but it does have to have daily entries.
- Keep a science journal. Choose something to observe (the night sky or a newly planted plant would work) and observe it daily. Note the changes.
Journaling as Healing
Many people decide to journal in order to help themselves through a hard time. High school can be filled with stress and struggles so journaling can be a way to get through it all. Some ideas to consider:
- What is the biggest challenge you are facing this week?
- Has someone upset you and you are keeping it inside?
- Did you overreact to something that now seems silly?
- Are you having a hard time fitting in at school?
- Do you want a different group of friends?
- Is there something going on at home that interferes with your school work?
Tips on Teaching Through Journaling
There are several ways to manage journaling in the classroom:
- Spot check journals to see that they're done as opposed to checking every single one, every single day.
- If you're going to read them, inform the students that you're going to do so. Always respect your students' privacy, and don't peek if you say you're not going to.
- Have times when students can share their journals if they choose.
- Take on your students' assignments as well. The best way to teach writing is to model writing.
- There are no wrong answers in journaling. Make sure your students know that and remind yourself of that when you're tempted to correct.
- When you see consistent mistakes, take the opportunity to teach grammar, writing, etc., but do it outside of journaling.
Many Reasons to Journal
Journaling is often done as a school requirement. Once you get used to journaling, you will find that it is easier to organize your thoughts and think more creatively. Keeping a journal is a great way to keep records and to look back on a specific time in your life.