High School Journal Topics

Valorie Delp
Contributor: Cheryl Cirelli
girl writing in her journal

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. Writing prompts for teens can help high school students come up with journal entry topics. Many of these are good journal prompts for middle school students, as well.

Good 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?

Good 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 a 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 they are truly reading the book. One way to use journaling effectively 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.

teen journaling on her bed
  • 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?

Journaling Through Time

One way to help your students really grasp history is to encourage them to view the time period from a historical, rather than present-day, perspective. Use these prompts for any time you want to reflect on historical events, people, and eras.

  • Choose a period of history and write a diary of what your day was like from that person's perspective.
  • Write a journal entry as if a major historical event didn't happen. For example, what if Abraham Lincoln hadn't given the Emancipation Proclamation? What if Britain had won the Revolutionary War.
  • What role do women play throughout history?
  • What if Julius Ceasar had a social media profile? Describe what it would be like, and share a few of his most recent posts. (You can choose any historical figure.)
  • Live tweet any event from the 1900s to modern times.
  • Write a letter or memo to a President from the last 50 years explaining what he should've done differently.
  • Write a journal entry from the perspective of a historical figure's pet. From Paul Revere's horse to Bo, the Obama's dog, describe the things you see and feel.

Silly Journal Prompts

  • Declare your undying love for your favorite food in the form of a love letter.
  • Write a break-up letter to an item of clothing that no longer fits.
  • The expression, 'You are what you eat...,' turns out to be true. What have you turned into? Write about your day as your new food item.
  • You have the opportunity to receive one superpower. What is it and what do you do with it?
  • Write a letter to your teacher with your best excuse for not doing your homework.
  • Your parents suddenly become kids. What rules do you insist they have?
  • Find the last photo on your cell phone. Caption it and explain the story behind the photo. You can write anything you want, as long as it's not true.
  • Explain to a college why they shouldn't take you.

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 so you can think and write more creatively. Keeping a journal is a great way to keep records and to look back on a specific time in your life.

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High School Journal Topics