Writing historical diary entries based on real journals

by | Feb 20, 2017 | High school, Writing Across the Curriculum

Writing historical diary entries based on real journals.

A while back, I talked about how much our family enjoyed using journaling ideas for writing across the curriculum. Even though the journaling tips and examples would work for all ages, they are especially effective with younger children, even pre-readers.

Studying Real Historical Journals

For for a project that springboards from actual historical journals—true living books written by men and women who experienced the times—students will be writing historical diary entries of their own.

Because of the more challenging vocabulary found in most old journals, this activity is probably better suited for your high-school aged students, though some junior highers with more advanced reading skills could do this as well.

Writing Diary Entries 

  1. Historical journals, narratives, and diaries abound, both in books and online. Have your student read the actual narrative or journal of a person you’re learning about in history.
  2. Ask her to choose five key events or times in this person’s life.
  3. Then, in her own words, have her write five diary entries for those pivotal times or incidents.
  4. She must include the time and location for each entry.
  5. If the incident is a major historical event, she must show the role the person played.
  6. In addition, she needs to weave into her diary entry any background information that’s needed for context and understanding.

Online Resources for Historical Journals and Diaries

Below you’ll find some links to resources for online journals. As always, parent preview or supervision is recommended.

Diary FileThese digitized diaries will make it so much easier for students to read and understand often-illegible journal entries. For added interest, several of the diaries have been written by teens.

The Diary Junction – Internet resource linking to hundreds of historical diaries. Search alphabetically or chronologically

American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology

First-Person Narratives of the American South

American Journeys: Eyewitness Accounts of Early American Exploration and Settlement – Columbus, Cartier, Sir Frances Drake, Lewis and Clark, many more

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  1. Lilah

    This is such a great idea! Journal writing was such a chore in my house until we read a few historical diaries. The children like to find things in their days that they think someone in 50 or 100 years might enjoy reading about. It has made writing in their journals both challenging and fun.

  2. Kim

    I hope you do get a chance to look them up–they’re great! We have especially enjoyed reading some of the slave narratives. Quite eye-opening, and a great enhancement to a pre-Civil War study.

  3. sharala

    I might look up these references myself.


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