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Writing historical diary entries based on real journals

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

Writing historical diary entries is not only a practical writing assignment, but it’s an activity that makes history come alive!

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.

Study 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, we recommend this activity for high-school aged students. Some mature junior highers with advanced reading skills could do this as well. Take care to guide them toward appropriate sources.

Write Diary Entries 

  1. Historical journals, narratives, and diaries abound, both in books and online. Have your teens read the actual narrative or journal of a person you’re learning about in history.
  2. Ask them to choose five key events or times in this person’s life.
  3. Then, in their own words, have them write five diary entries for those pivotal times or incidents. Instruct them to write in the voice of the historical figure, putting themselves in that person’s shoes and writing in first person.
  4. Each diary entry must include the time and location.
  5. When the incident is a major historical event, have students highlight the role the person played.
  6. For context and understanding, instruct them to weave background information into their diary entries.
Writing historical diary entries based on real journals.

Find Online Resources for Historical Journals and Diaries

Below you’ll find some links to resources for online journals your teens can use when writing their historical diary entries. To ensure that diary content is age-appropriate for a child, we strongly recommend parent preview or supervision.

Diary FileThese digitized diaries 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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