If you want to unlock the creativity of your students, boring prompts are out. Try these 52 journal entry starters instead.
When I was young, my parents gave me a journal for Christmas. It was the classic type with 365 pages and a little lock and key. I wanted to write in that journal and fill it with all the exciting things that happened to me each day.
Except I didn’t think anything exciting every happened.
So I almost never wrote in my journal.
If only I’d had some engaging journal entry starters to get my creativity flowing, then there might be a different ending to this tale. As it is, I ended up with a mostly blank journal and a sense of failure.
If you want to encourage young students to write, they need time, paper or computer, and engaging journal prompts.
In this post, you’ll find plenty of prompts from which to choose. You might want to assign them to your students. You could also consider posting two or three a day and let your students choose the journal entry starters that most appeal to them.
Before you begin, set the mood for writing. In another blog post, I wrote about setting the scene for writing by using a “cue” such as music or a video. Using a “cue” helps our minds to recognize when it’s time to focus on a task. Here’s a 25 minute “Write With Me” video with relaxing ocean sounds. Project this video for your class, give them a journal entry starter, and watch the words flow. If you’re feeling generous, take a moment to share this post with another writing teacher. They’ll thank you for it.
Journal entry starters about pets and animals
These ten prompts are sure to strike a chord with your students. If you teach upper elementary aged students, you know that one of their favorite topics is animals. Whether it’s pets, sharks, elephants, or any other type of animal, they’ll be sure to find plenty to write about.
- If you could have any pet you wanted, what would it be? Describe the type of animal it is, its color, what it eats, its personality, and what games it likes to play. What is your pet’s name?
- Have you ever seen a dog or cat making noises or moving its paws while it slept? What do you think it was dreaming about? Write the dream the animal had. Include details such as taste, smell, time of day, and where it was.
- Do you have a funny memory of something that you experienced with a pet or with another animal? It might be at a petting zoo or wildlife center, or it might be with a pet.
- How can animals help people and make people feel better when they’re sad or upset?
- Imagine a dog in your neighborhood has suddenly started talking. What will the dog say? What story will it tell you?
- If you had a small dog or cat, would you take it places with you in a carrying bag? Why or why not? If yes, where would you take it?
- Many presidents have had pet dogs that lived with them in the White House. Write a story about a day in the life of a White House dog.
- Design a unique toy for a dog or a cat. Describe what it is and why the animal will like playing with it.
- Write about all the things a responsible pet owner should do to take good care of their pet.
- Do you think that service dogs like their jobs? Write about a day in the life of a police dog or a guide dog for a person who cannot see.
Journal entry prompts about holidays, culture, and traditions
My student’s face glowed with pride when they gave a presentation about Ramadan. It may have been one of the few times they had the opportunity to talk about their family’s traditions and culture. It’s important to honor and validate all our diverse holidays, cultures, and traditions. These journal entry starters open the door to sharing our diversity.
- What is your favorite holiday? Write why it’s special and meaningful to you.
- What’s a holiday tradition you enjoy? Explain what it is and why you enjoy it.
- It’s your turn to create a brand new holiday. What is it all about? How will you celebrate it?
- Do you remember getting a gift that you were especially happy to receive? Write a paragraph telling about it.
- People all over the world celebrate holidays in different ways. Imagine you could go anywhere in the world to celebrate any holiday. Where would you go? What would you do?
- Describe your favorite holiday food or traditional food. What is it made of? What does it taste like? What else can you write about it?
- What are your favorite types of holiday decorations or crafts? Explain what they look like, and why you like them.
- Do you have some favorite holiday songs? Write about your favorite music for the holidays.
- Write a letter or email to someone who lives far away. Describe the last holiday you celebrated. Tell the person what you did and how you felt.
- What is one of the kindest things you can think of to do during a holiday? Explain.
Journal writing prompts about sports or outdoor activities
As I looked around my classroom each Friday, I saw a sea of blue and white, the Spartan colors. Sports are a huge part of school activities. In my school’s culture, FFA was big also. There were many students who rode horses, raised goats and rabbits, or went fishing on the weekends. These writing prompts give students the opportunities to write about what it is they love to do outdoors.
- What is your favorite outdoor activity, and why?
- Have you ever had an adventure outdoors? Write about what happened.
- What is one national park or other outdoor area that you would love to explore. Tell why you want to go to this place.
- You’ve invented a new outdoor game. What is it? How is it played? When will you play it with your friends?
- Do you think spending time outdoors is good for your health? Explain why or why not.
- Your class is going on a picnic in the park. What will you bring to eat? What games will you play? What else will you do?
- Do you have a favorite outdoor sport to watch or play? What is it? If you don’t have one, what else do you like to do outside?
- It’s important to protect the environment when we enjoy outdoor activities. What things can you do to protect the environment?
- What is your favorite season of the year to do things outdoors? Is it winter, spring, summer, or fall? Tell why and what you like to do.
- Imagine you’re going camping. Where will you go? What will you bring? What types of things will you do on your camping trip?
- What is your favorite outdoor activity? Describe it and explain why you like it.
Journal entry starters about people and relationships
Gratitude leads to happiness, and what better way to start a gratitude practice than with writing about family, friends, and other people who have made an impact in someone’s life. This isn’t about people from history. It’s about people influencing the lives of your students in the here and now.
- Write about a person who is important to you. Describe what this person is like and why they are so important to you. What have you learned from them?
- Write about a time you helped a friend or family member and how it made you feel. How did it make them feel?
- If you could meet anyone from past history, who would it be? Why? What would you like to learn from this person?
- Has there ever been a time when you had a misunderstanding with a friend or family member? What did you do to make things better?
- What is one kind thing you’ve seen another person do for someone? How did it make you feel?
- What are the qualities that make a person a good friend? Do you know anyone who is a good friend? Write about that person.
- Empathy is the ability to understand how another person is feeling when they are sad or struggling. Has someone shown empathy to you? When was it and what did they do to help you?
- Imagine someone you know is having a bad day. How could you show empathy to this person? What could you do?
- Your two best friends are fighting. What can you do to help them settle their differences and be friends again?
- Do you think it’s important to spend time with family? How can you make sure that you have time to share with family members?
- What are some ways to be a good member of a community? What sorts of things do good community members do?
Writing prompts to support growth mindset
My student said, “I can’t jump double-dutch. Yet.” Later that year, she was double jumping like a pro. Talking about growth mindset, and then allowing students time to ponder how it applies to them is what these prompts are all about. As they write you’ll see how they grow.
- Describe a time when you had to do something hard, but you persevered. What did you learn from the experience?
- Think of a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet. What can you do to keep yourself motivated to achieve that goal?
- Have you ever known of someone who worked hard to achieve a goal? Describe that goal and what the person did to reach their goal.
- Long ago, people thought space travel was impossible. Now astronauts live and work on the International Space Station. What is something that certain people think is impossible but that you think we will achieve someday? Describe it.
- Your friend tells you they are discouraged and they want to give up on learning how to ride a bike. What advice would you give to your friend?
- Many teachers say that we learn from our mistakes. Write about a mistake you made that you learned from. How did that mistake help you grow?
- Is there something that you weren’t very good at when you started to learn it but now you enjoy it? What is it and how did you get better at it?
- When a person says they can’t do something “yet” it shows they have a growth mindset. What does growth mindset mean to you personally?
- Explain why hard work and perseverance are important to achieve your goals.
- Write about a time when you felt like giving up, but you continued to try. What happened? How did you stay motivated? How did it turn out?
Bonus: Ten writing prompts about writing and reading
I couldn’t settle on only 52 prompts. More an more ideas kept popping into my head. I felt quite accomplished when I was able to hone the lists to the ones on this page. I’m sure you probably can think of more, too. These writing prompts about books, reading, and writing can be a springboard into class reading discussions. They can also give you insight into what appeals most to your students. You can delve into the topics and genres they love best.
- Write a letter to the author of your favorite book. Tell them why you like this book and what you hope they’ll write next.
- What is a book you read and loved? What was it about? Why did you enjoy it?
- Pretend you can become a character in a book. Who will you become and why?
- Have you ever sat down to write and your mind went blank? This is called writer’s block. What did you do when this happened to you?
- What advice would you give to someone who has writer’s block?
- Describe your favorite place to read. It can be a real place or an imaginary place. What makes it special to you?
- What is your favorite genre of book to read? Why do you like this genre?
- Have you ever read a book that taught you how to do something new? What was that book, and what did you learn? It could be a cookbook, a science book, a craft book, or any type of how-to book.
- Why do you think people write history down? Do you think having history in writing is better than passing it along in storytelling?
- Write a book recommendation for other students. Why is this a good book? Why do you think they should read it?
Thanks for reading this far! Do you have a favorite writing prompt that isn’t listed here? Please share it in the comments!