What is a Diary?

Most of us have kept a diary at some time in our lives. Young girls, especially, like to keep diaries. Usually, diaries record feelings and daily events in the life of the writer, but it can be implemented in the classroom in a whole new way.

How can they be used in the classroom?

We have used diaries in a variety of ways. We have kept Spiritual journals that have been basically our conversations and prayers with the Lord. We would write in those after our Bible devotions in the morning. We have also kept historical diaries in which we chose a character from a timeframe and while we are studying that historical period, we write down what our character might be seeing or feeling for a particular day in review.

For instance, in our recent Civil War unit, my oldest daughter chose the character of Mary Todd Lincoln. Her journal was filled with her concern for her Southern family while yet supporting her husband's cause. She describes her sorrow at the loss of her children during this time. She tells how the country is mourning the loss of so many lives. Her reactions to John Brown and Robert E. Lee are quite believable. She also tells about her ball gowns, her role as a mother and wife to the president, her many dinners, and her reactions to those around her. Of course, Ashlee had to study the biography of Mary Todd Lincoln during this unit to be able to write such a good journal, but she did it with much enjoyment.

My youngest did a fairly good job in her diary of the same time frame from the standpoint of Wild Rose Greenhow. She did have more trouble putting herself into the shoes of someone else, but her insights at times were stunning. I would recommend allowing some practice in this type of writing in upper elementary, but it really is a good writing project for junior and high school students.

How are they created? 

These can be as varied as the many authors who write them. They can be in a spiral bound notebook, a bound book meant for diary writing, or a student created diary book. For our Civil War unit, I found mini bound books that looked like burlap covers from one of the recreation sites we visited. I have since seen them also at craft stores like Michaels and Crafts 2000.

Each entry should be dated. If writing a historical diary, you would use a date from the time frame. If you chose to write a present type discovery journal, the following ideas might prove helpful to inspire thought. Again, most of these are older level thinking.


I keep a journal and have since I was a young girl. My children often write because they see me doing so. Just as we read to encourage our children to read and study our Scriptures so our children will be encouraged to study theirs, we should also write to encourage our children to write. In this way, they never ponder when they will use those skills. It will seem the normal course of life for them.

Internet Links:

The Secret Diary (Has some writing tips and suggestions.) http://www.spies.com/~diane/journals.html

The Civil War Journal from Homeschool in the Woods (Good suggestions and demonstrations to help you create your own timeframe diary.) http://home.rochester.rr.com/inwoods/civilwar-journal.htm

Daydreamers on Paper (Tips and suggestions) http://personal.mem.bellsouth.net/mem/d/r/drv1913/begin1.html

Diary Writing for Children (Have some adorable samples of writing diaries from a character's viewpoint.) http://www.keyadvice.com/lil/Files/diary.htm


Background from Graphic Garden