ESL Journal Topics

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

Writing can be a challenge for many students, whether English is their first language or not. The key to writing success in the classroom, is to engage and inspire students with interesting and appealing journal topics. Read on, for some ideas to get your students writing with ease.

Introduction to Journal Writing

When introducing the idea of journal writing to your students, you will want to make the experience positive by providing detailed examples, objectives, and topics. Students will often struggle with writing because they are overly concerned by grammar and context. It is beneficial to have students write as they speak; meaning, they should practice reading their writing out loud to see if it comes across the way he or she wants it to. Reading the work out loud, whether alone or with others, can help students check on tone, flow, and grammar. When explaining journal writing, be sure to give examples of the structure and formatting you expect to see. The examples can be given when discussing journal writing objectives. Remember to always be clear, you do not want students feeling confused about how they should be writing!

Why Provide Topics?

One of the most stressful parts of journal writing is trying to figure out what to write about. By providing a list of sentence starters, journal topics and writing prompts, you will take that stress off of your students' shoulders. Depending upon the age and language level of your students, topics can be light and fun, or they can be more serious and thought provoking. Give some of these ideas a try, and watch how they will improve your students' journal writing experience!

Sentence Starters

Provide some sentence starters for your students and have them continue the thought for as along as possible. Rather than just complete the single sentence, show examples of how they can expand upon the idea, and turn the sentence starter into a complete journal entry. Tell students to pretend they are talking to someone else as they are writing, as this will encourage more detail and thought.

  • I would like to travel to _____
  • If I had one million dollars, I would _____
  • If I could talk to any animal, I would talk to _____
  • If I were president, I would _____
  • I would like to go back in time, so I could _____
  • One of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me is _____
  • One of the scariest things that has ever happened to me is _____
  • The one thing that can always make me laugh is _____
  • If I could be granted one wish, it would be _____
  • My favorite movie is _____, because _____
  • _____ is my best friend, because _____
  • I am really looking forward to _____
  • I am most talented at _____
  • I get stressed when _____
  • My parents _____
  • What if _____

Journal Topics

Here is a list of journal topics you can print off, write on a poster, add onto labels, or just put on the board for students to choose from. Let your students know there is no right or wrong 'answer' to these journal topics. The idea is to get students to open up and let their creative juices flow. Reward participation and effort! Positive feedback will encourage students to keep putting their best foot, or pen, forward!

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