Journal Writing in Social Studies:

Easy Tips for History Writing Prompts

Journal writing in social studies offers many creative writing ideas that intrigue students. From family history journal prompts to period narratives, you can encourage expression on timely topics.

What do students in Australia, students in the US, and students in France have in common? In what ways has technology created a global economy? Do individual rights outweigh the rights of groups? These ideas, and many, many others, provide the basis of lively debate and equally lively creative writing. Through journal writing in social studies, kids can write about interesting topics meaningful to them. In the process, they make curriculum connections and analyze cultural beliefs and attitudes.

The easiest way to incorporate creative writing ideas into social studies and history writing prompts is to use the RAFTS technique, outlined here. The following RAFTS prompts are based upon thematic strands from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). Use them in your class to begin journal writing in social studies. Then return to this article on writing across the curriculum for a step-by-step explanation for creating your own journal writing prompts in social studies.

Journal Writing in Social Studies:

Culture, Change, and Places

Most Important Cultural Events
  • Role: journalist
  • Audience: editor
  • Format: paragraph
  • Topic: five most important cultural events of the last decade
  • Strong Verb: explain
You are a journalist for a national magazine. Your editor has asked you to write an article about the five most important cultural events of the last decade. List these events and write a short paragraph about each one, explaining its importance, for submission to your editor.

Frontier Life
  • Role: you
  • Audience: television producer
  • Format: persuasive essay
  • Topic: knowledge of frontier and pioneer life
  • Strong Verb: impress and persuade
A television producer is selecting a family to star in a new reality program about life in a frontier cabin, in order to dramatize pioneer life in the nineteenth century. Write a persuasive essay to the producer, impressing him or her with your knowledge of that era, and explaining why you and your family should be selected for the program.

Hiking Destinations
  • Role: author of a new trail guidebook
  • Audience: hikers and campers
  • Format: descriptions
  • Topic: your top three hiking and camping destinations
  • Strong Verb: recommend
You are the author of a new trail guidebook that evaluates places for hiking. Write descriptions of the top three destinations that you most recommend.

Journal Writing in Social Studies:

Individuals, Groups, and Authority

Campaign Issues
  • Role: candidate for governor
  • Audience: television audience
  • Format: questions and answers for interviewer's script
  • Topic: your thoughts about important campaign issues
  • Strong Verb: explain
You are a candidate for governor,and a local television reporter is planning to interview you. Write the questions and answers that allow viewers to learn how you feel about specific campaign issues.

Dress Code Changes
  • Role: student representative
  • Audience: the student body, parents, teachers, and administrators
  • Format: questionnaire
  • Topic: changes in the school dress code
  • strong Verb: gather
You are a student representative on a school committee. Some of the committee members have proposed changes to the dress code. Explain the proposed dress code changes in a questionnaire to be administered to the student body, parents, teachers, and school administration. Use this questionnaire to gather information about how each group feels about the proposed policy.

Save the Park
  • Role: student volunteer
  • Audience: local community residents
  • Format: campaign materials
  • Topic: a local park will be closing
  • Strong Verb: appeal and design
You are a student volunteer with the Parks and Recreation Bureau. You learn that a favorite local park will be closing due to maintenance costs. However, if you can appeal to the local community to "adopt" it, there is a good possibility the park will remain open. Design a campaign consisting of a poster, a bumper sticker, and a fundraising letter.

Journal Writing in Social Studies:

Consumption, Technology, and Global Connections

Additional Printings
  • Role: you
  • Audience: book publisher
  • Format: letter
  • Topic: not enough copies of a new book
  • Strong Verb: express
The latest book in your favorite mystery series has arrived at the bookstore. When you get there, you discover that all copies are sold out and there won't be anymore anytime soon. Write a letter to the publisher expressing your disappointment and urge the company to begin extra printings.

New Technology
  • Role: inventor
  • Audience: families
  • Format: instructions
  • Topic: how to operate this new machine
  • Strong Verb: inform
You are an inventor who has patented a machine that will revolutionize family life. What is this new machine? Write out instructions that inform families how to use this new machine in their homes.

Environmental Holiday Cards
  • Role: you
  • Audience: parents and community members
  • Format: designs for scenic greeting cards
  • Topic: Earth Day
  • Strong Verb: create
You and your classmates are designing greeting cards to sell celebrating Earth Day, to raise money for worldwide nature conservancies. Create designs and text for the cards that will appeal to parents and community members.

Journal Writing in Social Studies:

Civic Ideals and Practices

The Local Philanthropist
  • Role: journalist
  • Audience: newspaper subscribers
  • Format: human interest article
  • Topic: local philanthropist
  • Strong Verb: describe
You are a journalist who is writing an article highlighting the community work of a local philanthropist. Describe the many contributions of this person.

Journal Writing in Social Studies:

Additional Suggestions for Creative Writing Ideas

Social studies and history writing prompts can also be developed to fit into the following formats. Be sure to visit these pages on creative informational reports and writing biographies for more writing project suggestions.
  • designing and reading maps
  • writing about primary source documents
  • writing period diaries, narratives, and poetry
  • creating cultural presentations
  • letters to historical figures
  • writing news articles of past events
  • interviews of fictional or historical people
By weaving imaginative ideas into journal writing in social studies, you can generate ways for kids to demonstrate what they know and can do. Along the way, they are getting excited about creative writing!

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