By Karen Stanley
Below are some journal prompts that I have adapted, stolen or created. I am particularly indebted to Ilona Leki's textbook, Academic Writing (St. Martin's Press). Of course, these were designed for multicultural classes in Charlotte, North Carolina, so some of them will need to be altered to fit students in China. (I also happen to have my students do email journals rather than hardcopy, as I am trying to get them comfortable with using email in English.)
EMail Journal: Possible Topics
1. Write about something you remember from your childhood.
2. Spend ten minutes writing a list of subjects that you are most interested in. Choose one of the subjects and write for at least ten minutes about it.
3. Think about what your parents were like when they were young. Do you know any stories about them from this time? How do you think they have changed?
4. Think of something or someone that is popular right now that you dislike: a kind of music, a way of dressing, a movie star, a tourist spot, an opinion. Then write about why you think it is popular. After that, write about your reasons for not liking it.
5. Think of something that is unpopular right now that you like. Explain the reasons for its unpopularity, and then write about your reasons for liking it.
6. Write about different aspects of your culture. What is something about your culture that you think it is difficult for foreigners to understand? What do you feel it is important for people to understand about your culture?
7. Write about things in American culture (or some other culture) that you find difficult to understand.
8. What kinds of stereotypes do people have about your culture? Do any of the stereotypes surprise you? Are any of the stereotypes close to reality?
9. Tell the story of the strangest/funniest/most embarrassing experience that you or someone else has had with English.
10. Think of advice that someone else gave you when you were a child that you still follow. Have you had any experiences that show why this was good advice? Do you have any advice to give someone else?
11. Think of places in your home country that are important to you. What are they? Describe them in a lot of detail. Try to include not just what you see, but what you feel, hear, and smell when you are there.
12. What is the most important place to you in this city? Describe this place in detail.
13. Where are you in your life now, and where do you want your life to go in the future? What qualities in your personality will help you get there? What faults could make it difficult to get there?
14. Is there something in your past that you would change if you could? Is there something you did that you wish you had done differently? Is there something you didn't do that you wish you had done?
15. What is a young child's school day like in your country? Should children be pushed to learn a lot when they are very young? Are there things that are important for a child to learn at school besides academic subjects (responsibility, team work, competitiveness, moral values)?