Introduce historical diary and journal.
- Remind students that individuals will have different perspectives on the same
event. Often, the personal perspectives on an historical event are most
effectively portrayed in diaries or personal journals, which provide insights
not only into the great historical events of the era but also into the everyday
lives of the ordinary people who lived them. Indicate to the class that they
will be asked to develop a diary or journal about an event from the perspective
of an individual who was alive at the time. Explain that when they take on the
role and write their entry, students are developing historically
empathythe capacity to place themselves in the minds and times of
historical persons. Point out the differences between a diary and journal:
- Diaries tend to have shorter, more frequent entries and focus more on
the day to day events that occur to the individual.
- Journals tend to have longer entries and focus, in more depth, on a
particular issue. They would include the writer's views on the event and/or the
impact / possible impact of the event on their life.
Introduce a forged diary.
- Display overhead transparencies of Genie Macleod's Diary and Gerald Keegan's Journal. The former is a fictionalized account of a
trip from Ireland in 1847; the latter is an authentic journal account of the
same event. Place the forged diary on the overhead and briefly discuss the
- Is it an effective diary entry? Why or why not?
- Does it seem that it was actually written by someone in 1847?
Introduce criteria for historical diaries/journals.
- Distribute a copy of Effective Historical Diaries/Journals to each student. Explain that the
criteria in the left-hand column reflect the qualities of a historically
useful, authentic diary or journal. Ask students to examine the forged diary
and record evidence related to each criterion in the right-hand column, placing
a + in front of evidence indicating that the criterion is present and a -
before evidence suggesting that the criterion is missing. After students have
recorded several pieces of evidence, invite them to share their results with
the rest of the class. Referring to the bottom of Effective Historical Diaries/Journals, ask students to comment on the
- What (if anything) are the strengths of this diary?
- What areas need more work?
Introduce an authentic journal.
- Display the second overhead transparency and invite students to read this
actual journal entry by Gerald Keegan of his voyage to British North America in
1847. (Instead of the overhead, you may prefer to make copies of the entry for
each pair of students.) Ask students to look for and record evidence for each
criterion outlined on Effective Historical Diaries/Journals. Suggest that students use a
different coloured pen to record the evidence for this second sample. After a
suitable length of time, debrief the activity as before.
Pose the critical task.
- Present the critical task:
Write an authentic diary/journal entry about your assigned event
perspective of a person living at the time.
Assume a character.
- Ask each student to select one of several groups involved in an historical
event; e.g., English Canadians, French Canadians, Aboriginal peoples, recent
immigrants. In preparation for developing an entry, students should create a
brief biography of their character, including:
- family members, if any
- place of birth.
Distribute one copy of Character
Biographies to each team for them to record the four biographies.