I use journals every day for warm-ups. I love them for so many reasons. I gain insight into my students. I begin to see what has shaped them and what interests them - things I can use to plan lessons and focus background knowledge. It's good practice to write - and it helps ESL students who might be reluctant to speak.
I have written and refined these topics over the last fourteen years, so I have had plenty of time to weed out the topics that make students groan in protest. This is the first of a series; there are more to come!