10 fun writing activities for the reluctant writer
10 FUN WRITING ACTIVITIES FOR THE RELUCTANT WRITER
No doubt about it – writing isn’t easy. It is no wonder that many of our students could be described as ‘reluctant writers’ at best. It has been estimated by the National Association of Educational Progress that only about 27% of 8th and 12th Grade students can write proficiently.
As educators, we know that regular practice would go a long way to helping our students correct this underachievement, and sometimes, writing prompts just aren’t enough to light the fire.
But how do we get students, who have long since been turned off writing, to put pen to paper and log in the requisite time to develop their writing chops?
The answer is to make writing fun! In this article, we will look at some creative writing activities where we can inject a little enjoyment into the writing game.
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25 FUN and ENGAGING writing tasks your students can complete INDEPENDENTLY with NO PREP REQUIRED that they will absolutely love.
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1. Poetry Scavenger Hunt
The Purpose: This activity encourages students to see the poetry in the everyday language around them while helpfully reinforcing their understanding of some of the conventions of the genre.
The Process: Encourage students to ‘scavenge’ their school, home, and outside the community for snippets of language they can compile into a piece of poetry or a poetic collage. They may copy down or photograph words, phrases, and sentences from signs, magazines, leaflets or even snippets of conversations they overhear while out and about.
Examples of language they collect may range from the Keep Out sign on private property to the destination on the front of a local bus.
Once students have gathered their language together, they can work to build a poem out of the scraps, usually choosing a central theme to give the piece cohesion. They can even include corresponding artwork to enhance the visual appeal of their work, too, if they wish.
The Prize: If poetry serves one purpose, it is to encourage us to look at the world anew with the fresh eyes of a young child. This activity challenges our students to read new meanings into familiar things and put their own spin on the language they encounter in the world around them, reinforcing the student’s grasp on poetic conventions.
2. Story Chains
The Purpose: Writing is often thought of as a solitary pursuit. For this reason alone, it can be seen as a particularly unattractive activity by many of our more gregarious students. This fun activity exercises students’ understanding of writing structures and engages them in fun, creative collaboration.
The Process: Each student starts with a blank paper and pen. The teacher writes a story prompt on the whiteboard. You’ll find some excellent narrative writing prompts here . For example, each student spends two minutes using the writing prompt to kick-start their writing.
When they have completed this part of the task, they will then pass their piece of paper to the student next to them. Students then continue the story from where the previous student left off for a given number of words, paragraphs, or length of time.
If organized correctly, you can ensure students receive their own initial story back at the end for the writing of the story’s conclusion .
The Prize: This fun writing activity can be used effectively to reinforce student understanding of narrative writing structures, but it can also be fun to try with other writing genres.
Working collaboratively motivates students to engage with the task, as no one wants to be the ‘weak link’ in the finished piece. But, more than that, this activity encourages students to see writing as a communicative and creative task where there needn’t be a ‘right’ answer. This encourages students to be more willing to take creative risks in their work.
3. Acrostic Associations
The Purpose: This is another great way to get students to try writing poetry – a genre that many students find the most daunting.
The Process: Acrostics are simple poems whereby each letter of a word or phrase begins a new line in the poem. Younger students can start off with something very simple, like their own name or their favorite pet and write this vertically down the page.
Older students can take a word or phrase related to a topic they have been working on or have a particular interest in and write it down on the page before beginning to write.
The Prize: This activity has much in common with the old psychiatrist’s word association technique. Students should be encouraged to riff on ideas and themes generated by the focus word or phrase. They needn’t worry about rhyme and meter and such here, but the preset letter for each line will give them some structure to their meanderings and require them to impose some discipline on their wordsmithery, albeit in a fun and loose manner.
4. The What If Challenge
The Purpose: This challenge helps encourage students to see the link between posing interesting hypothetical questions and creating an entertaining piece of writing.
The Process: To begin this exercise, have the students come up with a single What If question, which they can then write down on a piece of paper. The more off-the-wall, the better!
For example, ‘What if everyone in the world knew what you were thinking?’ or ‘What if your pet dog could talk?’ Students fold up their questions and drop them into a hat. Each student picks one out of the hat before writing on that question for a suitable set amount of time.
Example What If Questions
- “What if you woke up one day and found out that you had the power to time travel?”
- “What if you were the last person on Earth? How would you spend your time?”
- “What if you were granted three wishes, but each one came with a terrible consequence?”
- “What if you discovered a secret portal to another world? Where would you go, and what would you do?”
- “What if you woke up one day with the ability to communicate with animals? How would your life change?”
The Prize: Students are most likely to face the terror of the dreaded Writer’s Block when they are faced with open-ended creative writing tasks.
This activity encourages the students to see the usefulness of posing hypothetical What If questions, even random off-the-wall ones, for kick-starting their writing motors.
Though students begin by answering the questions set for them by others, please encourage them to see how they can set these questions for themselves the next time they suffer from a stalled writing engine.
5. The Most Disgusting Sandwich in the World
The Purpose: Up until now, we have looked at activities encouraging our students to have fun with genres such as fiction and poetry. These genres being imaginative in nature, more easily lend themselves to being enjoyable than some of the nonfiction genres.
But what about descriptive writing activities? In this activity, we endeavor to bring that same level of enjoyment to instruction writing while also cleverly reinforcing the criteria of this genre.
The Process: Undoubtedly, when teaching instruction writing, you will at some point cover the specific criteria of the genre with your students.
These will include things like the use of a title, numbered or bulleted points, time connectives, imperatives, diagrams with captions etc. You will then want the students to produce their own piece of instruction writing or procedural text to display their understanding of how the genre works.
But, why not try a fun topic such as How to Make the Most Disgusting Sandwich in the World rather than more obvious (and drier!) topics such as How to Tie Your Shoelaces or How to Make a Paper Airplane when choosing a topic for your students to practice their instruction writing chops?
Example of a Most disgusting Sandwich Text
The Prize: As mentioned, with nonfiction genres, in particular, we tend to suggest more banal topics for our students to work on while internalizing the genre’s criteria. Enjoyment and acquiring practical writing skills need not be mutually exclusive.
Our students can just as quickly, if not more easily, absorb and internalize the necessary writing conventions while engaged in writing about whimsical and even nonsensical topics.
if your sandwich is entering the realm of horror, be sure to check our complete guide to writing a scary story here as well.
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6. Diary Entry of a Future Self
The Purpose: This activity allows students to practice personal writing within the conventions of diary/journal writing. It also challenges them to consider what their world will be like in the future, perhaps stepping a foot into the realm of science fiction.
The Process: Straightforwardly, after working through some examples of diary or journal writing, and reviewing the various criteria of the genre, challenge the students to write an entry at a given milestone in the future.
This may be when they leave school, begin work, go to university, get married, have kids, retire etc. You may even wish to get the students to write an entry for a series of future milestones as part of a more extended project.
Example of Message to Future Me Text
The Prize: Students will get a chance here to exercise their understanding of this type of writing , but more than that, they will also get an opportunity to exercise their imaginative muscles too. They will get to consider what shape their future world will take in this engaging thought experiment that will allow them to improve their writing too.
7. Comic Strip Script
The Purpose: Give your students the chance to improve their dialogue writing skills and to work on their understanding of character development in this fun activity which combines writing with the use of a series of visual elements.
The Process: There are two ways to do this activity. The first requires you to source, or create, a comic strip minus the dialogue the characters are speaking. This may be as straightforward as using whiteout to erase the words in speech bubbles and making copies for your students to complete.
Alternatively, provide the students with photographs/pictures and strips of cards for them to form their own action sequences . When students have their ‘mute’ strips, they can begin to write the dialogue/script to link the panels together.
The Prize: When it comes to writing, comic strips are probably one of the easier sells to reluctant students! This activity also allows students to write for speech. This will stand to them later when they come to produce sections of dialogue in their narrative writing or when producing play or film scripts.
They will also develop their visual literacy skills as they scan the pictures for clues of tone and context before they begin their writing.
Keep It Fun
Just as we should encourage our students to read for fun and wider educational benefits, we should also work to instil similar attitudes towards writing. To do this means we must work to avoid always framing writing in the context of a chore, that bitter pill that must be swallowed for the good of our health.
There is no getting away from the fact that writing can, at times, be laborious. It is time-consuming and, for most of us, difficult at the best of times. There is a certain, inescapable amount of work involved in becoming a competent writer.
That said, as we have seen in the activities above, with a bit of creative thought, we can inject fun into even the most practical of writing activities . All that is required is a dash of imagination and a sprinkling of effort.
8. Character Interviews
The Purpose: Character interviews as writing activities are excellent for students because they encourage creative thinking, character development, and empathy. The purpose of this activity is to help students delve deeper into the minds of the characters they are creating in their stories or reading about in literature. By conducting interviews with these characters, students gain a better understanding of their personalities, motivations, and perspectives.
The Process of character interviews involves students imagining themselves as interviewers and their characters as interviewees. They can either write out the questions and answers in a script-like format or write a narrative where the character responds to the questions in their own voice.
The Prize: Through character interviews, students learn several valuable skills:
- Character Development: By exploring various aspects of their characters’ lives, backgrounds, and experiences, students can develop more well-rounded and authentic characters in their stories. This helps make their fictional creations more relatable and engaging to readers.
- Empathy and Perspective: Conducting interviews requires students to put themselves in their characters’ shoes, considering their thoughts, emotions, and struggles. This cultivates empathy and a deeper understanding of human behavior, which can be applied to real-life situations as well.
- Voice and Dialogue: In crafting the character’s responses, students practice writing authentic dialogue and giving their characters unique voices. This skill is valuable for creating dynamic and believable interactions between characters in their stories.
- Creative Expression: Character interviews provide a creative outlet for students to let their imaginations run wild. They can explore scenarios that may not appear in the main story and discover new aspects of their characters they might not have considered before.
- Critical Thinking: Formulating questions for the interview requires students to think critically about their characters’ personalities and backgrounds. This exercise enhances their analytical skills and storytelling abilities.
Overall, character interviews are a dynamic and enjoyable way for students to delve deeper into the worlds they create or the literature they read. It nurtures creativity, empathy, and writing skills, empowering students to become more proficient and imaginative writers.
9. The Travel Journal
The Purpose: Travel journal writing tasks are excellent for students as they offer a unique and immersive way to foster creativity, cultural awareness, and descriptive writing skills. The purpose of this activity is to allow students to embark on a fictional or real travel adventure, exploring new places, cultures, and experiences through the eyes of a traveller.
The process of a travel journal writing task involves students assuming the role of a traveler and writing about their journey in a journal format. They can describe the sights, sounds, tastes, and emotions they encounter during their travels. This activity encourages students to use vivid language, sensory details, and expressive writing to bring their travel experiences to life.
The Prize: Through travel journal writing tasks, students will learn several valuable skills:
- Descriptive Writing: By describing their surroundings and experiences in detail, students enhance their descriptive writing skills, creating engaging and vivid narratives.
- Cultural Awareness: Travel journals encourage students to explore different cultures, customs, and traditions. This helps broaden their understanding and appreciation of diversity.
- Empathy and Perspective: Through writing from the perspective of a traveler, students develop empathy and gain insight into the lives of people from different backgrounds.
- Research Skills: For fictional travel journals, students might research specific locations or historical periods to make their narratives more authentic and accurate.
- Reflection and Self-Expression: Travel journals offer a space for students to reflect on their own emotions, thoughts, and personal growth as they encounter new experiences.
- Creativity and Imagination: For fictional travel adventures, students get to unleash their creativity and imagination, envisioning fantastical places and scenarios.
- Language and Vocabulary: Travel journal writing tasks provide opportunities for students to expand their vocabulary and experiment with expressive language.
Overall, travel journal writing tasks inspire students to become more observant, empathetic, and skilled writers. They transport them to new worlds and foster a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. Whether writing about real or imaginary journeys, students develop a deeper connection to the places they encounter, making this activity both educational and enjoyable.
10. The Fairy Tale Remix
The Purpose: A fairy tale remix writing activity is a fantastic creative exercise for students as it allows them to put a unique spin on classic fairy tales, fostering imagination, critical thinking, and storytelling skills. This activity encourages students to think outside the box, reinterpret well-known tales, and explore their creative potential by transforming traditional narratives into something entirely new and exciting.
The process of a fairy tale remix writing activity involves students selecting a familiar fairy tale and altering key elements such as characters, settings, plot twists, or outcomes. They can modernize the story, change the genre, or even mix different fairy tales together to create a wholly original piece.
The Prize: Through this activity, students will learn several valuable skills:
- Creative Thinking: Students exercise their creativity by brainstorming unique concepts and ideas to remix the fairy tales, encouraging them to think imaginatively.
- Critical Analysis: Analyzing the original fairy tale to identify essential elements to keep and areas to remix helps students develop critical thinking skills and understand storytelling structures.
- Writing Techniques: Crafting a remix requires students to use descriptive language, engaging dialogue, and well-developed characters, helping them hone their writing techniques.
- Perspective and Empathy: Remixing fairy tales allows students to explore different character perspectives, promoting empathy and understanding of diverse points of view.
- Genre Exploration: Remixing fairy tales can introduce students to various genres like science fiction, fantasy, or mystery, expanding their literary horizons.
- Originality: Creating their own narrative twists and unexpected plots encourages students to take ownership of their writing and develop a unique voice.
- Storytelling: Students learn the art of compelling storytelling as they weave together familiar elements with innovative ideas, captivating their readers.
By remixing fairy tales, students embark on a creative journey that empowers them to reimagine well-loved stories while honing their writing skills and imaginative prowess. It’s an engaging and enjoyable way for students to connect with literature, explore new possibilities, and showcase their storytelling talents.
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The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.
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55 Creative Writing Activities and Exercises
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Have you ever heard these questions or statements from your students?
- I don’t know where to begin.
- How can I make my story interesting?
- I’m just not creative.
- What should my story be about?
If so, you won’t want to miss these creative writing activities.
What Are Creative Writing Activities?
Activities that teach creative writing serve as drills to exercise your student’s writing muscle. When used effectively, they help reluctant writers get past that intimidating blank paper and encourage the words to flow.
When I think of creative writing exercises , writing prompts immediately come to mind. And, yes, writing from a prompt is certainly an example of a creative writing activity (a highly effective one).
However, writing prompts are only one way to teach creative writing. Other types of activities include games, collaboration with others, sensory activities, and comic strip creation to name a few.
Unlike writing assignments, creative writing activities aren’t necessarily meant to create a perfectly polished finished project.
Instead, they serve as more of a warmup and imagination boost.
Picture-based writing exercises are especially fun. You can download one for free below!
get this picture prompt printable for free!
How to use creative writing exercises effectively.
When teaching creative writing , the most effective exercises inspire and engage the student.
Remember that worn-out prompt your teacher probably hauled out every year?
“What I Did This Summer…”
Cue the groaning.
Instead of presenting your student with lackluster topics like that one, let’s talk about ways to engage and excite them.
For Kids or Beginners
Early writers tend to possess misconceptions about writing. Many picture sitting down for hours straight, polishing a story from beginning to end.
Even for experienced writers, this is next-to-impossible to do. It’s preconceived ideas like these that overwhelm and discourage students before they’ve even started.
Instead of assigning an essay to complete, start with simple, short writing exercises for elementary students such as:
- Creating comic strips using a template
- Talking out loud about a recent dream
- Writing a poem using rhyming words you provide
- Creating an acrostic from a special word
Creative writing exercises don’t have to end in a finished piece of work. If the exercise encouraged creative thinking and helped the student put pen to paper, it’s done its job.
For Middle School
Creative writing activities for middle school can be a little more inventive. They now have the fundamental reading and writing skills to wield their words properly.
Here are some ideas for middle school writing exercises you can try at home:
- Creating Mad Lib-style stories by changing out nouns, verbs, and adjectives in their favorite tales
- Storyboarding a short film
- Writing a family newsletter
- Creating crossword puzzles
For High School
Your high school student may be starting to prepare for college essays and other important creative writing assignments.
It’s more critical than ever for her to exercise her writing skills on a regular basis.
One great way to keep your high schooler’s mind thinking creatively is to have her make “listicles” of tips or facts about something she’s interested in already.
Another fun and effective creative writing exercise for high school is to have your student retell classic stories with a twist.
List of 55 Creative Writing Activities for Students of All Ages
No matter what age range your students may be, I think you’ll find something that suits their personality and interests in this list of creative writing ideas. Enjoy!
- Using only the sense of hearing, describe your surroundings.
- Write a paragraph from your shoes’ point of view. How do they view the world? What does a “day in the life of a shoe” look like?
- Imagine what the world will be like in 200 years. Describe it.
- Write a letter to someone you know who moved away. What has he or she missed? Should he or she move back? Why?
- Make up an imaginary friend. What does he or she look like? What does he or she like to do?
- Create a story about a person you know. Use as many details as possible.
- Write a poem that describes a place you have been.
- Soak up the season you’re in with seasonal creative writing prompts. Here are some ideas for fall and winter .
- Write a song where each line starts with the next letter in the alphabet.
- Create a list of words related to something you love.
- Write a short story based on a true event in your life.
- Rewrite a chapter of your favorite book from the antagonist’s point of view.
- Write a letter to your future self. What do you want to make sure you remember?
- Go on a five-senses scavenger hunt. Find three items for each sense. Create a story using the items you found.
- Create a story around an interesting picture ( try these fun picture writing prompts! )
- Find an ad in a magazine or elsewhere and rewrite the description to convince people NOT to buy the advertised item.
- Write a story using the last word of each sentence as the first word of the next.
- Describe everything you’re sensing right now, using all five senses.
- Write a list of animals A to Z with a one-sentence description of each one. Feel free to include imaginary animals.
- Design your dream room in detail.
- Write a script of yourself interviewing a famous person. Include his or her answers.
- Describe what high school would be like if you lived on the moon. What would you be learning about? How would you be learning it?
- Describe a day in the life of a famous person in history. Include both mundane and exciting details of things they may have experienced on a normal day.
- Pick up something on a bookshelf or end table nearby. Now write a commercial script for it to convince your audience that they absolutely must own this thing.
- Plan a birthday party for your best friend. Describe the decorations, food, and everything else.
- Write a very short story about three siblings fighting over a toy. Now rewrite it twice, each time from a different character’s perspective.
- Tell a story from the point of view of a pigeon on a city street.
- Create a menu for a deli you’ll be opening soon. Name each sandwich after something or someone in real life and list the fillings and type of bread.
- Pretend you just became famous for something. Write 3 exciting newspaper headlines about the topic or reason behind your newfound fame.
- Keep a one-line-a-day journal. Every day, write down one thought or sentence about something that happened that day or how you felt about the day.
- Have you ever had a nightmare? Write what happened but with a new ending where everything turns out okay (perhaps the monster was your dad in a costume, preparing to surprise you at your birthday party).
- Write a “tweet” about something that happened to you recently, using only 140 characters.
- Take an important event in your life or the life of someone in your family. Write one sentence answering each of the 6 journalistic questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
- Set a timer for 5 minutes and write nonstop, starting with the words “I remember.” If you get stuck, write “I remember” again until you get unstuck.
- Pick something you use often (a toothbrush, your desk, etc). Then tell the story of how it was invented. If you don’t know, make something up.
- Choose a princess or hero and write a one-paragraph story about him or her traveling to a distant land.
- Pretend you are a tour guide for a local attraction. It can be a library, a park, or a museum, but it could also be a place that wouldn’t normally hold tours (such as an arcade). Write a speech about what you tell your tour group as you walk around the attraction.
- Create a marketing brochure for your favorite activity or fun place to go.
- Make a list of 10 future story settings. Write one sentence describing each. For example, “ in the dark, musty cellar of my grandmother’s house, surrounded by dried-up jars of canned peaches… ”
- Make a list of foods included in a dinner party catered by the world’s worst cook, describing how each course looks, smells, and tastes. Include your reactions while eating it.
- Write out your own version of instructions for playing your favorite game.
- Pretend you’ve lost your sight for one night. Describe going out to eat at a restaurant, using smells, textures, and sounds to tell your story.
- Write a script for an interesting phone conversation in which the reader can only hear one side.
- Tell the story of an object someone threw away from the perspective of the person who tossed it out. Then tell the story of that same object from the perspective of a person who finds it and deems it a treasure.
- List your 3 least favorite chores. Pick one and write a one paragraph detailing why you can’t possibly complete that chore ever again.
- Write an excerpt from your dog’s diary (pretend he keeps one).
- Write the script for a movie trailer—real or imagined.
- Create an acrostic for a holiday of your choice.
- Pretend you’re the master of a role-playing game, describing a sticky situation in which the other players now find themselves. Describe the scenario in writing.
- Compose a funny or dramatic caption for a photo.
- Parents, place a textured object in a box without letting your student see it. Have him or her reach in, touch the object, and then describe how it feels.
- Write lyrics for a parody of a song.
- Make a list of 10-20 songs that would be played if a movie was made about your life.
- Describe the sounds, smells, sights, and textures you’d experience if you went to the beach for the day.
- Write an election speech with ludicrous and impossible campaign promises.
One of the best ways to encourage students to write regularly is by providing fun creative writing activities .
They serve to encourage both the habit and mindset of writing with imagination. If you need extra help with that, check out Creative Freewriting Adventure :
bring excitement into your student’s writing – no prep required!
About the author.
- Our Mission
4 Engaging Writing Tasks for High School Students
Short, authentic writing tasks can encourage high school students to compose richer long pieces.
It’s quite likely that many of your students dislike writing. After all, they’re often expected to compose lengthy pieces that typically require lots of brainstorming, researching, planning, outlining, drafting, revising, and editing—and that can be exhausting. My class of high school boys had the same attitude, and their short, underdeveloped, and passionless pieces were most telling. I had to overhaul my approach.
During my quest for an alternative practice, I quickly learned that by building students’ knowledge about the topic on which they are expected to compose, and by initially assigning them shorter and more authentic writing tasks, we can successfully motivate them to write longer, richer, and more compelling multiparagraph pieces. Yes, baby steps—from a creep to a stable walk—can work wonders.
Incorporate Knowledge-Building Activities
Judith Hochman and Natalie Wexler said it best in The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades : “Writing and content knowledge are intimately related. You can’t write well about something you don’t know well. The more students know about a topic before they begin to write, the better they will be able to write about it.”
Documentaries, podcasts, TED Talks, and other authentic and engaging audiovisuals can facilitate this knowledge building. Field trips, as well as interviews with relevant community-based experts, can also offer students significant fodder for their writing.
Moreover, when students have interesting discoveries to share, they’ll be excited about the writing tasks, and their compositions are likely to be longer, more detailed, more affecting, and more compelling. Because they have a rich knowledge bank, they’re less likely to get stuck and frustrated as they write. Knowledge stimulates ideas.
But information gathering is not all. It’s also important to show students how to use the newly learned content. We don’t want them to plagiarize information or inadvertently silence their own voices by over-quoting others. Their research should enhance what they write, not substitute for their initial thoughts or suppress their creativity.
What can you do then?
Go beyond lessons in citation format. Model, through write-aloud, how to make decisions about the content included in written work, how to paraphrase and summarize from the original source, and how to ensure that the added content actually strengthens what you already have.
Offer Authentically Rooted Writing Assignments
Finally, make sure that the writing assignments are authentic—with realistic, real-world communicative goals and true-to-life audiences (not just the classroom teacher). Here are some suggestions that you can implement in your teaching practice:
Travel blogs: Take students on virtual field trips. Nearpod , Google Earth, and YouTube are excellent for this. Following this activity, have students write a blog post to describe the place they visited. If your students have visited resorts or attraction sites locally, they could write about that experience, recommend activities for prospective visitors, and simultaneously persuade them to visit when it is safe to do so.
Their insights might even persuade others to travel to this site. Students could use pictures to supplement their writing. They could also convert their written piece into a mini-video production for a real or imagined YouTube channel that promotes exotic getaways. Their composition would become the audio narration, and, with some background reggae, R & B, or any other culturally popular music, their piece would be beautifully transformed into a riveting marketing pitch.
Movie reviews: Due to the pandemic, we know that many of our students may be watching far more movies than ever before. Therefore, let’s repurpose this social activity and use what they love or do for pleasure to help them refine a key academic skill. Have students write a review of their most recently watched or favorite film.
Prompt them to provide a summary of the movie, share their impressions of major characters and the plot’s unfolding, and examine the techniques used to create suspense and mounting tension. Later, when they’re writing their own narratives or putting on drama productions, they can adopt and adapt some of these techniques.
Song or music video reviews: Some students enjoy listening to music, so a song or music video review could also motivate them and facilitate interest-based differentiation. State where the review may be published—a local tabloid, a social media page, etc. Have students keep that in mind as they write so that their finished pieces are authentic and fitting for the context and audience intended.
Social media: Based on your content area, you could have students make discipline-specific posts and write related captions. For instance, if you are looking at rocks in geography or soil types in science, have students photograph different types and post related descriptive or explanatory captions. They’ll be learning and teaching concurrently.
Provide Mentor Texts
These activities are exciting, but before you scuttle off to assign them, find or create models of the kinds of writing that you want your students to produce. Discuss the sample by prompting students to keenly attend to the content and the writer’s craft (style and techniques) throughout the piece.
Finally, make arrangements to have your students publish their pieces—through a safe online space or through an in-school magazine or newsletter—for authenticity at its finest.
Just Add Students
Tools to Help You Teach Middle School ELA
5 Creative Writing Activities Students Love
Need to engage your students? Whether you are teaching a creative writing class or a traditional one, here are fun, quick writing activities you can use to any time to get your reluctant writers — writing!
They are great when:
- there are 20 minutes before the assembly starts
- one class gets ahead of another – and you need a “holding” lesson until you can get your classes aligned
- students are super-squirrelly, but still need to work
- your class is stagnant and everyone needs a boost (including you!)
- you’re looking for creative writing games
- students need a quick creative writing activity to warm them up
- you want to introduce a new writing unit
It’s great to have quick, fun creative writing exercises and lesson plans to turn to when you have extra class time to fill.
If students don’t finish, have them hold onto them for another day. There always seems to be a pocket of time you need to fill — and these quick creative writing prompts are perfect! No printed worksheets necessary!
1. Pass-back Stories
If you haven’t taught them, here is how they work:
- Every student has a blank piece of paper and pen.
- The teacher provides the story starter. It can be something like, “Suddenly, the lights went out,” or “Our camping trip was going great until,” or “I knew it was a bad idea to…”
- The students write the story starter at the top of the page and then start writing the story.
- The teacher sets the timer (2 minutes or so); when the timer goes off, the students must pass their paper back to the person behind them. The last person in the row, runs her paper up to the first person. Students must stop writing when the teacher calls time — even if they are in the middle of a sentence!
- Continue with each student down the row adding to the story.
- After a few rounds, students will end up with their own paper again. They then need to write a conclusion to their story.
Reasons to love this little lesson:
- It’s fast and fun
- Students love reading and adding to each other’s stories
- Students are practicing spontaneous writing – their imaginations are firing and their creative writing skills are being challenged.
- Reinforces writing skills – students know their story needs to have a beginning, middle, and end.
- Perfect to add to your back to school writing ideas.
- Provide creative writing exercises for beginners
- Review of when to start new paragraphs
- Works with middle school through high school students.
- If you’re looking for a fun end of the year activity , give this a try.
Adjustments you might want to make:
- Rearrange your classroom into even rows.
- Set some rules and restrictions. For example, you may want to stipulate that no real people can be mentioned in the story, or that it must be rated G.
- Once students get the idea, you can have “challenge” items in each round. For example, students have to include a groundhog, or must use the word “confetti.” I announce this right before setting the timer.
- Play with the time limit. The time limit makes it a fun writing game. Try not too give them too much time; you want them to finish writing in the middle of an idea — that creates a challenge for the next writer!
- Collect all the stories at the end of the class. Read a few of the best to the class the next day — or allow students to read their stories in small groups. I like to collect and read to sort out any stories that might have pushed boundaries or forgotten the rules!
Once your students do this, they will beg you to write pass-back stories, but I wouldn’t recommend using them more that a few times in a school year. That keeps them fresh and exciting!
2. Guess-who Character Cards
If you haven’t taught it, here’s how it works:
- Provide each students with a picture of someone they are not familiar with. It could be a picture from an ad, a “Guess Who” game card, or a photo you find online. The important thing is that students don’t know the person.
- Have students write a quick description of the person. Encourage them to create as clear a detailed description as possible.
- Collect descriptions, post pictures around the room, redistribute descriptions and challenge students to match the picture with the description.
- challenges students to look at details in a photo. (If you need more descriptive writing activities, you might be interested in this post. )
- fun and fast — students love matching the description with the photo
- writing with a purpose – students know their descriptions must be accurate and specific
- encourages students to use descriptive words
- add to your beginner writing exercises to help students pay attention to details
Adjustments you may want to make:
- If you teach more than one section, swap descriptions so students need to read and match pictures and descriptions from a completely different class.
- Allow students to work with a partner
- Turn it into one of your writing games by providing points for correct matches.
3. Guess-who Characters — with a twist!
How it works:
- Follow the directions for the Guess-who character description above except instead of writing a description of the character, students write dialogue the character has.
- Students have the chance to see how dialogue tells us about a character.
- It provides writing with voice.
- P ractice writing dialogue .
- It’s one of those school writing prompts that really engages!
- Perfect to add to your creative writing lessons as a start of the year review of dialogue
- Allow students to work together with two different pictures. The characters in the pictures might be having a conversation, argument, or debate.
- Extend the lesson into a full scene that involves the character.
- Challenge students to write a backstory about the character.
4. Quirky prompts
Students love learning about the oddball holidays that are so popular (you can find them in my “What to teach this month” posts ).
How to do this:
- Choose a quirky holiday. It doesn’t have to be the holiday of the day — any quirky day will work!
- Ask students to plan a celebration for the day. They can write a flyer, an ad, a commercial, or create a party plan.
- Or have students describe what happens at this celebration. They can include as much description as possible.
- students love the quirkiness of this assignment!
- creative and imaginative
- these work for extra practice for creative writing lessons for high school or middle school
- If you have more time, you can give students different holidays. They can describe the celebration without naming it. Later, students can try to match the holiday and the description.
- Allow students to include illustrations with their descriptions.
- Ask students to come up with slogans, flag, or fashion wear for the holiday. Make sure they can justify their creation.
5. Use story starters!
You can find 22 story starters in my store!
How to use them:
- Print the story starter writing prompts (you may want to use cardstock).
- Distribute them to your students & let them get started.
Reasons to love these:
- your students will want to know what story starter their classmates have, so this makes for a great opportunity for students to read their writing aloud!
- super easy to use! Print and use.
- flexible creative writing activities for elementary, middle, or high school
- you can also use these as a “fast finisher” prompt or a warm up .
- incorporate them into your creative writing class.
- perfect for the end of the school year or before a break begins
- students can trade story starters and start over.
Ready for more?
Once your students are warmed up, give them the opportunity to really stretch their writing skills by crafting a short story.
This story writing activity will take your students through the entire writing process. You can find this one and other school writing activities in my shop .
Creative writing activities can challenge and stretch your students — give one of these a try!
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22 Writing Activities To Help Kids Hone Their Writing Skills
Written by Maria Kampen
Prodigy English is here! Get your students playing — and learning — today.
Fun writing activities
Creative writing activities, academic writing activities, at-home writing activities, daily writing activities, simple writing prompts for kids.
- How writing activities can bring reluctant writers out of their shells
Try some other educational activities
When kids start writing, they’re unlocking a whole new world of imagination to explore. It’s a great way for them to be creative, express themselves and practice key reading and writing skills.
But as most kids — and adults — will tell you, writing is hard! It can be intimidating to put pen to paper for the first time, and sometimes the challenge of a blank page seems like too much to overcome.
Writing shouldn’t be scary for kids. These 22 fun writing activities can help them:
- Use their imagination
- Think up new stories and ideas
- Share their writing with friends and family
Use them in your classroom or at home to get kids excited about writing!
Writing is supposed to be fun! Use these activities to help kids stretch their imagination and record their thoughts on paper in a fun, low-stress environment.
1. Try online ELA games like Prodigy English
Great for: Grades 1 to 6
Online games are a great way to engage students in the learning process — and Prodigy English is bringing the power of game-based learning to language and reading skill practice!
As students build and create, they’re always practicing key reading and language skills that help them write clearly and effectively. Every correct answer gives players more energy to gather resources, complete daily tasks and earn Wishcoins.
Plus, you can send questions about the topics you want them to practice and collect insights about their learning.
2. Poetry scavenger hunt
Great for: Middle and high school students
Words are all around us, so encourage your students to take inspiration from the real-life writing they see every day. Have students collect printed words and phrases from the world around them, including:
- Magazine ads
- Graphic novels
- Newspaper headlines
- Social media captions
Students can collect and arrange their words on a piece of paper to make a unique piece of poetry. Encourage them to find a key idea and expand on it in creative ways, then have students share their work with the class.
3. Create your own comic strip
Great for: Grades 4 to 10
Students learn in all sorts of ways. For visual learners, creating a comic strip to accompany their story can help them express themselves in a visual medium.
Give students a set number of panels and challenge them to come up with a quick story — just a few sentences. Then, they can illustrate their scene in the style of comic books.
Remind students the point isn’t to be the best artist — it’s to write a story that’s short and exciting.
4. Create your own Madlib
Great for: Elementary and middle school students
Give students vocabulary practice and help them write a silly story at the same time!
Fill a sheet with the outline of the story, then remove key words like:
For younger students, add a word bank to get them started. As students fill in words, they’ll craft a unique story filled with unexpected twists and turns.
Once students start getting in the habit of writing, these creative writing activities can pull new ideas out of their heads and encourage them to experiment with different genres.
Great for: Grades 3 to 8
Acrostic poems are a great way to introduce your students to poetry! Start with a meaningful word or name and use it as a theme for the poem.
Writing the word vertically, students can go down the letters and write a short word or phrase that starts with each letter. Acrostic poems help students write within a structure and theme, so it’s easier for them to get started.
6. A letter to your future self
Great for: Middle school and high school
Where do your students see themselves in a year? Five years? Ten years?
A letter to their future selves is a great way for students to explore their own story, and brainstorm what they want to achieve. Not only can students practice their letter-writing skills, they can use their imaginations to develop a growth mindset .
For extra nostalgia, store the letters for students and mail them out once the right amount of time has passed.
7. Write a “Choose your own adventure” story
Great for: Grades 5 and up
Whether it’s a fairy tale, detective story or drama, chances are you’ve had a student tell you they don’t know how their story is supposed to end.
A “Choose-your-own-adventure” story lets students brainstorm different storylines and endings. Once they’re done, encourage them to share their stories with the class so their peers can go on the adventure too.
8. Write a fake advertisement
Great for: Grades 6 and up
Good writing doesn’t just happen in books — it’s all around us!
Whether students are writing advertisements on their own or as part of a project-based learning assignment , this activity helps them build key media literacy skills and practice their snappy storytelling.
Have students make up a new product and advertisement, or encourage them to re-imagine an ad for something they love. It’s also a great way to bring media literacy and interdisciplinary learning to your classroom.
9. Make a story map
Great for: Grades 2 to 8
Not every student is going to be comfortable putting pen to paper right away. Story maps can help students brainstorm details like plot, characters and setting in a way that makes sense for visual learners.
Have students use charts to set out the beginning, middle and end of their stories. Mind maps can also help them plot out details about their characters or setting.
Encourage students to present their story map as a finished product or use it to start writing!
Writing isn’t all fairy tales and short stories — it’s also an important part of learning in middle school, high school and college. Use these academic writing activities to help students understand proper essay structure, grammar and more.
10. Story chains
Great for: Grades 4 to 8
Stories are better when they’re enjoyed with friends and classmates. And story chains encourage every student to get involved!
Put students in small groups of three to six. Give each student a blank piece of paper and have them write the beginning of a story. Then, pass it to the next student in the group so they can write what happens next.
For extra educational value, have students work together to summarize a story from your lesson or an important historical event.
11. Persuasive essays
Sometimes writing is about more than just telling a story. It’s about convincing your readers of your point of view.
Have older students practice their debate skills with persuasive essays. Start with a prompt, then let students make their case. Some of our favorite prompts for this writing assignment include:
- Is it more important to be right or to not hurt someone else’s feelings?
- What important historical figure do you think belongs on the ten-dollar bill and why?
- Do you think you’re born with your personality traits, or do you gain them as you grow up?
Most importantly, make sure students back up their opinions with solid facts and arguments that convince readers to care.
12. Solve a real-world problem
Great for: Grade 6 and up
Climate change, litter, bullying, bad cafeteria food — no matter what students pick, there are lots of real-world problems for them to solve.
Challenge students with a writing assignment that addresses a problem they see in their world. How would they fix it? Whether it’s a short paragraph or a longer essay, encourage them to find something they’re passionate about. After all, that’s where good writing comes from!
13. Vocabulary challenge
Great for: Elementary school students
Vocabulary challenges combine vocabulary strategies with student writing to make your next language arts lesson plan even more engaging.
Give students a new word (or two or three). Once you’re done practicing it and they know what it means, challenge them to use it in a story as creatively as possible.
14. Teach citations
Great for: Grades 1 to 12
Footnotes, endnotes and bibliographies are the least exciting part of writing, but they’re essential skills. As students write more complex research papers, they need to know how to give credit where credit is due. Thankfully, there are lots of online resources to help!
The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers teachers and students resources for all stages of the writing process, including citations. To practice, students can write an annotated bibliography as part of a project-based learning assignment or the first step in writing a longer research paper.
Writing isn’t just something happening in the classroom. These at-home writing ideas can help you support your child as they experiment with prose and poetry.
15. Write letters to a pen pal
Great for: Grades 3 and up
Everyone likes getting mail! Got a friend with kids in a different part of the country, or far-away family members? A pen pal can be a great way for kids to build friendships and practice their writing skills at the same time.
16. Bring a home object to life
“It’s as big as a mountain!”
“That’s the fluffiest thing I’ve ever felt!”
The ways kids describe things can crack us up sometimes. Full of wonder and hyperbole, it’s the perfect spark for creative writing, too.
Encourage kids to practice their figurative language skills with a description of something in your home. Let them pack as much alliteration and exaggeration into the description as they can, then do a dramatic reading out loud.
17. Write reading reactions
If you want to boost reading comprehension and writing skills at the same time, this is the perfect activity. After your child is done reading, encourage them to write a few sentences about what they just read.
Did they like it? What do they think happens next? Which character was their favorite and why? Learning how to express opinions in writing is a valuable skill.
18. Document family stories
Great for: Grades 4 and up
Every family has a unique story, including yours. Make memories with your child when you share stories about important family events or your childhood.
Kids can even interview grandparents, aunts and uncles to record their memories. When you’re done, store them in a shared space so everyone can go back and reminisce.
Writing is a muscle, and you have to flex it every day to get stronger. Use these daily writing activities to make writing part of your everyday routine.
Great for: Everyone
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta write it out.
Whether you’re trying to make sense of life or just need a place to organize your thoughts, journaling is a great way to unwind, practice mindfulness and build social emotional skills .
All kids need to get started is a notebook and a pen. Let them know you’re not going to read it, but they’re welcome to come to you if there’s something they want to talk about.
20. Blog about your interests
Great for: High school and up
Everyone’s passionate about something. Whatever your students love, encourage them to share it with the world! Blogging is an accessible and fun way to express themselves, nerd out about the things that bring them joy and share their opinions with the world.
Sites like WordPress and Wix offer free website builders to help students get started. This is a great way for kids to build computer skills and digital literacy .
21. Free writing
Write, write, write and don’t stop. That’s the premise behind free writing, a writing practice that can help unlock creativity, discover new ideas and take the pressure out of a blank page.
Give students a five-minute timer and challenge them to write continuously, without worrying about formatting, spelling or grammar. They can write about whatever they want, but there’s only one rule: don’t stop.
22. Answer daily writing prompts
Make time to exercise your brain with daily writing prompts! At the start of the day or as a quick brain break , set aside time for students to respond to a quick daily writing prompt.
Students should have a dedicated journal or binder to make it a seamless part of your lessons. Whether or not you choose to read their writing is up to you, but it’s important to build good daily habits.
A blank page can be a scary sight for a student who doesn’t know what to write about.
Use writing prompts to:
- Kickstart a student’s imagination
- Start your lesson with a fun writing activity
- Give students a topic to debate in writing
Some of our favorite simple writing prompts include:
- Write a story about a wooden door, a can of soda and a blue shoe.
- If you met a monster looking for new friends, what would you do?
- What’s your favorite season? What makes it the best?
- If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
- Describe your dream birthday cake.
- Write a story about being cold without using the word “cold.”
- If you could decorate your bedroom any way you wanted, what would it look like?
- Is it better to have lots of friends or just a few really good friends?
- Write a story in 10 words or less.
- Write a story about the best surprise you’ve ever received.
For more writing prompts you can use in and out of the classroom, check out our full list of 225 writing prompts for kids .
Writing activities can bring reluctant writers out of their shells
Writing is hard and can be intimidating for a lot of students.
But even the quietest and most reluctant students have lots of stories to tell! You just have to encourage them to get their words out.
Writing activities help remove some of the pressure and give students:
- A fun way to approach writing
- A starting point for their stories
- Chances to share their writing with students
No two stories are the same, just like your students. Every story can start in a different way, and that’s the beauty of writing prompts.
Whether it’s writing activities or math problems, there are lots of ways to get reluctant learners excited about your lessons with educational activities.
Here are some of our favorites:
- 37 Quick & Easy Brain Breaks for Kids
- 30 Virtual School Activities Students & Educators Love
- 27 Best Educational Games for Kids to Play Sorted by Subject
- 15 Geometry Activities to Engage Students Across Grade Levels
- 36 Fun Word Games for Kids To Help with Vocabulary & Literacy
- 15 Fun, Free & Effective Multiplication Games For Your Classroom
- 20 Exciting Math Games for Kids to Skyrocket New Math Skills On-The-Go
- 21 Classroom Games to Boost Teacher Effectiveness and Student Learning
- 25 Social Emotional Learning Activities & How They Promote Student Well-Being
Which ones can you use in your next lesson?
Prodigy English is a brand-new game-based learning platform helping students build key math skills. As students explore and build a world of their very own, they’ll answer curriculum-aligned reading and language questions that help build essential skills and encourage a love of learning.
Sign up for your free teacher account and get access to teacher tools that help you differentiate learning and track student progress as they play.
Here you can find activities to practise your writing skills. You can improve your writing by understanding model texts and how they're organised.
The learning materials in this section are written and organised by level. There are different types of model texts, with writing tips and interactive exercises that practise the writing skills you need to do well at school, get good marks in your tests and exams, and get more out of your free-time activities.
Take our free online English test to find out which level to choose. Select your level, from beginner (CEFR level A1) to advanced (CEFR level C1), and improve your writing skills at any time and at your own speed.
Choose a level
Are you an elementary (CEFR level A1) learner of English? Practise and improve your writing skills with these texts and exercises.
Are you a pre-intermediate (CEFR level A2) learner of English? Practise and improve your writing skills with these texts and exercises.
Are you an intermediate (CEFR level B1) learner of English? Practise and improve your writing skills with these texts and exercises.
Are you an upper intermediate (CEFR level B2) learner of English? Practise and improve your writing skills with these texts and exercises.
Are you an advanced (CEFR level C1) learner of English? Practise and improve your writing skills with these texts and exercises.
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10 Fresh Writing Prompts for High School English
They won’t be able to put their pens down.
By the time students walk in the door of our secondary ELA classrooms, they’re not exactly new to writing assignments. They’ve done autobiographies. Short stories. Love stories. Scary stories. They’ve journaled and summarized and analyzed. So how do we bring the spark back into writing for them? What can we secondary teachers offer in terms of fresh and exciting writing prompts and assignments? Here are 10 writing prompts for high school students to get them excited about writing in the new year.
1. The TED Talk
There are a lot of amazing TED Talks out there that students love. Launch a TED Talk unit by showing this one, from Tim Urban, called “ Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator .” Talk about what makes it powerful. Have students create TED Talks of their own, sharing a startling story, a piece of wisdom, or an idea from their own lives. Wrap it all up with a mock TED conference at your school, inviting parents, other classes, and administrators, if you wish.
2. Video Writing Prompts
If you’re looking for some unusual, short and sweet writing options, check out John Spencer’s Creative Writing Prompts for Students playlist. It features short videos meant to inspire students to think in creative ways. With clips like “What Are Five Things You Want Your Teacher to Know About You?” and “Invent a New Class,” these short pieces can also help you learn more about your writers.
3. Love Poems
What teenager doesn’t harbor some (not so) secret crush? Creating a unit around great love poems, both canonical and modern (e.g. spoken word poetry like this ), will help students get excited about writing their own love poems. Explore various forms, from haiku to sonnet to totally free expression, then create a class anthology of love poems, including both the greats and selections from your own writers.
4. Graduation Speeches
We’ve all sat in the audience of a graduation and wondered what we would talk about if we were on stage speaking. Give students the chance to find out. As the year comes to a close, invite them to write their own charge to the graduating class. What would they say to inspire the seniors? Something to make them laugh? Something to make them cry? Consider having your class vote on the top three pieces and printing them to give to the graduates.
5. Choice Blogging
Students always perk up for an authentic audience and a connection to the real world. Introduce them to one of the many free blogging platforms and let them blog about a topic that truly interests them. Choice blogging makes a great genius-hour option. You can devote one day a week (or every other week) to letting students write about their passions on their own blogs, simply by assigning a different topic each week. Start with list posts, review posts, news posts, video posts, and top-ten posts. Eventually, you can let them choose their own format, as long as they produce a post each week. You can find a full walk-through for setting up this type of project in my own blog post, “ A Beginner’s Guide to Student Blogging .”
6. Fold and Pass
When you try the fold and pass, you’re guaranteed to end up with some very surprising stories. Ask each student to begin a story on a blank piece of paper, introducing a main character. After a while, have them stop and fold their paper then trade with another student. You want the next person to only be able to see the last couple of lines of the beginning. In this next round, everyone will write the middle of the story, taking the character into some kind of conflict before moving the story toward resolution. Finally, have those students fold their papers so only a few lines are visible and trade with another student. When the next writers begin, let them know that they should bring the stories to an end. Then they should return the story to the original writer. The results will no doubt make everyone laugh. This is a great activity for when students need a bit of a break but you still want to keep them writing and building community in your classroom.
This writing assignment is not for the faint of heart! The NANOWRIMO challenge invites anyone interested in writing a novel to do so in one month (November). If you’re interested in exploring this ambitious mission with your students, their site is full of helpful information. You could also do a spin-off, asking students to write a novella in a month or perhaps a short story a day for seven days. Take the idea of a big and exciting challenge and make it work for your classroom.
8. “This I Believe” Essays
If you’ve never heard NPR’s old radio series “This I Believe,” it’s a great listen. People from around the country sent in short essays expressing a core belief, which could be as funny and simple as: I believe in the pizza delivery guy. Along with sharing a belief, writers gave specific, vibrant examples of why they held that belief and how they came to have it. It’s an easy format that helps students develop their ability to support claims and write with specific and powerful descriptions. NPR has already created a complete curriculum that is ready and waiting for you to use.
9. Letters to Students Far, Far Away
Several years ago, I taught in Bulgaria, and I loved connecting my students there to students in the United States. We did several projects involving writing back and forth about our views and ourselves.
Finding a collaborative classroom partner gives your students a real reason to write, new friends, and the chance to break down some boundaries. Try connecting your classroom to one in another country or even just in another part of the US. Join a Facebook group for teachers (like one of these ) and make a post to find a partner.
Seriously. I’m not kidding. During their lives, your students will probably write a gazillion emails. Why not teach them how to write a good one? Take back electronic communication from the clutches of sentence fragments, emoticons, and confusing demands. I love this post from teachwriting.org, which features ideas for how to get started with an email etiquette unit.
What are your favorite writing prompts for high school? Share them in the comments below!
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Writing Assignments for High School: Getting Started
What writing assignments for high school students will you introduce to a new class? High school writing assignments can shape the learning environment you want and provide important data.
The back to school rush will end. Routines, established. New shoes, broken in. Fresh notebooks, scribbled on. Maybe you’ve discussed the power of writing and language .
First writing assignments, assigned. Students will write a paragraph, a paper, a reflection of some sort. Diving into teaching writing can be a slow process, or with older students, it can begin those first days of class. Here is what I know from teaching over a dozen years: Those first writing assignments with a new class, matter.
Students likely won’t produce papers at the start of the year with polished elements, meeting the standards for that particular class. (Of course.) Older students will have an idea of your expectations, of the work a paper requires. Still, it is important to establish expectations so students understand your goals with them. It is only fair that students understand the standards.
Today, I’m talking about those first writing assignments. Dependent upon your community and classes, these ideas will look different for most teachers.
For the sake of this blog post, we’ll imagine a regular class. A class that doesn’t immediately produce near-perfection, and a class that has an overall idea of how to create a paper. I think the majority of classes fall into this segment. Some students enjoy writing; some don’t. A percentage want to be better writers; others don’t.
How do you determine which writing element to address first? How do I start writing assignments for high school students?
This is my process for those first writing assignments for high school students in a new class.
Students appreciate knowing that their teachers are on their side and that teachers will help them. As I first learn about my students as writers, I explain that I want to see where they are. Older students appreciate teachers not reteaching, which they rightfully see as boring.I’ve found that the writing prompt doesn’t matter much. As I read their writing, I’m gathering data.
The data that I gather is a starting point. I want to:
- know areas where students are proficient or excelling.
- identify areas where students need help.
- understand my students as writers.
I’ve established data in many ways. Typically, I ask students to write a paragraph. (You can download my first day writing activities for free.) I also use that opportunity to respond to students’ ideas. Doing that builds relationships.
After that initial writing exercise, I move to a larger assignment, our first writing assignment. Before assigning that, we work together to create expectations.
Outline expectations and rules
As a teacher, I worry that I don’t present information that I believe I have presented. I never want my error to cause a student to stumble. Plus, students often appreciate having material to consult as they work at home or in study hall.
I have an extremely long presentation that I break up into weeks because showing it all in one or two days would put students to sleep. No one would pay attention, and I can’t blame them. This presentation is always modified and is always built together with students.
And yes, I want students to add their ideas to our collaborative presentation. However, I want to establish common terms and expectations. For instance, I use the terms “topic sentence” and “thesis statement.” I know other teachers who use “claim.” Never do I want students to be confused! We discuss the ideas together, and practice writing them together; we take notes and discuss ideas together. Instead of making the process boring, I work to build relationships with students through this process.
Next, we collaborate and add details together as a class to this presentation. Our brainstorming methods, inside jokes, and collaborations sit in this presentation for anyone to access. We consult the presentation throughout our semester together.
Then, if I need to review throughout the year, all of our ideas are in one location. I typically share mine on Google Classroom . As we continue with this first writing assignment, I am sure to reference the presentation that we were building together. One piece of our master presentation is prewriting methods, a very valuable high school writing assignment.
Establish prewriting habits
Students think you’re giving them extra work with prewriting, so stress that you’re not: You’re saving them time. Writing assignments for high school students should allow for brainstorming, thinking, and prewriting. I model the writing process with students with a fun activity that allows everyone to participate.
Overwhelmed students give up on their papers, or they become increasingly frustrated, less willing to work. Prewriting provides a concrete reference point. It gets all the ideas out in the open. It gives students a direction, and it provides you with an opportunity to restructure a paper and provide feedback before students devote tons of time.
Concerning prewriting, a key aspect I acknowledge is the amount of strong ideas from students. This is true! Teens have interesting perspectives; getting those ideas on paper in a sensible fashion becomes the obstacle. Lots of modeling on my part builds strong prewriting habits for students. I am also honest with them: Every prewriting method is different for every person.
Any format (web, outline, list) works, and I allow students to choose which format works best for them. (This is a bonus for teaching older students!) If you’re assigning points for prewriting, clarify that effort is the goal. Prewriting needn’t be neat or perfect.
I ask students to list what each body paragraph’s focus will be. Then I read over those ideas with the students. We decide if ideas are too similar, out of focus with the topic, or are illogical. With the first writing assignment, I conference early. Not only do these conferences allow for the prewriting and organizing of a paper, but they also allow me to focus on difficult areas.
What are the most egregious errors? Right away, I don’t jump into difficult concepts like parallelism, but rather, I focus on grammar errors that are causing breakdowns in papers—confusing parts. In some high school classes, I’ve had to review confusing words along with possessives. That’s rare, but most often I cover sentence problems such as fragments, run-ons, and comma splices at the start of the year. As we work through those first papers, I target where students struggle.
The assignments to help students identify and correct these errors vary. I’ve never used the same exact material in the exact order from year to year. Each class has unique needs and learning styles. Some classes will never need to cover misplaced modifiers; others will need grammar sorts and direct instruction to understand the problem of punctuation, parallelism, and on.
Address those reoccurring problems that multiple students face. This not only will provide direction for grammar and language instruction, but will also show students they are capable of improving their writing in small ways.
Strengthen the core
The core of papers, the nuts and bolts, the thesis, introduction, conclusion, and such will probably need strengthened. Older students know these terms, but they might not realize the expectations yet. As they mature and their writing develops, those elements should mature too. A thesis written in fifth grade should differ from one written in tenth grade.
With the first writing assignment, students might benefit from samples and mentor texts. Writing alongside students helps too.
Introductions and conclusions should relate and wrap a paper together. Write with students, and model the struggles you face. Provide varying ways to develop these elements. If I don’t use graphic organizers , I will create anchor charts. Then, we as a class have developed expectations and can reference that chart.
Writing is difficult. Some students will never care for writing. Encouragement can begin immediately with a new class. I begin building relationships immediately, and I am intentional in incorporating encouragement into conversations.
I assign writing assignments for high school students right away. Actually, I assign one the first or second day of class so that I can gauge where students are. Students get full credit for this paper as long as they produce a paper, normally a paragraph. I also keep this paper so that as class progresses, I can return it to students on a particularly rough day. You know: the days when multiple students confide that they can’t do it, that they are terrible writers, that grammar is the devil’s spawn.
Show them that they are good writers, that they have grown, and that their writing assignments have improved. Mark great examples for your writing lesson plans ! The process will come together for you and them.
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