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10 Fresh Writing Prompts for High School English

They won’t be able to put their pens down.

Betsy Potash

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,  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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I love to help high school English teachers innovate. Check out The Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast on iTunes for creative teaching strategies delivered on the go, or get my popular pack of free one-pager templates with complete instructions at

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english writing assignments for high school students

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Here you can find activities to practise your writing skills. You can improve your writing by understanding model texts and how they're organised.

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english writing assignments for high school students

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4 Engaging Writing Tasks for High School Students

Short, authentic writing tasks can encourage high school students to compose richer long pieces.

english writing assignments for high school students

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.

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english writing assignments for high school students

Creative Writing Prompts For High School Students – 12 Categories

english writing assignments for high school students

Are you a high school student struggling to find inspiration for your creative writing assignments? Do you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and can’t seem to come up with new and exciting ideas? If so, you’re not alone. 

Many students struggle with coming up with ideas for creative writing, especially when they feel pressure to produce something original and engaging. 

But the good news is that there are ways to break through the block and find inspiration for your writing. 

For instance, by attending our award-winning creative writing summer programme , you’ll learn how to conquer the fear of the blank page. How? By learning proven formulas for creating brilliant stories. 

Another way to have that creative spark is to use creative writing prompts. 

This article will provide creative high school students like yourself with a list of creative writing prompts. So you’ll get the inspiration you need to get into the flow and start writing!

What are Writing Prompts?

Writing prompts are ideas that help writers overcome writer’s block and get started with their writing. They can come in various forms, including a

Creative writing prompts get your creative juices flowing. When you encounter a writing prompt, it encourages you to start writing!

What types of writing, you ask? It can be anything from fiction writing to essay writing. Creative writing prompts are even used to get you started with freewriting in your daily journal.

So you see, many writers find writing prompts a quick and easy way to begin a new writing project. Or to overcome writer’s block when they are stuck.

How Do You Use Writing Prompts?

There are many different ways to use writing prompts. Here are a few ideas:

Use writing prompts to start a new writing project. 

Are you having trouble coming up with ideas for a new writing project? Try using a writing prompt to get started. You can use a writing prompt as the starting point for a 

Use writing prompts to overcome writer’s block. 

Stuck on a particular piece of writing and can’t seem to move forward? Use writing prompts to brainstorm on how to proceed!

Use writing prompts to practice your writing skills. 

As the old adage says, practice makes perfect! You can use writing prompts to practice different writing techniques or styles. Or try out different writing genres!

Use writing prompts to challenge yourself. 

You can use writing prompts to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try writing about things you might not usually write about.

Say your comfort zone is writing fantasy stories. And you want to try something new. Why not use scary writing prompts as a starting point?

To use a writing prompt, choose a prompt that interests you and start writing. There are no hard and fast rules about how to use writing prompts – the important thing is to just start writing and see where the prompt takes you!

Creative Writing Prompts High School Students will Love

Write a story about a character who:

Or, check out the other prompts too:

Creative High School Poetry Writing Prompts

Write a poem about a/an:

Writing Prompts with an Element of Suspense

Writing Prompts for Stories That Start with Dialogue

Start your story with a conversation between two characters who are:

Writing Prompts That Ask “What if?”

What if you:

Funny Writing Prompts for High School

Do you have a brother or sister in middle school? Our middle school writing prompts are a great way for them to get into the flow of creative writing effectively.

Journal Prompts for High School Creative Writing

Non-Fiction Writing Prompts

Write an essay about a/an:

Adventurous Short Story Prompts

Write a story about a character who goes on a:

Science Fiction Short Story Prompts

Scary Short Story Prompts

Fantasy Short Story Prompts

Need more Creative Writing prompts? Check out this article entitled “ 308 Creative Writing Prompts To Unlock Your Writing Skills .”

How Else Can I Improve My Creative Writing Skills?

1. read widely.

Reading improves your writing skills by exposing you to different 

Did you know reading widens your vocabulary? It does! And vocabulary is an essential aspect of effective writing. The more words you know, the more effectively you can communicate your ideas.

Also, reading helps improve your comprehension and critical thinking skills. Both of these are valuable for analysing and synthesising information. So you’ll learn how to present ideas clearly in your writing.

2. Write Regularly…and Don’t Stop!

Think of writing as a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it becomes! Writing regularly makes you feel more comfortable and confident. 

What’s more, it helps you develop your own voice and style. Once you hone the aspects that make you unique , you’ll stand out more! 

Writing regularly also gives you a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. And you’ll be able to refine your writing accordingly. 

The more you write, the better you will become at it. So maximise our creative writing prompts and make time to write every day. Even if it’s just for a few minutes!

3. Experiment with Different Writing Styles

Do you know that experimenting with different writing styles and techniques expands your writing skills? Why? Because doing so makes you a versatile writer. Able to adapt your style to different situations and audiences. 

For example, writing poems even when you’re not used to poetry-writing forces you to think . To imagine and create! As a result? You get out of your comfort zone and explore. And you’re better able to reimagine your craft. 

What are the common writing styles?

4. Join a Writing Community!

What better way to keep you motivated than by joining a writing community? A writing community provides support and encouragement. Being surrounded by like-minded folks passionate about writing can be a great source of inspiration!

Plus, you’ll be exposed to different writing styles and techniques. Which can help you expand your horizon and help you become a more versatile writer.

Joining a writing community can also be a great way to get feedback on your writing. Helping you identify areas for improvement. 

Finally, do you know a writing community can be a great source of information and resources? Members often share valuable writing tips and strategies.

5. Enrol In A Creative Writing Course

What is one of the most effective methods in fast-tracking you to massive improvement in your writing skills? Taking a creative writing course!

Why does taking a creative writing course help you improve your writing skills? Because you’ll learn from experienced writers. While having the opportunity to practice writing under the watchful eye of expert tutors. 

Creative writing prompts are useful for high school students looking for inspiration for new and original ideas. You can overcome writer’s block by tapping into your creativity in a new and exciting way.

These prompts will challenge and inspire you. So give them a try and see what amazing stories and ideas you can come up with!

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english writing assignments for high school students

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The best writing prompts for high school

Ah, high school. The birthplace of future geniuses, the setting of a million Young Adult books — and the cutting ground of many a brilliant young author. Writing in the classroom is often the best outlet of creativity for kids, and what better way to get your students excited about it than through creative writing prompts for high school students?

Whether you use journal prompts or story ideas to kickstart your high school student’s imagination, writing prompts are sure to help broaden their thinking, sharpen their writing skills, record their thoughts, and get them to engage with the world around them.

If you're looking to cut to the chase, here's a top ten list of writing prompts for high school students:

If you have a high school student who’s interested in becoming an author, check out our free resources on the topic:

Develop a Writing Routine (free course) — Any high schooler who’s serious about becoming a published author should know that writing a book doesn’t just take talent. 90% of the process is sitting in front of a blank piece of paper, and having the drive and commitment to put words to paper. That’s why we created this free course, which shows people of any age how to develop a writing routine that works for you. It’s never too early to start the process today!

Want to encourage your high school students to start writing? Check out Reedsy’s weekly short story contest , for the chance of winning $250! You can also check out our list of writing contests or our directory of literary magazines for more opportunities to submit your story.

Find the perfect editor for your next book

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Explore more writing prompt ideas:

Adults Writing Prompts ⭢

Adventure Writing Prompts ⭢

Angst Writing Prompts ⭢

Character Writing Prompts ⭢

Christmas Writing Prompts ⭢

Dark Writing Prompts ⭢

Dialogue Writing Prompts ⭢

Dramatic Writing Prompts ⭢

Dystopian Writing Prompts ⭢

Fall Writing Prompts ⭢

Fantasy Writing Prompts ⭢

Fiction Writing Prompts ⭢

Fluff Writing Prompts ⭢

Funny Writing Prompts ⭢

Halloween Writing Prompts ⭢

High School Writing Prompts ⭢

Historical Fiction Writing Prompts ⭢

Holiday Writing Prompts ⭢

Horror Writing Prompts ⭢

Kids Writing Prompts ⭢

Middle School Writing Prompts ⭢

Mystery Writing Prompts ⭢

Narrative Writing Prompts ⭢

Nonfiction Writing Prompts ⭢

Novel Writing Prompts ⭢

Poetry Writing Prompts ⭢

Romance Writing Prompts ⭢

Sad Writing Prompts ⭢

Science Fiction Writing Prompts ⭢

Short Story Writing Prompts ⭢

Spring Writing Prompts ⭢

Summer Writing Prompts ⭢

Teens Writing Prompts ⭢

Thanksgiving Writing Prompts ⭢

Thriller and Suspense Writing Prompts ⭢

Valentine's Day Writing Prompts ⭢

Vampire Writing Prompts ⭢

Winter Writing Prompts ⭢

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english writing assignments for high school students

5 Outside the Box Creative Writing Assignments for ELA

For some, the idea of creative writing assignments in ELA is exciting. You might have students in your classroom who are regularly honing their writing skills at home, on their own time. On the other hand , you may have some students who haven’t done much creative writing at all. In fact, they might look at writing as less an opportunity and more as a punishment.

Strong creative writing assignments will provide unique challenges and rewards for all of your students . It will provide the necessary framework to help reluctant creative writers and the necessary guidelines to give focus to your most exuberant. It should also not simply focus on the end product, but on the overall creative process, like planning and outlining at the outset, and editing and revision at the end.

Above all, though, a strong creative writing assignment should be interesting to you and your students. It should serve to incite creative passion in your classroom, and that’s why I’m excited to share my 5 favorite outside-the-box creative writing assignments for ELA to inspire even your most reluctant writers.

Creative Writing Video Bundle


Remember mixtapes?! If you don’t, you’re probably far younger than I am. 😉 Well, one of my favorite writing assignments is to get students to make one of their own.

First, you’ll have students choose ten songs that represent them in some way, and then you’ll have them write about their connection to each song. I like to make it really old school and have them separate their choices into Side A and Side B songs as a kind of tracklist. Warning: your students may have no clue what a B-Side song is…

I’ve always found music to be an effective way to get my students engaged in conversations around creative writing, whether they’re writing it or reading it. After all, song lyrics have so much in common with poetry. Alongside writing about each song, the Soundtrack of Your Life assignment prompts students to plan the overall structure of the mixtape as a whole and write about how the collective meaning of the songs connects to their lives.

I also love using a hand-drawn introductory video made by John Spencer to introduce the assignment to students and give them a little background information on what a mixtape is!

Soundtrack of Your Life Creative Writing Assignment for Middle and High School ELA


Teenagers always feel misunderstood, am I right?  They often get a bad rep, and this writing assignment tackles this notion perfectly.

I love getting students to write an open letter discussing the seven greatest misunderstandings that they think people have about their generation . They make a case for why they are different than how they are perceived. I like this one a lot because it provokes students to write convincingly and passionately at the outset. I mean, if someone were to have asked me to explain the ways my generation was misunderstood when I was their age, I could’ve easily written an incredibly long list.

What’s great about this assignment is that students get to learn about a seldomly discussed yet important form of writing: the open letter. Open letters are usually written in protest or as an appeal for a person or a group of people to change their opinion on a particular topic.

You might consider providing prompts to the students to help them formulate their lists. Try asking questions like,

Resource materials for Writing an Open Letter about My Generation


Another creative writing assignment idea is to have students write a personal narrative inspired by the memories of three textures . The feeling of the sand between your fingers at a certain beach you’d visit as a child, squishing Play-Doh between your fingers, or even cookie crumbs on your hands at grandma’s house. You get the idea. Students will focus on their five senses—and their tactile senses in particular.

They might simply choose textures that bring back fond memories, or they might go so far as to choose textures that are collectively symbolic of their ideals and values!

You’ll want to encourage your students to go into as much descriptive detail as possible when describing their three textures.

Can you think of three textures that have been important in your life? It takes some brainstorming, doesn’t it? That’s why I like to provide a planning sheet with questions for each texture. This makes a great starting point for your students.


We know our students learn a lot of important lessons outside of school. They learn important lessons from the sports they play, from the friends they make, from all the things they do. They are always learning. Everywhere they go.

The same was true of us, of course: much of what we learned came from inside the classroom, but some of it—a lot of it—came from outside. Another creative writing idea is to have students design their own school .

I first have students brainstorm what school would be like and what a typical day would look like, hour-by-hour, at their new school. You might consider having them get peer feedback by having them share their initial concept with a partner. Then, to take it to the next level, get students to develop a promotional advertisement to recruit other students!

Design a School Middle and High School Creative Writing Assignments


Ok, this last writing assignment is really fun! For this one, students get to write about something that they “geek out” on .

We all seem to have at least one interest in life that brings us joy every time we get to discuss it. Incorporating this joy into a creative writing assignment is a great way to engage every student. It’s also a great way to establish the mentality that creative writing should ultimately be enjoyable. We’ve heard the cliché “write about what you know.” This assignment pushes that idea further to write what you love .

Students will also get to practice writing a listicle. A listicle is a piece of writing or other content presented wholly or partly in the form of a list. It’s a common form used by bloggers and journalists. In other words, it looks something like what you’ve been reading here!

I hope you found these creative writing assignments for ELA helpful! Best of luck teaching creative writing in your class.

Want more ideas for creative writing? One of my favorite ways to get students writing is with snowball writing .

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