By Teachers, For Teachers
By the time students arrive in high school, we are teaching them to write for the real world, not the next grade level. In college and careers, students will be required to do three primary types of writing:
Informative writing requires explaining a topic or process. This could be analyzing a piece of literature, explaining a process, or summarizing a topic. This type of writing is useful for students to clarify and express their understanding of any topic. This type of writing requires students to make statements, not form or shape opinions.
This type of writing prompt asks students to take a stance on a position, while also considering other points of view by making claims and counterclaims. This type of writing also often requires research and critical thinking skills for students to arrive at an opinion. Topics of interest to teenagers, such as social media or driving age laws, make engaging prompts.
In a narrative essay, students are asked to write about experiences that shape their lives and flex their creative writing skills. These are easy prompts in the sense that everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. It is difficult, however, to help students choose a story with meaningful implications, rather than just entertainment value. Once a story is chosen, students must learn how to punctuate dialogue and develop character, all of which can be difficult within the scope of an essay.
The writing process is the foundation for all of these types of writing. Students should follow this same basic process for all assignments.
During this stage, students brainstorm ideas, choose their best ideas, and create outlines or graphic organizers.
At this point, students begin putting ideas into sentences and paragraphs using transitions. At this stage, students should not concentrate on grammar, spelling, or punctuation, but instead on explaining their ideas.
Revision involves looking at the work from your reader’s perspective. Students check for clarity and refine their style.
During this stage, students check their work, as well as other students’ work for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Students share their finished work with others. They might share it with the class, share it on social media, send it in a letter, or publish it in a traditional medium.
Engaging high school students in any type of writing can be very difficult. Here are some creative writing prompt ideas that can help:
Video prompts use multi-media to immerse students in the prompt. Teachers create or find a video that explains the topic and outlines essay expectations. If shared digitally, students can re-play these video prompts to assist them in the writing process. Helpful resources can be linked from the video. This is a good option for a flipped classroom or an assignment that teachers want students to be able to access at various locations and times. It is also a great way to hook students into the process.
TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks can work in two ways: One way is to use engaging TED Talks to provide writing material for students. Using this strategy, students watch TED Talks and write essays reflecting on the material in the talk. The other strategy involves students creating a TED Talk to accompany their writing assignments. TED Talks are a great way to integrate public speaking and multi-media skills into the English Language Arts curriculum.
Students are prompted to write a commencement speech. Teachers can show some models of this type of writing, as well as videos of actual commencement speeches. Students can be prompted to write about lessons they have learned, people they have known, and hopes for the future. Much like TED Talks, students can also perform these speeches for the class.
Teachers can ask students to compare and contrast a modern love poem with a canonical one. How is the perspective different? How is it the same? Students can also write a poem of their own.
Choose a free blogging platform and allow students to blog about something that interests them. Students can take turns being the “teacher” and posting prompts for the rest of the students. This option would require teacher moderation of content, of course, but encourages students to have fun writing.
Global letters are pen pals for the digital age. Students can choose a student in another state or even another country with whom to correspond. Again, this writing would require teacher supervision and coordination with other teachers.
Most students today will be enrolling in some sort of post-secondary program after high school. Writing college entrance essays helps students practice this style of writing and receive feedback. These types of essays often require students to reflect on experiences that have shaped them so far, along with what they can contribute to the college to which they are applying.
No matter the type of writing, a consistent process and interesting, fun writing prompts will help students write their best works.
Lindsay is a middle school principal and holds an M.A. in Educational Leadership.