Whether you're a student or a teacher, these writing prompts for high school students are going to come in handy if you're looking to inspire better writing. Often, kids get stuck – confused, exasperated, irritated – putting their thoughts on paper, because they're bored with the same old book reports, essays and summaries. But one of the only ways to become a better writer is to keep at it whether the assignment is motivational or not. You're never going to become a better 3-point shooter if you don't stand behind the line and make the shots. Writing is the same way. You have to get in there and give it a go. Here are some writing prompts for high school students that may just inspire you or your students to give those ideas rattling around in your brain some room to breathe.
4-Item 1-Paragraph Story
Come up with four things:
- A specific source of a light (a flashing neon light reading: "21 and Over", a flickering florescent bulb, moonlight filtering through drawn shades)
- A specific object (a pink hairbrush with blonde hair matted in the bristles, a discarded replica of a Dali painting, a baby robin, poking its wobbly head from a rickety nest)
- A sound using onomatopoeia (the pinging of a glass bottle ricocheting across a cobblestone street, the ching of a handful of a coins in a man's pocket, the wet splat of phlegm hitting the sidewalk from the old lady smoking near the laundromat)
- A specific place (the dingy alley between Brooks St. and 6th Ave., the empty science classroom filled with glass beakers, hot plates, and frogs floating in formaldehyde, the darkened, smoky interior of Flannigan's Pub)
Once you create the list, write a one-paragraph story using each of the four items and a single protagonist of your choosing. The story has to briefly introduce the protagonist, put him or her through a struggle (large or mild) and resolve the struggle in one way or another. It's much more fun to write if you keep the list items as random as possible and to put them all together at the end. Don't plan your story prior to creating the list!
Students must write one of each list item (light, object, sound and place) on a slip of paper, and then place each in separate marked boxes on your desk. To write the story, students must draw an item from each of the boxes and write their story after, ensuring they can't plan the story prior to selecting the items.
Crazy Lyrical Dialogue
- Go to a lyrics website like http://www.lyrics.com and select a song randomly, preferably one you've never heard or one to which you don't know the lyrics. For instance, I went to the website and selected, Fergie's "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)." I've never heard the song and haven't heard the lyrics.
- Then, scroll through the song and select the craziest lyric you can find that would be appropriate for school. In Fergie's song, I selected, "What do you think, GoonRock?" because it was the nuttiest phrase on there.
- Repeat this process twice more, selecting two more songs and two more crazy lyrics.
- Then, start a conversation with the first lyric you selected between two people very unlikely to use the phrase. For instance, I might write something like, "What do you think, GoonRock?" Aunt Ida asked Bernie, sitting two wheelchairs away in Serenity Meadows Assisted Living Center.
- Once you get the conversation going, insert the other two lyrics elsewhere, shifting the dialogue to make sure the conversation between the two characters makes sense. Continue until you can end the conversation definitively, with a resolution that meets the needs of one of the characters.
Have the students complete the first part of the assignment themselves, then exchange lyrics with people next to them so they end up with a set of three they've never seen. Assign a dialogue length or number of exchanges and grade the punctuation.
Choose three popular characters. They can be cartoon characters (Ren from Ren and Stimpy, Michelangelo from TMNT), protagonists from plays or novels, (Bella from the Twilight series, Benvolio from Romeo and Juliet) or characters from movies or TV shows (William Wallace from "Braveheart", Jess from "New Girl").
Choose a popular fairy tale. (Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Hansel and Gretel, etc.)
Write three, one-paragraph summaries of your selected fairy tale using each of your chosen character's voices. How would William Wallace's version of Tom Thumb differ from Bella Swan's? Think about the details each character would notice, the words he or she would use, and the tone in which he or she would relate the story. Bella might wonder about the safety of Tom Thumb, whereas William Wallace might commend him on his bravery, for example.
After going through a novel or play with your students, assign one character from the unit to each of your students. Then, group your students in threes to write a summary of an act in the play or a chapter in the novel from each of the three character's perspectives.