High School Creative Writing Assignments

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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.

10. Email

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!

Creative Writing, Page 3

Make Beliefs Comix
Students create comic strips online. This tool is great for prewriting, responding to reading, creative writing, vocabulary words, ESL, and tickets out. Very easy to learn and use, it is appropriate for almost every age level.

Pixar's 22 Rules for Storytelling
Good guidelines for creative writers.

Pizzaz! Creative Writing and Storytelling Ideas
A variety of links to ideas and handouts for all grade levels.

Plotting the Story
Students examine plot as a significant element of fiction. They distinguish plot from narrative to gain a firm understanding of a plot’s function within a story. They identify plot’s supplemental elements—conflict, climax, and resolution—and use each in stories of their own. They heighten comprehension by studying plot patterns. Students are expected to identify a story’s plot, to create detailed plot summaries of their own, and to use plot in their own stories. Designed for high school students.

Poetry Express
Write 15 different kinds of poems, suggestions for poetry workshop, tips for revision, suggestions for publishing.

Reading Paintings, Drawing Words: Creating Original Artwork Based on Written Stories
In this lesson, students grade 6 and older will consider an art exhibit comprised of works that tell stories, then create their own original pieces of art based on a specific work of literature.

Recklessly Creative Writing Ideas
Scroll down for "Serendipitous Writing Prompts & Word Games."

'Retale' Value: Exploring Plot Similarities in Fiction and Nonfiction Stories
Students explore 7 basic plot lines. They compare them with newspaper articles and with fiction they are familiar with.

Rewrite, Revise, Recycle: Updating Classic Literary Storylines for Today's Television Audience
Students "explore classic themes and storylines, and create modern versions to cater to a contemporary audience. They then compose backstories to develop characters for current television shows." This lesson plan is based on an article from the New York Times (included).

Sacred Cows for High School Creative Writing Students
This unit uses stories and information about animals to discuss various themes that deal with human behavior. It includes a wide variety of mentor texts, writing tasks, and a rubric.

Setting the Story
Students examine setting as a significant element of fiction. They learn devices for creating a realistic setting, identify and critique these methods in well-known works of fiction, and use the methods in works of their own. Students also identify, examine, evaluate, and use the elements mood and spatial order as methods of creating realistic settings.

Short and Sweet: Reading and Writing Flash Fiction
Students consider the nature of stories and learn to write more concisely by reading and writing flash fiction. Includes nonfiction support article, model, discussion questions, activities. Scroll to the bottom for Common Core anchor standards.

Single Limited Viewpoint
Writer Scott Westerfeld discusses the impact of various points of view on a narrative.

Slowing Down Time (in writing and in film)
Certain moments in our lives seem to last forever. Whether it is a first kiss or a car crash, time can seem to stretch…or even stop. In this TED-ed video (5:59), Aaron Sitze explains how this sensation is conveyed in cinema and how the same conventions can be used to slow down time in your writing. Includes post-viewing questions and related links.

Story It
Printable picture prompts for younger students.

Story Starters
An interactive site for elementary students. It comes with a Teacher Guide and a button that turns off the audio.

Tabloid Tales
Using the 5 W's, students create stories to accompany actual tabloid headlines. Headlines are provided.

Teaching Creative Writing
Links to teacher-tested ideas for both poetry and narrative writing.

Tell It Like It Isn't: Exploring Creative Ways to Revise Well-Known Stories
Students examine the elements that comprise a good story, and then, after reading about various performances for children taking place in New York City, envision their own performances in similar styles.

Three anti-social skills to improve your writing
This TED-ED video (3:45) suggests habits that help writers develop dialogue. Captioned, includes follow-up questions and other support.

Top 10 Questions for Creating Believable Characters
Questions to help beginning writers create more rounded characters.

Types of Conflict Worksheets
Discussion of 6 types of conflict, with worksheets and slide presentations for each.

Using Favorite Songs as Prompts
Students draw ideas for fiction from the themes of popular music. This lesson is part of the National Writing Project.

Wacky Web Tables
Students review parts of speech and write a story using a variation on the MadLibs stories. Designed for grade 3 and above.

What's in a Name?: Exploring The History of Names Through Creative Writing
Students examine their own first, middle, and last names and consider how they originated. They then write a creative piece using the information they discovered.

Writing Bug
A new creative writing topic every week! Elementary teachers can download a handout with a colorful graphic; teachers of older students will still find the ideas useful.

Writing Portfolio
These 55 outstanding reflective writing prompts are designed for high school sophomores. They are presented in 3 formats: Web page, MS-Word document, and PDF file (requires Adobe Reader for access).

Writing Prompts / Journal Topics
An extensive collection of topics.

Writing Prompts
From Writers Digest, 52 story starters. Many of these are appropriate for a wide range of grade levels, but not all are appropriate for all grades.

Writing Prompts
Scroll down to find creative writing prompts appropriate for a range of grade levels.

Writing Prompts
Select a grade level at the top and click "go" to receive a list of appropriate prompts.

Writing Prompts
A generous assortment of topics from Writers Digest. Most prompts are designed for high school and older and call for creative writing.

Writings on a River: Creating Composite Characters, Like Those of Mark Twain
In this lesson, students read the first chapter in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . They then identify adjectives that help to define a character's personality, such as those of the title character in that book. Finally, students write an original story or scene for a play, based on a composite character of their own creation, after selecting three or more specific character traits.

Additional creative writing lesson plans >> | 1 | 2 | 3 |


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