Here are 101 writing prompts for all levels of ELA. You can use these writing prompts when your students’ writing starts to feel a little stale or when you’re needing to teach an academic (cough, cough…boring) concept while keeping students engaged.
These prompts for writing range from serious to absolutely wacky and challenge students to think creatively and critically while flexing those writing muscles (not to mention they can make differentiation a cinch).
Student-Centered Writing Activities
Student writers need to have choice and learn to write using their authentic voice in low-stakes contexts.
However, it can be hard to provide this the choice young writers need in order to develop their voice in a state tested area. But for me, it’s a non-negotiable that I work hard to make sure I incorporate into my classroom every year. By using a wide variety of writing prompts I’m able to tap into students’ creativity and they are placed in the position of control to make the decisions all writers must make.
Here are 5 ways you can use writing prompts for students in your classroom:
- Bell ringer/warm-up: Elementary students arrive at school each day full of energy and ready to go. Their imaginations are usually swirling a mile a minute and they’re thinking about their day ahead, the night before, and what’s for snack all at the same time. However, high school kids are a bit different. The morning can be a time of sleepiness, anxiety, and a brain fog unlike any other. Using writing prompts as morning work, a bellringer, warmup, or whatever you might like to call it, invites students to center their thoughts and pour out their thinking on the page and encourages their brains to start working.
- Collaboration/Partner Writing: If your students are ever stuck in the initiation phase of writing, using writing prompts with the aid of a partner or small group can help unstick them and get those creative juices flowing again!
Working with a small group or a partner, students talk through the prompt before ever putting pen to page. This simple step will help both reluctant and impulsive writers, and I think it helps with my writers who start at strong and then start to run out of steam.
By talking through what they think and having someone mirror their words and ideas back to them before writing, they have a much easier time getting started and staying engaged in the writing.
- Choice Board: Using writing prompts on a choice board provides even more flexibility to this handy strategy. Choice boards with writing prompts can be used for warmups, classwork, homework, and more. If using a writing prompt choice board, be sure to include a variety of prompts to account for student interests and ability levels. Check out these TED talk choice boards – so. many. options!!
- Friendly Competition: Similar to a choice board, setting up writing prompts on a Tic-Tac-Toe or BINGO style board and challenging students to a friendly competition ignites brilliance. You could have students compete against one another in class, across periods or blocks, or even turn it into a school-wide competition!
- Notebook Time: Bringing writing prompts into the classroom can be as easy as being intentional about setting aside time for low-stakes practice for students in their writer’s notebooks using prompts. Whether that’s a prompt you give students or a series of prompts they can choose from, make a routine in your day or week for notebook time.
Okay, now that we know how to use writing prompts… onto the good stuff!
Let’s dive into these writing prompts!
Writing Topics for Teens in High School
There’s something for every learner with the wide variety of these writing prompts for teens in high school!
- What’s the best thing about the Internet?
- If money and time were no object, what would you do after graduating high school?
- What’s great about being your age?
- Elon Musk hires you to develop the next hot technology that’ll change the world. What’s your plan?
- Would you rather be funny or smart?
- Tell a made up story about technology taking over.
- Should teens get to make their own decisions regarding their medical treatment(s)?
- What would your friends say is your best quality? Describe that quality.
- What do you like learning about?
- Is technology making us feel more alone?
- How should schools handle the use of AI in classrooms?
- What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
- What does it mean to be a “real” man?
- How do you think your generation will be remembered?
- What is the best age to get married?
- In 1950 about 34% of Americans completed a 4-year high school diploma compared to 91% in 2020. What do you think accounts for the dramatic increase?
- What are your predictions for the year 2075?
- A Times Sports columnist wrote, “We’re all complicit in the N.F.L’s violent spectacle.” Do you agree with this?
- Tell a story that’s real or made up about an animal.
- What makes a good parent?
- What feels illegal but isn’t?
- You’re in charge of making a new Olympic sport. What’s your plan?
- Should politicians release their taxes?
- Tell a story that’s real or made up that takes place during a holiday.
- What foods remind you of people you love?
- What movies, shows, books, music, or games have had a strong impact on your life?
- What’s an unpopular opinion?
- What do you wish you’d known freshman year?
- What issue is most important to you when considering which political candidate you’d like to vote for?
- Who’s the most influential celebrity of all time?
- If you could live in any decade, which would you choose? Explain your choice.
- If you had the option to ask a psychic three questions about your future which would they be?
- How many texts is too many?
- How should school boards handle making decisions about challenged books?
- Is graffiti art?
- Are school dress codes a good idea?
- How much does your neighborhood or hometown define who you’ll become?
Middle School Writing Prompts
There’s something really special about middle schoolers. They’re innocent and awkward, rowdy and earnest, funny and serious, all at the same time. These middle school writing prompts will tap into all of the sides of your middle schooler’s personalities allowing them to be vulnerable and explore themselves and the world around them.
- What is your favorite book from childhood?
- How do you survive a zombie apocalypse?
- What does it take to be a good friend?
- If animals could talk, which one would be the meanest?
- What three features should every school have?
- Write a real or made up story about a classmate.
- Tell a story in which you meet a genie who grants you three wishes.
- Pretend you are the main character in your favorite book and write a letter to another character in the story.
- You are the president of a new nation! What laws will you make?
- Write a story that begins with the sentence, “Don’t you remember?”
- Write a letter to yourself 10 years from now.
- Tell me about a time when you were brave.
- What do you wish your friends knew about you?
- Do you have any family heirlooms? Describe them and their meaning in your family.
- What can schools do to help stop bullying?
- Is it easier to be in elementary school or middle school?
- Would you rather have a million dollars or magical powers? Explain.
- Should middle schoolers have cell phones?
- Is a hot dog a sandwich?
- If you could invite anyone dead or alive to dinner tonight, who would it be and why?
- Would you rather have feathers for hair or teeth for fingernails?
- What city would you like to live in when you’re older? Why?
- Describe how you felt on the first day of school this year.
- Who inspires you?
- What career would you like to have when you are older? Why?
- If a movie were made of your life what would it be called? Which actors and actresses would play the characters in your movie? What genre would it be? Summarize the plot.
- In the future, which sport will be the most popular?
- Is ice cream a soup?
- Which of the five senses would be the worst to lose?
- What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to make friends at school?
- What’s the story behind your name?
- Is your glass half full or half empty? Explain.
- Tell a story set during the winter.
- What does it mean to be a “real” man?
- What is your favorite place? Write a narrative or an informational entry about that place.
- What are the most annoying sounds?
- If you could build any kind of robot, what would it be? What capabilities and functions would your robot have?
Writing Prompts for Elementary
Writing prompts for elementary can really harness the earnest, thoughtful, and creative spirit of elementary school students that I just love. At the elementary level, it can be useful to encourage students to draw before they write to help them center their thoughts and focus their ideas.
- Are you a good sport? Explain.
- Tell a story set in outer space.
- The funniest person in my family is….
- My teacher is…
- When I’m an adult, I’m going to…
- The top five reasons I like my best friend are…
- Use these words in a story: cookie, Tuesday, scared.
- Write a story in which you have magical powers.
- My happiest day was…
- My saddest day was…
- If I could make three wishes, I would wish for…
- My ideal birthday party would be…
- Write a persuasive letter to your teacher asking him/her to get a class pet for the classroom. Include what kind of pet you would like, a name for the pet, and why your teacher should agree to your idea.
- What I wish I knew about my teacher is…
- What are three things you don’t like about school…
- What do you like to do outside of school?
- If you could swap lives with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
- Tell a story about a main character who’s tempted to do the wrong thing. In your ending, you get to decide if they end up doing the right or wrong thing after all.
- What game is the most fun to play?
- Write about a food you like but most people don’t. What is it? Why should people give it another chance?
- What is your bedtime routine?
- If you could change one school rule what would it be?
- Write a letter to the school principal persuading them to buy a new piece of equipment for the playground/recess.
- Rewrite the ending of your favorite fairytale.
- What’s the best after school snack?
- If you had $100 to give to donate to a good cause, what would you donate it to and why?
- What animal makes the worst pet? Why?
There are so many creative ways to bring writing prompts for students into the classroom for all grade levels. I’m sure you’re going to find absolutely brilliant ways to incorporate many of these into your curriculum this year.
If you have a notebook time, journaling, or writing practice or prompt that’s working well for you, I’d love for you to share in the comments!
Hey, if you loved this post, you’ll want to download a FREE copy of my guide to streamlined grading.
I know how hard it is to do all the things as an English teacher, so I’m excited to share some of my best strategies for reducing the grading overwhelm.