Activities & Lessons
Middle school is a critical time for students. They are figuring out what they stand for, who their real friends are, and what kind of students they want to be. Writing is one of the most important skills for students to master because it affects all aspects of their educational journey and prepares them to become effective communicators in life beyond school.
There’s a long-standing debate when it comes to writing instruction that we, as educators, often struggle with: Should we focus more on creative writing or informational writing? It’s our duty to prepare students for life and careers after they graduate, but will they ever really embrace writing if they can’t put their heart into it?
I think of writing competence as a “chicken-or-egg” argument. What comes first in writing, love or effort? I believe it’s effort, but that effort only starts when we assign topics that our students love. Once our students find their voice, they will learn to love writing.
Zaretta Hammond, author of Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain, writes, “Competence proceeds confidence.” Close the linguistic gap for all your students, including English Learners and students of color, by helping them embrace their cultural heritage and traditions through writing. Writing is the true way for students to dig deep within themselves, find their sense of self, and tell their story from the heart. That’s what we hope to see as teachers of writing—impactful stories based on our students’ real-life experiences.
4 Fun Writing Prompts for Middle School
With that, here are four writing prompts for middle school students to help them practice writing, along with accompanying rubrics and tips.
Instructions: After clicking each writing prompt link below, you will be directed to a Writable webpage, where you should click on the first button listed. Then, you can click "Preview as Student" to view the full prompt and rubrics. Or, you can sign up for a free 60-day trial to Writable by clicking "Copy Assignment," or “Log in or Create an Account” in upper right-hand corner of the page, to assign these prompts to your students with feedback engine tools including RevisionAid, self review, peer review, live real-time feedback, adding video instruction to prompts, and more. (You can also access the free trial via HMH.writable.com.) Happy writing!
Start with a short-story narrative prompt in a “chunked” format with paragraphs to warm up your students to writing and help them find their voice. As my wise AP English teacher, Mrs. Abruzzo, told me years ago, “Write about what you know.” Have students use this narrative prompt: Think of your best day in school. What happened that makes this day stand out in your memory? Write a short story for a friend that tells what happened on this memorable school day.
Communicating clear and fact-based information is key for your middle school students to succeed in all subject areas. This problem/solution essay prompt is a great way to get students thinking critically about a real-life problem and challenges them to explain how they will solve it. Have students address the following problem/solution informational prompt: Bullying is a big issue today in schools and on social media. What tools or resources can be used to prevent it or put a stop to it once it has started?
By getting students to write about a topic they really care about, we are helping them find their voice and further develop confidence in their writing while simultaneously boosting their critical-thinking skills. This argument-with-a-counterclaim prompt will help your students write a claim, gather evidence to refine and support their opinion, develop counterclaims to analyze opposing points of view, and tie them all together into a convincing essay.
Have students answer this question in an argumentative or persuasive essay: Should homework be kept or abolished? Some people argue that giving students homework adds a lot of stress for very little benefit. Do you agree? Why or why not?
4. Literary Analysis/Response to Reading
We know how important it is to find literature that’s engaging for our students. Writing about literature helps connect our students to the past and the present and opens their minds to new experiences. And most importantly, writing about literature enables students to gain empathy and understanding, which will enrich every part of their lives. Here’s a great literary analysis prompt that comes alive with sensory details to motivate students to write:
Read this excerpt from the book The Call of the Wild by Jack London. In this excerpt, the author uses detailed sensory language and vivid images to effectively describe what the characters are seeing, feeling, touching, and tasting. Write an analysis exploring how London's sensory descriptions help to engage readers and make the story come to life. Give an example of each sense the author incorporates into his descriptions. Choose at least one sensory description and explain the effect that it has on readers.
So, whether you're teaching remotely or in the classroom, use these fun writing prompts for middle school as guides to bring out the best in your students with the confidence that you are covering those essential genres of narrative, expository, argumentative, and literary analysis. This is a great way for us as educators to “teach young folks to exude confidence”—according to Chris Emdin in “How to Write a Rap”—and navigate their way successfully through life.
Accelerate student writing in your classroom, school, or district with this downloadable flyer, adapted from the white paper Achieving Writing Proficiency: The Research on Practice, Feedback, & Revision.