Every school day since 2009 we’ve asked students a question based on an article in The New York Times.
Now, seven years later, and in honor of the Oct. 20 National Day on Writing, we’ve collected 650 of them that invite narrative and personal writing and listed them by category below. Consider it an update of a previous post, and a companion to the list of 301 argumentative writing prompts we published in 2015.
Here is a PDF of all 650 prompts, and we also have a related lesson plan, From ‘Lives’ to ‘Modern Love’: Writing Personal Essays With Help From The New York Times.
Below, a list that touches on everything from sports to travel, education, gender roles, video games, fashion, family, pop culture, social media and more. Like all our Student Opinion questions, each links to a related Times article and includes a series of follow-up questions. All questions published since May 2015 are still open to comment by any student 13 or older.
So dive into this admittedly overwhelming list and pick the questions that most inspire you to tell an interesting story, describe a memorable event, observe the details in your world, imagine a possibility, or reflect on who you are and what you believe.Continue reading the main story
Last year I blogged about our 11-minute essays inspired by the one and only: Gretchen Bernabei. My kids loved it SO much, and it really helped them see that they could write A LOT in a very short amount of time.
So…it’s only fitting that I carry on the tradition this year, too. I used the same truism picture as I did with my kids for the first time last year. You can download a copy (FREE!) of 70 pictures with truisms…in English AND Spanish…by clicking here. We used #11: Pets can be a big part of a family.
Because 4th graders don’t have the knowledge or experiences of most kids in junior high (which is what Gretchen teaches), I modified her 11-minute essay to fit their needs.
HERE ARE 4 SAMPLES FROM OUR FIRST ATTEMPT AT A 10 MINUTE ESSAY. Remember: They have not been revised…it’s just a quick 10 minute piece of writing! 😉
Step #1: Talk to students about truisms. (These are the sentences under the pictures.) Truisms are statements that are generally true in most situations. Even if it isn’t true for you, there are many other people in the world who agree with a truism.
Step #2: Once you’ve chosen the truism you want your kids to write about, project it on the board. Tell them to look at it and begin to think about what it says. Their job will be to tell you how they know this is true.
Step #3: Give students 2 minutes to write only about the truism itself. They should give information about the truism, or they may simply copy the truism. When time gets to about 15 seconds, tell students to wrap up what they are saying. As the timer goes off, tell them to finish the sentence where they are, and remember to put a punctuation mark at the end.
Step #4: Tell students to drop down to the next line and indent for the next paragraph. Give students 3 minutes to write about how this is true in their own life or in a book they have read. I like to let them know when they have 2 minutes, 1 minute, and 30 seconds left. Repeat the wrap up warning and punctuation reminder when time is up.
Step #5: Tell students to drop down to the next line and indent for the next paragraph. Give students 3 minutes to write about how this is true in a movie or a TV show they have watched. Repeat warnings and reminders.
Step #6: Tell students to drop down to the next line for the last paragraph. Give students 2 minutes to write about what this makes them think or wonder.
Step #7: Have students count their words and write the number at the top and circle it.
And there you have it…a 10 minute expository essay!
What does this do for your kids? Well…lots of things. For one, it helps them to see that it doesn’t take TWO WHOLE WEEKS to produce a nice piece of writing. Yeah…some kids will write more for you in that 10 minutes than they’ve written…EVER! Gotta love that!
It gives them some practice with writing an expository piece. And even though they may not have realized it as they were going, they are writing from a text structure: Truism –> How it’s true in my life/book –> How it’s true in a movie/TV show –> This makes me think…
This activity helps them to build confidence in themselves.
How many words did you just write in 10 minutes? Over 100? WHAT? Yeah…that’s a pretty cool feeling. And the more you do it…the more they write. It becomes a competition within themselves to see how many more words they can write each time. And inevitably, a class competition to see who can write the MOST words of all!
But most importantly, the kids enjoy it and have fun with it. And that’s what writing is all about, right?!?!
Have you ever used this activity with your kids? If so, I would LOVE to hear about it. How is it similar? Different? Leave a comment below to let everyone know how this works in YOUR classroom!
If you ever have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me or find me on Facebook and message me. I love hearing from you!
Until next time…