Prompt #1: Dress Code
In some schools, every student is required to wear a uniform that is exactly the same. Some teachers and parents oppose this policy because they think a dress code takes away the freedom of self-expression. Other parents and teachers encourage such a policy because they think a dress code will promote a better learning environment. Write an essay in which you discuss the pros and cons of a dress code policy for our school.
This prompt would be given to a class of 20 sophomore high school students. The due date is in two weeks. The prompt will encourage students to write about the pros and cons of a subject without being forced to “pick a side” on the issue. The subject of a dress code policy is simple and relatable yet controversial enough to make the students consider the opinions of two opposing sides. The prompt is slightly vague, leaving the students with a decision as to whether or not they should bias their answer toward one side or leave it balanced and objective. Lastly, the prompt resembles the “typical” writing prompt students are likely to encounter – which will help them prepare for the kind of writing they will be asked to produce in the academic world.
Prompt #2: iPads in the Classroom
“The iPad is becoming the new textbook in our schools.” Write an essay in which you argue for or against the use of iPads or other tablets for educational purposes in the classroom. Be sure to address the argument of the opposition as well. Use specific examples to support your argument. Your final draft should be about 1-2 pages typed, double-spaced.
This prompt would be given to class of 20 juniors in a private school. The due date for a rough draft is in one week. The due date for the final draft is in one week and two days. The prompt will help the students develop skills in writing an argument. Because most students can relate to using technologies like the iPad, they will be able to personally relate to the advantages and disadvantages of using an iPad. This will help them focus on formulating an argument instead of mulling over what exactly are the pros and cons of the subject. Writing this essay will teach the students important skills in argumentative writing; mainly, the students will learn to address the opposition, use specific examples, and revise their writing.
Prompt #3: Music
The words “Happiness is a choice” are written on the whiteboard.
The prompt would be given to a class of 15 AP English (Language) students. The students will be asked to write an essay of their choice in response to the prompt they see on the board. The essay will be due at the end of the class period. Because this is a timed essay, the students will not have time to mull over handwriting, grammar mistakes, and over-polished sentence structure. Without a perfectionist need to revise and edit – a need so often ingrained in AP students – the students will have a chance to let creativity flow. Because most students probably heard the “happiness is a choice” cliché before, they may already have an opinion about the quote and will be able to find direction in their essay. This prompt will also give AP students a welcome break from the typical prompts they see as they try to prepare for an exam; meanwhile, they will still be able to practice timed-writing.
Prompt #4: Love
(Picture of a Heart)
Although this prompt is suitable for any grade level, I would use it for a class of sophomores as an introduction to Romeo and Juliet. When the students come in to class, they would be asked to respond to the prompt on the board. The response would be a free-write (about five minutes long) which would not be collected by the teacher. Such writing will get the students’ thoughts flowing and get them to think about some of the themes in Romeo and Juliet before the actual reading. Writing on the universal subject of “true love” will also invite the students to establish personal connections with Shakespeare’s work. Lastly, the prompt would engage the entire class into a pre-reading discussion in which they can interact with each other’s writing and ideas.
Prompt #5: Pamphlet
Pretend you have the power to create an “awareness month” that is dedicated to a cause or an issue you feel is important. Create a pamphlet to advocate awareness of the cause/issue.
Be sure to include:
• Facts about the cause or issue
• Why the cause or issue is important
• A call to action – What can people do for the cause or about the issue?
Your pamphlet should be at least 250 words in length. Be creative! Your pamphlet can include art/drawings and can be foldable, stapled together, or bound like a book.
This prompt can be given to any high school grade level. The assignment would be given during an existing “awareness month” (like Black History Awareness Month) or during a unit that spotlights a specific issue. In such a context, the students will be able to see examples of how certain issues are presented; thus, they will think about how to write in a way that presents their cause as “important”. The students will still be learning the basics of persuasive writing, but will be doing so in a unique way without the constraints of an essay. The assignment will also allow students to concentrate on a subject they are passionate about and will raise awareness of many contemporary issues.
Prompt #6: Letter
Write a letter to a person or an organization convincing them to donate money to the cause or issue from your pamphlet.
• Assume your audience has never seen your pamphlet, so be sure to include specific details.
• Your letter should be 1-2 pages long (typed, double spaced).
• You can make up fake names and addresses!
• Be sure to follow the rules of a business letter that we talked about in class.
This prompt is intended to build on the previous assignment and is intended to be assigned after a lesson covering the creation of business letters/emails. Because creating the pamphlet will leave students equipped with the basic information they need to know about their subject, this prompt will let the students focus on the actual construction of an argument. More importantly, the students will be able to practice some new skills – creating a letter and writing for a specific individual or audience.
Prompt #7: Persuasive Essay
Think about an issue or cause you feel is important. Write an essay in which you persuade your audience to do something about the issue/cause.
Note: You can write about the issue/cause from your pamphlet and business letter, or you can pick an entirely different issue to write about. Your final draft should be about 500 words in length (typed, double-spaced, 12 pt. font).
This prompt will build on both the pamphlet assignment and the letter assignment. Since this is a relatively long, typed essay, I would consider it a “high-stakes” assignment that should be given somewhere in the 2nd half of the semester/year after a detailed unit on the elements of persuasive writing. Although the 3 prompts can be given to any high school grade level, they would be best suited for a class of 10th graders because the students will already have a grip on basic high school writing (from freshman year) and are ready to experiment with writing as a process. Since the prompt does not include many details, the first half of a class period will be dedicated to discussing the specifics of the assignment. The teacher can give suggestions as to how the students can structure the essay, review the basic elements of a persuasive essay, and announce the due date (about 4 weeks). Together, the three prompts will help the students see the progressive nature of writing and reinforce what they have learned about composition as a form of persuasion.
Prompt #8: Song Lyrics
*John McLaughlin’s song “Indiana” is playing as the students walk in and take their seats.*
When the song is over, the teacher passes out the lyrics of “Indiana” to each student and asks them to write out their own interpretation of the song. (Time given: 25 minutes)
This prompt can be given to a class of about 20 freshmen during the first few months of school or during an introduction to a poetry unit. The students will be engaged as soon as they walk into the room. The song is mellow enough to make students stop and listen and deep enough to call for various interpretations. Because listening to music in class is so unexpected, the students will be more likely to think the assignment is “fun” and thus will be actually motivated to write. After the students have finished their analysis (more time can be given if necessary), the class will participate in a discussion in which students can talk about what the song means to them. This is a low-stakes assignment that will only be collected and graded for completion.
Prompt #9: Comparison
Compare and contrast the characters of Amir (The Kite Runner) and Jamal (Slumdog Millionaire).
This prompt would be assigned on the day after the film Slumdog Millionaire is shown in class. The assignment would be due one week later, either typed or handwritten. Because both the book and the film contain controversial material that might be challenged, this prompt is best suited for a class of seniors in a school with an open-minded administration. The students will develop the skills of comparing and contrasting characters from two different mediums (a film and a written work) and will meanwhile gain knowledge and awareness of different cultures.
Prompt #10: Evaluation
Picture the “world’s best high school teacher”. In your opinion, what are the qualities/characteristics that make an effective high school teacher?
This prompt will be announced at the beginning of class and projected on a screen. Students will have the entire class period to write a short essay. When the period is over, the students will be given the option to take their essay home, revise it, and turn it in the next day. Thus, the students can benefit from the spontaneous creativity spurred by the pressure of timed writing as well as from the process of revising and editing at home. This assignment can be given to a class of juniors because they have been in high school long enough to deal with many teachers and may already have some thoughts about what type of instruction is effective. Lastly, as the students offer their various perspectives, the assignment will benefit the entire classroom community because teachers will have a chance to evaluate themselves through the students’ eyes.