4 expository essay writing prompts for high school

Prompts ask teens to explain how to start a collection, apply for a job, help storm victims, and avoid college debt.

Expository writing explains, describes, or informs. Today, let your high school student choose one of these expository essay prompts to practice writing to explain.

1. Treasures to Keep

People love to collect and display items that have sentimental value or special appeal. Key chains, seashells, vintage tea cups, action figures, and sports memorabilia are just a few examples. Do you have a special collection? Tell the benefits of having a collection, and explain how someone can begin to grow a collection of his or her own.

2. Blown Away

A devastating tornado has leveled much of a nearby small town. Write an essay explaining what you would do to help these families recover from their loss.

3. It’s Off to Work I Go

Your parents have decided it’s time for you to get a part-time job. Write an essay explaining the steps you need to follow in order to apply for a job.

4. I’m College Smart

With the rising costs of tuition, many college-bound students are relying on loans to help them pay for their education. Sadly, this means college students owe an average of $33,000 when they graduate, which often takes 10 years or longer to repay. Research different options for how to go to college without debt. Then, write an essay explaining several ways you can avoid facing massive debt when you head off to school.

If you enjoyed these expository essay writing prompts for high school, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays! Once a month, we feature topics especially suited for teens, including:

Photo Credits: Draco2008 (cars), Ivan Walsh (shells), MixedGrill (collection), Steve Snodgrass (Pez), courtesy of Creative Commons.

78 Ideas for writing across the curriculum

These ideas for writing across the curriculum make writing practical and fun. Love how project-based writing let kids write in the ways they learn best.

Writing. It’s everywhere! If you’re home right now, let your eyes wander over the room in search of words. What do you notice? A shopping list, perhaps? Mail? Picture books? Birthday cards? Cereal boxes?

Maybe you’re in a coffee shop. Look around and take in the menu, food packages, a stack of magazines, or the community bulletin board.

Breaking Out of the Rut

Even though there are many kinds of writing, we often get in a rut by limiting our children to stories and reports. When I was homeschooling my own kids, I wanted them to have all sorts of writing experiences. Unit studies were perfect for writing across the curriculum.

I still assigned more “traditional” writing, of course. But we also had fun with short, targeted, project-based writing activities that dovetailed writing with other subjects such as science, nature, and history.

These activities took the form of brochures and book jackets, magazines and diaries, obituaries and editorials, charts and posters. Tying our writing—both formal and informal—to our studies made writing practical. It also helped cement concepts and gave the kids many opportunities just to have fun with words.

Benefits of Writing Across the Curriculum 

Explore a topic in greater depth.

These different projects and writing activities encouraged my children to dig deeper. My son, for example, created a newspaper about the Victorian era. He included news articles, advertisements, letters to the editor, human interest stories, and cartoons. Each required different kinds of research, helping him learn more about this time period than a report alone would accomplish.

Appeal to your kids’ interests and learning styles.

I don’t have to tell you that children learn differently.

  • The kinesthetic child learns better when he can build, work with textures, or use various media.
  • The auditory learner might like writing and performing songs, poems, speeches, or plays.
  • Projects that include art, photography, or computer-related activities appeal to the visual child.

Children absorb information through their senses. The more ways a child handles information, the better he retains it. When assigning writing, it’s wise to offer lots of choices that develop well-rounded writers. Project-based writing gives all students the chance to write in the ways they learn best.

Make writing more fun.

Don’t get me wrong: reports are important. But I bet your child will be less resistant if, from time to time, he gets to write an advertisement, create a trivia game, or make a brochure about Pompeii or Ancient Egypt or Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Activities like these help him see that writing can be fun!

Ideas for Writing Across the Curriculum

Journals, book reviews, glossaries, and recipes can all find a place in your homeschool writing diet. Explore this list of 78 writing genres. Many don’t require much planning, so pluck out a few ideas and try them this very week!

  1. Advertisements
  2. Alphabet book
  3. Animal stories (fiction or nonfiction)
  4. Autobiographies
  5. Banners
  6. Blogs
  7. Biographies
  8. Book jackets
  9. Brochures
  10. Bumper stickers
  11. Business cards
  12. Cartoons
  13. Catalogs
  14. Comics
  15. Coupons
  16. Day in the life
  17. Descriptive writing
  18. Dialogs
  19. Diaries
  20. Dictionaries and glossaries
  21. Displays
  22. Editorials
  23. Expository or informative writing
  24. Fact sheets
  25. Flyers
  26. Food packages
  27. Games (board games, trivia games, vocabulary games)
  28. Greeting cards
  29. Guidebook
  30. Handbook
  31. Headlines
  32. How-to articles
  33. Index
  34. Instruction manuals
  35. Interviews
  36. Journals
  37. Lab reports
  38. Lapbooks
  39. Letters (friendly letters, business letters, complaints, requests, thank-you notes)
  40. Lists
  41. Magazines
  42. Maps
  43. Math word problems
  44. Menus
  45. Narratives
  46. Newsletters
  47. Newspapers
  48. Obituaries
  49. Observations
  50. Opinions
  51. Outlines
  52. Petitions
  53. Photo essays
  54. Picture books
  55. Plays
  56. Poetry
  57. Postcards
  58. Posters
  59. PowerPoint presentations
  60. Proverbs and sayings
  61. Questionnaires
  62. Quizzes or test questions
  63. Recipes
  64. Responses to literature
  65. Reviews
  66. Rules
  67. Scrapbooks
  68. Signs
  69. Slogans
  70. Songs
  71. Speeches
  72. Sports articles
  73. Stories
  74. Summaries
  75. Surveys
  76. Timelines
  77. Tweets
  78. Want ads

Which of these sound like fun to you? Where will you start?

Photos: Seier+Seier (texture), Jimmie (lapbook), courtesy of Creative Commons

Writing prompts for creative kids

Writing prompts for creative kids will inspire them to plan details for a dream bedroom, imagine the perfect birthday cake, and more!

Do your children’s eyes light up when you pull out the art supplies, suggest a craft, or invite them to decorate cookies? If so, they’ll fall in love with this assortment of writing prompts for creative kids!

Whether they’re planning details for a dream bedroom or thinking of the perfect birthday cake, exciting prompts await! For added fun, each prompt also features an optional project.

1. Artist’s Hangout

As you enter the art studio, you are greeted by a sign that invites you to create a work of art.

For your medium, you may pick acrylic paint, finger paint, colored pencils, charcoal pencils, or pastels. For your surface, you can choose a blank wall, concrete sidewalk, drawing paper, large artist’s canvas, or a white T-shirt.

Which surface will you decorate? Which medium will you select? What colors will you use? Describe the images or designs you will draw or paint.

Want to do more? Create a real-life art project.

2. Dream Room

Sometimes, kids’ bedrooms are decorated according to a theme, such as Star Wars, horses, sports, rainbows, or pirates. If you could decorate your bedroom any way you want, what theme would you choose? What would be your three main colors? Describe the furniture, floor coverings, storage, and decorations you would use to help create your ideal living space.

Want to do more? Make a shoebox diorama of your ideal room.

3. Hats Off to You

You are entering a contest in which contestants will design hats that represents one of their parents’ jobs or occupations. Is your dad a builder, salesman, attorney, or farmer? Is your mom a teacher, nurse, restaurant owner, or artist? Make a list of 5-10 objects you could put on your hat that would tell different things about this job. Explain why you chose each one.

Want to do more? Design a real hat.

4. The Art of Cakes

Cake decorating has truly become an art! Elaborate cakes boast incredibly detailed themes like superheroes, Alice in Wonderland, or LEGO®. Cakes starring candy, chocolate, or fruit and cream are as tasty as they are beautiful. What would be your dream birthday cake? Describe your cake’s theme or flavor and explain how you would decorate it.

Want to do more? Have fun decorating cookies or cupcakes.

Photo: Abby Lanes, courtesy of Creative Commons

5 journal prompts from Proverbs

These journal prompts from Proverbs will encourage children to think and write about virtues such as wisdom, patience, and hard work.

Proverbs are short phrases that provide godly wisdom for life. In the Bible, the Book of Proverbs was written mostly by King Solomon as a way to teach his son to fear the Lord and live according to God’s commands.

This week, encourage your children—and teens—to respond to Scripture and apply it to their own lives. These journal prompts from Proverbs will invite them to do so as they think about virtues such as wisdom, patience, and hard work.

1. A Foolish King

How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver! ~Proverbs 16:16 

Write a story about a king who had piles of gold and silver, but no wisdom or understanding.

2. Watch Those Words

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. ~Proverbs 10:19 

Have you ever made someone angry or hurt their feelings because of something you said? Write about a time you wish you had been more careful with your words.

3. Patience Is a Virtue

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. ~Proverbs 15:18 

Write about a situation in which patient words could prevent or end an argument.

4. Talk Is Cheap

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. ~Proverbs 14:23 

Write a story about a hard-working young man who hardly ever speaks a word, and his loud but lazy older brother.

5. Take My Advice

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. ~Proverbs 12:15 

Without using the words listen or listening, explain some of the things “listening” might mean in this verse. Include a personal example about a time you chose to listen to wise advice.

Looking for more writing prompts? Check out our extensive collection on Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: Jeff Belmonte, courtesy of Creative Commons

Story planning game | Character and setting

"Where in the World?" is an oral story planning game that builds confidence as it teaches kids how to plan characters and setting in a fun way.
If your kids have trouble developing story details, they’ll have a boatload of fun playing “Where in the World,” a pre-writing activity that will help them plan characters and place them in exciting settings!

This oral story planning game is perfect for you and your child to play together.

Advance Prep

1. Make the Spinner

Print a world globe map and glue it to a large paper plate. You can either use a blackline globe map or a colored globe map. Map SpinnerDraw lines on the globe to divide it into eight sections. Label the sections desert, ocean, swamp, savanna, tundra, iceberg, mountain, jungle. Poke a hole through the center and insert a paper brad. Slip a large paperclip over the brad and spin it around in a circle.

2. Make Character Cards

Count out 10 or more index cards. Label one side of each card with the word Characters. On the back of each card, write a different character of your child’s choice. Brainstorm together for ideas, such as your child’s name, family member’s name, an occupation, sports hero, military figure, cartoon character, or animal such as a kangaroo or penguin. Add variety by using a combination of common, proper, and plural nouns.

3. Make Problem Cards

Count out 10 or more index cards. Label one side of each card with the word Problem. For the back side of the cards, brainstorm ideas with your child and write down a problem or plot twist of his choice. Here are a few examples:

  • There was an avalanche, so …
  • A volcano erupted, and …
  • When a terrible storm arose, they …
  • There was a stampede, and then …
  • They lost their way, so …
  • They were chased by a bear, and …
  • The plane’s engine caught fire, so …

Also, prepare several Problem cards that simply say “What happened next?”

Play “Where In the World?”

Choosing an exciting setting where the story takes place helps build the thrill of adventure! More importantly, when you encourage kids to tell adventure stories out loud, it boosts their confidence. Later, when it’s time to write a story of their own, they’ll have some tools to use to help them plan the details.

  1. Stack the Character and Problem cards face down in two separate piles. Invite your child to spin the spinner. Wherever it lands will be the setting for the first adventure. If the spinner lands on a line, your child can choose any place in the world as the story setting.
  2. Have him choose a Character card. This will be the main character or characters in his adventure.
  3. Now it’s your turn to choose a Character card. This will be another character in your child’s story.
  4. Invite him to choose a Problem card. Have him read the problem aloud and start telling the adventure story about his characters using this prompt. Encourage him to say at least two or three sentences about the story.
  5. When he has finished, it’s your turn to choose a Problem card. Use it as a prompt and continue telling the story. Take turns choosing Problem cards and continuing the adventure until at least five Problem cards have been used. Wrap up the story with a satisfying ending.

To start a new adventure story, return the cards to their corresponding piles, shuffle them, and place them face down on the table. Spin the wheel to discover where in the world the new adventure will take place!

. . . . .

WriteShop Junior Book D This “Where in the World?” game appears in WriteShop Junior Book D. It’s just one of the many fun and creative activities that WriteShop Primary (gr. K-3) and WriteShop Junior (gr. 3-6) use to reinforce simple writing skills at the elementary level. 

Free Writing Printable for October

The cooler temperatures and changing leaves beckon you to take a hike in the woods. While on your stroll, you hear something—or someone—making quite a racket. Glancing toward the voice, you cannot believe your eyes: a chipmunk is standing on a rock, and it’s shouting a warning!

What is this chattering chipmunk saying? It’s up to you to finish this story using your imagination.

Talking Chipmunk Printable Writing Prompt

Click the image above to download the “The Furry Messenger” writing prompt. If you would like to share this free writing printable with others, please link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file.

Looking for more writing prompts? We have an extensive collection on Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Common errors to avoid in writing

Here's an Internet scavenger hunt that takes you in search of some of the most common errors to avoid in writing, grammar, and punctuation.

I’m not sure I can argue for a single worst writing mistake. I have a pet peeve or two, but overall, I’m simply on a mission to educate my readers.

From popular blogs to tweets and Facebook comments, the web is littered with bad grammar and punctuation. In schools and workplaces, student and employee writing skills are called into question every day. Errors are pervasive enough to inspire articles that hope to shed light on common grammar, writing, and punctuation mistakes.

Today, let’s go on a little Internet scavenger hunt to discover some of the most common errors to avoid in writing.

At each stop, take time to read about those errors and their solutions. While you’re there, look for the answers to the five questions or problems below.

1. Maniacal Rage

Maniacal Rage lists eight common errors. For example:

He reminds us not to ____________ after periods.

2. Pasnau’s Top Ten

Robert Pasnau, PhD (Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado) brings us Pasnau’s Top Ten.  Almost every paper he receives has at least one grammatical error from his list.

Dr. Pasnau says: “You will be judged, for your entire life, on the basis of ___________________.”

3. Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb

Brian Clark at Copyblogger gives us Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb. Among them, Brian includes four pairs of words writers often confuse.

Name one pair: _______ vs. _______

4. Common Punctuation Errors

Even though this article is called Six Common Punctuation Errors That Bedevil Bloggers, it’s not just bloggers who have trouble with punctuation. According to the article, which one of these sentences is correctly punctuated?

a. On Friday, Sam is coming home from boot camp!!!
b. Kayla said, “Put it in the small box.”
c. Grandma will serve “breakfast” on the patio.
d. None of the above is punctuated correctly.
e. All of the above are punctuated correctly.

5. The Comma Splice

The comma splice is a common punctuation error. According to this article, which of the following solutions will not fix a comma splice?

a. Replacing the comma with a period
b. Replacing  the comma with a semicolon
c. Removing the comma
d. Following the comma with a conjunction

If you’re serious about brushing up on your grammar, here are a few other articles you can explore:

Apostrophes and Plural Family Names

Grammar Tips: Is It I or Me?

Do You Misuse or Misspell These 5 Words or Phrases?

Answers: (1) double-space; (2) how well you write; (3) answers will vary; (4) b; (5) c

Here on the blog, you’ll find lots of help with grammar and punctuation. Other available resources include The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation and All About Homophones, both of which can help you teach and reinforce basic but important grammar and spelling conventions. Check them out!

Photo: Clemens V. Vogelsang, courtesy of Creative Commons

Writing prompts about fictional book characters

Writing prompts about fictional characters help children use their imaginations to engage with make-believe friends who live inside favorite books.

This article contains affiliate links for books we’re confident your family will love!

When children step into the world of books, the characters they encounter can seem as real as their own friends and family.

These writing prompts about fictional characters will help them use their imaginations to engage with literary friends who live inside the pages of their favorite novels!

1. What Would Frodo Do?

What fictional character do you most admire? Is it spunky Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series? Wise Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Optimistic Sara Crewe from A Little Princess? Frodo, the selfless hobbit from The Lord of the Rings? How about Freckles, that young man of such high integrity?

When we face challenges, it often helps to seek advice from someone we look up to. Think of a book character who has earned your respect, and write a letter to him or her asking for advice.

2. You Were There

If you could be friends with a character in one of your favorite books, whose friend would you be? Choose an experience from the book and rewrite it in your own words as if the two of you had been there together.

3. Let’s Talk

Imagine a conversation between a fictional character and a member of your family, such as your mom or little brother. Write this conversation in dialog form.

4. Inquiring Minds Want to Know

You are a journalist for a newspaper. For a future article, your editor has assigned you to interview a fictional character from one of your favorite novels. Which character will you choose to interview? What would you like to learn about him or her? Come up with three questions to ask, and then write down this character’s answers.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photos: Smudge 9000 (Anne of Green Gables), Corey Leopold (lion), Tom Garnett (Frodo) courtesy of Creative Commons

I don’t know what to write about! {26 writing ideas for kids}

When the kids say, "I don't know what to write about," look no further than these creative writing warm-ups, prompts, and other writing ideas.

This article contains affiliate links for products we think your family will enjoy.

Mom, I don’t know what to write about! Who among us hasn’t heard one of our kids make that complaint?

If you’re between writing lessons, need a pre-writing warm-up, hope to propel your children out of the doldrums, or simply want to mix things up a bit, look no further than this list of clever and creative writing ideas. Some offer topics that will coax stories or reports out of a reluctant writer. Several of our ideas encourage children to think outside the box, while others are simply vocabulary-building tools or lists that aren’t meant to become works of prose at all!

Do you have younger children, reluctant writers, or kids with special needs? Don’t hesitate to let them narrate their ideas if they’re not able to write independently. After all, writing is much more about the thinking process than about who actually puts pencil to paper!

26 Writing Ideas for Kids

1. Rewrite a familiar story. For example, change the setting or the create new characters.

2. Write a cento poem.

3. Copy a paragraph from either a fiction or nonfiction book. Replace weak or boring words with strong, more descriptive ones.

4.  Use guided writing to draw out ideas.

5. Make a bucket list of places you want to see and things you want to do before you’re old.

6. Write about a time you needed stitches, broke your arm, crashed your bike, or experienced a similarly exciting or hair-raising event.

When the kids say, "I don't know what to write about," look no further than these creative writing warm-ups, prompts, and other writing ideas.

7. Write your own math word problems.

8. Write a letter to your mom explaining why writing is hard for you.

9. Write a 100-word story.

10. Pretend you are an animal and journal about some of your activities.

11. Make a comic strip. Write speech bubbles for the characters in the strip.

12. Make or build something and explain the steps you followed to make your creation.

13. Invent and write about new uses for familiar items such as pool noodles, buckets, duct tape, or popsicle sticks.

14. Play sentence-building games.

15. Become pen pals with Grandma. Everyone loves getting “real” letters in the mail!

16. Act out a story using a variety of plastic toys and figurines while someone writes it down.

When the kids say, "I don't know what to write about," look no further than these creative writing warm-ups, prompts, and other writing ideas.

17. Think of one aisle or section of the local grocery or department store, such as Electronics, Sporting Goods, Produce, Health Care, Toys, or Garden Center. Make a list of things you might find in that section. See how many items you can add to your list!

18. Create a short report or story and turn it into a PowerPoint presentation.

19. When pictures replace certain words in a story, it’s called a rebus. Write a story, but replace some of the words with pictures to make your own rebus. You can use stickers, clipart, or your own drawings. You can find rebus examples at ABC Teach.

20. Instead of a written nonfiction report, make a diagram, scrapbook, brochure, mobile, flap book, or display board about your topic.

21. Make lists of items in different categories, such as vegetables, toys, or things found at the park or zoo. The list should include 5-10 items, depending on the child’s age.

22. Tell a story about one of your baby pictures.

23. Write a summary of a short book.

24. Use a story-prompting activity such as Rory’s Story Cubes or WriteShop’s StoryBuilders.

25. Tell about a place you visited recently. Explain where you went and what happened while you were there.

26. Have fun inventing silly or serious stories using a magnetic story-making kit.

Which of these ideas will appeal to your restless writers?

Photos: Carissa Rogers (boy writing), breakmake (child & flag), shelnew19 (broken leg), davidd (plastic ponies), courtesy of Creative Commons.

Creative writing prompts for autumn

Creative writing prompts for autumn invite kids to write an autumn acrostic, create a fall wish list, or devise a plan to keep winter from coming!
Each season brings the opportunity for fresh new writing experiences. These four creative writing prompts for autumn invite kids to imagine what it would be like to wake up in the future, write an autumn acrostic poem, create a fall wish list, or devise a plan to keep winter from coming!

1. A Long Nap

In the famous story by Washington Irving, Rip Van Winkle escapes to the mountains. While there, he has a strange encounter with a group of ancient, bearded men who are playing a game of ninepins (bowling). Rip falls asleep, but when he wakes up, he finds that 20 years have passed! Write a story in which you wake up in a pile of autumn leaves. How much time has gone by? What is your last memory? How has the world changed?

2. Autumn Wish List

A bucket list is a wish list of things you would like to experience in your lifetime. What parts of the country (or world) would be spectacular at this time of year? Where would you like to visit? What sorts of fall activities would you like to do? Make an autumn bucket list that includes 5-10 things you want to do in the fall at some point in your life.

3. No Winter for Me

Last winter was bitter and harsh across much of the United States, and many people are not at all looking forward to this coming winter. Write a funny story telling about three things your main character will do to try to keep winter from arriving.

4. A is for Autumn

Write an acrostic poem about autumn:

  • Vertically on your paper, write the word “AUTUMN.” (Younger children can write “FALL.”) For an extra challenge, write “FALL SEASON” or “AUTUMN DAYS.”
  • Next to each letter, write a word, phrase, or sentence related to the season. Think about weather, colors, holidays, and family activities. (For example, “A” could be Autumn, Apple picking, or Acorns drop from mighty oak trees.)

If your children have enjoyed these, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photos: Jamie McCaffrey (leaf and sky), Bruce McKay (girl), Michael Gil (leaf angel), courtesy of Creative Commons
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