Entries Tagged 'High school' ↓
January 26th, 2015 — College Prep, Essays & Research Papers, High school
Discovering interesting topics is a critical component of the essay-planning process. But a good topic isn’t enough to guarantee a successful paper!
The goal of the initial prewriting stage is not to come up with a subject or a topic, per se, but to identify a controlling idea that will help guide and shape the essay and direct the student’s brainstorming efforts. That’s what developing a strong thesis statement is all about.
Why Write a Thesis Statement?
An essay focuses on a particular concept, idea, or scenario and tries to say something unique about it. It shouldn’t be a sprawling report of all possible facts and details. Instead, essay writing is about choosing and analyzing the most important elements necessary for advancing a particular position.
Therefore, the thesis statement for an essay represents a condensed and carefully thought-out argument that will define, guide, and set the tone for the entirety of the paper.
What Is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement presents, in one or two sentences, the central, controlling argument of an essay. It explicitly identifies the purpose of the paper and/or previews its main ideas. Everything your student writes throughout the essay should in some way reinforce this primary claim. A good thesis statement should:
- Concisely present the central idea of the essay.
- Guide the direction of the paper and establish priorities
- Take a definitive stand that justifies the case your student is about to make.
- Articulate a specific, arguable point with which people could logically disagree. It helps to ask what is new, interesting, contestable, or controversial about the topic. If the student is presenting a claim or statement that no one would argue against, then he’s not saying anything worth reading.
- Uncontestable claim: The world would be a better place without war.
- Contestable claim: Christians should not participate violently in war.
- Uncontestable claim: Domestic terrorism is on the rise in the United States.
- Contestable claim: The rise of domestic terrorism reflects an increased disillusionment with the United States government.
- Effectively answer the prompt or question (if given).
- Be thoughtfully and deliberately worded.
- Avoid vague generalizations.
- Use clear and concrete language.
- Pass the “So what?” test of significance. A good thesis should be substantial and important, so ask, “Who cares?” or “What difference does it make?”
- Insubstantial claim: Students at ABC University have school spirit.
- Substantial claim: The strong sense of community at ABC University is evident in its students’ commitment to campus functions and organizations. This challenges the prevailing characterization of Generation X as apathetic, uninvolved, and lazy.
While it’s good to create as strong a thesis statement as possible up front, it’s also important to know that it isn’t set in stone until the essay or term paper is actually finished. Your teens should plan to revisit the thesis during editing and revising to fine-tune or tweak it as needed.
January 21st, 2015 — High school, Writing & Journal Prompts
Invite your students to choose one of these creative writing prompts for teens. Options include describing a personal experience as if it were a movie, developing fun poems or stories, writing about their first name, creating a story using only one-syllable words, or exploring point of view.
1. Lights, Camera, Action!
What kind of year has it been for you? What events and experiences marked your most memorable moments? Write about an event as if it were a synopsis of a movie, choosing one of these famous film titles as the title of your own “movie.”
- For the Love of the Game
- Family Vacation
- Home Alone
- The Money Pit
- The Sound of Music
- Wreck-it Ralph
- Field of Dreams
- Despicable Me
- It Happened One Night
Keep in mind that your synopsis probably won’t follow the original movie’s storyline! For example, if you just went through the coldest winter in memory, you might pick Frozen as your movie title. If you backed your mom’s car into a fire hydrant, Wreck-it Ralph or Despicable Me could make a good choice.
2. Writer’s Choice
Choose List 1, 2, or 3. Write a poem or story that uses as many words from that list as possible.
- List 1: brick, alley, broom, kittens, nervous, window, slam
- List 2: red, swing, squeak, envelope, gust, photo, exhilarating
- List 3: forest, jeep, gate, key, blue, rickety, wild
3. A Rose by Any Other Name
Write about your first name, choosing one, some, or all of the following questions to help direct your writing.
- Do you think your name suits you? Explain why or why not.
- Is there a story behind your name? Have your parents ever explained how or why they chose it for you? Write about it.
- What does your name mean? Do you think the meaning fits your personality, nature, character, or gifts/talents?
- Do you sometimes wish you could choose a new name for yourself? If you had the chance, what would it be? Why would you choose it? What would you want this new name to say about you?
4. A “Short” Story
Using at least 10 words from each list below, describe a scene or situation. Try to capture emotions along with sensory details of sound, smell, and touch. Your challenge: every word you write may contain only one syllable!
- Nouns: boat, swamp, boots, light, hole, splash, eel, night, shore, boy, dock, wire, stick, rope, reeds, noise, dog, pail
- Verbs: fall, drop, steer, slosh, seize, hope, reach, grasp, turn, hide, glide, howl, shake, chase, yell, laugh, lurch, leak
5. Putting Things Into Perspective
Describe a place from an unusual point of view or vantage point, such as:
- Your bedroom or den from your fish’s viewpoint
- A winding mountain road from a car’s point of view
- Your neighborhood from a hawk’s vantage point
- Your backyard from your dog’s perspective
- A grocery store from the point of view of a loaf of bread
- Your refrigerator from the viewpoint of a wrinkled old apple
- Or, come up with your own idea!
Looking for more writing prompts? Check out our extensive collection on Writing Prompt Wednesdays. Most months, we feature a set of prompts just for teens!
November 19th, 2014 — High school, Writing & Journal Prompts
A reflective essay calls on the writer to express his or her own views of an experience.
Sometimes, reflective writing will ask students to think more deeply about a book, movie, musical work, or piece of art. Other times, the topics will invite them to reflect on a personal encounter or other experience.
These four reflective essay prompts for high school students are more personal in nature. For this activity, encourage your teens to choose the topic that speaks to them the most.
1. The Wind Beneath My Wings
A role model is a person you look up to—someone you respect or admire more than anyone else. Who is your role model? Your grandpa? Youth pastor? Coach? What have you learned from this person? Which of their character qualities or traits do you hope to one day have yourself? Write an essay explaining how this individual has influenced who you are today.
2. Can I Get a Do-Over?
By the time you reach high school, you have already experienced some of life’s ups and downs. You’ve seized some great opportunities and turned your back on others. Though you’ve made good choices, you have also made poor ones. You’ve both rejected and heeded good advice. Looking back, surely there are things you wish you had done differently. Write an essay sharing your most important piece of advice with a younger sibling or friend.
3. The Time of My Life
Have you lived or traveled overseas? Held an interesting or unusual job? Participated in a sport that challenged you physically and mentally? Think about an unusual experience or incident from your life. Write a reflective essay explaining how that experience has impacted you and caused you to grow as a person.
4. Picking Yourself Up
No one is immune to failure—scientists, authors, athletes, surgeons, and great leaders can all recount times of falling flat on their faces. Describe a time when you failed at something, and write a short essay explaining what you learned from this experience.
If you enjoyed these reflective essay topics 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, such as:
Compare and Contrast Essay Prompts
Persuasive Essay Prompts
Expository Essay Topics
October 22nd, 2014 — High school, Writing & Journal Prompts
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:
August 18th, 2014 — High school, Writing Across the Curriculum
Do you have a teen gourmet or budding chef in the house? Have any of your kids traveled overseas? These writing activities invite them to explore recipes, describe travel experiences with food, or write a restaurant review.
Encourage your high schoolers to explore their culinary passion or hobby with one of these projects that encourages writing about food and culture.
This article contains affiliate links for books we think your family will enjoy.
Writing Project: American As Apple Pie
A well-rounded study of a geographic region or period of history can include maps, literature, art—even food! This activity focuses specifically on American cookery, helping you learn about foods of the past, regional dishes, or even your own family’s everyday eating habits.
Search recipe files, family cookbooks, specialty cookbooks, and online sources to find some recipes that are uniquely American. Your collection should include at least 10 recipes that relate to a single topic or theme.
If possible, choose a theme that ties into your current history or geography studies. Here are several possibilities:
- Colonial American or frontier recipes
- First Ladies’ recipes (from one First Lady or several)
- Regional or cultural recipes (choose one, such as New England, the South, or soul food)
- Ethnic foods introduced by immigrants (choose one, such as Scandinavian, German, or Italian)
- Contemporary cookery (choose one theme, such as salads, cookies, or breakfast foods)
Once you’ve chosen your topic and gathered your recipes, prepare three of them. Then, evaluate each one by asking yourself some questions, such as: Was this recipe easy to prepare? How did the final dish look, smell, and taste? What did your family think of it? Would you make it again? Why or why not?
Finally, make a booklet of your 10 recipes, designing or decorating it to match your theme.
Writing Project: A Taste of Travel
Have you ever eaten haggis or blood pudding? How about fried locusts or Vegemite? These foods may sound weird to us, but in other parts of the world, someone else is probably gobbling them down right now! If you’re up for the challenge, this writing project invites you to take a look at unusual foods.
My children are now grown, but when they were teens, they spent many summers on overseas missions trips. Their travels gave them the opportunity to try some strange local foods they wouldn’t normally eat here in the States.
Our middle daughter went to Peru when she was 15. One evening, her team was introduced to cuy chactado, or fried guinea pig. It sounds nasty, doesn’t it? But she actually loved the chicken-like meat. Do you want to see a picture of cuy chactado? Click here if you’re brave.
When our son was 16, he spent a summer in Botswana. In Africa, people eat dried mopane worms as a snack. He wanted to experience all sorts of new things while in his host country, so yes—he really did eat a caterpillar. (I don’t think I could be that brave. But who knows?) You can see a picture here, but don’t click if you think it will gross you out!
Have you ever traveled internationally? Perhaps you’ve been on a missions trip overseas, visited grandparents or other family, or vacationed in a foreign country. Write about your culinary experiences during your travels, choosing one or more of the following topics:
Describe the weirdest food you ate. How did it look and taste? What was its texture like? What did you think of it? Would you eat it again?
What was your favorite new food to try? Describe it.
Did you experience any unusual mealtime customs or expectations? How does this culture approach food? Explain how different it is from the way most Americans eat.
Writing Project: Restaurant Review
Next time you go out for a meal with your family—whether to a fast-food place, local diner, or a nice sit-down restaurant, write a review about your experience.
The gourmet burgers might be fantastic, but the service is slow. Or the food isn’t great, but there’s a breathtaking view. Because a restaurant review is about more than just food, be prepared to take in the whole dining experience. Include details about atmosphere, service, and food so you can give an accurate review. Readers appreciate knowing both the pros and cons. You’ll probably find it helpful to take notes to help you recall your meal.
Write descriptively. Vague words like good, delicious, or bad don’t communicate a food’s characteristics. Instead, explain how a food tastes by using specific words to describe appearance, aroma, flavors, and textures.
Vague: For dessert, I had their delicious Molten Lava Cake and ice cream. It was a perfect way to end the meal.
Descriptive: Topped with a generous scoop of homemade vanilla-bean ice cream, the rich Molten Lava Cake was drenched in a warm, fudgy sauce. What a sweet way to end the meal!
Make your review personal. Be real! Then, with a parent’s permission, publish your review on a site like Yelp or Urban Spoon.
By Kim Kautzer
June 16th, 2014 — Editing & Revising, High school
Homeschooling middle and high school kids carries an extra weight that isn’t nearly as evident when we’re teaching our younger ones: the older the kids get, it seems, the more intimidating it becomes to homeschool them.
Moms confess to me that writing is one of the most challenging subjects for them to teach. And when it comes to editing and grading that writing, they feel like they’re all adrift.
Do you feel that way too? Take heart! If you’re just starting to teach writing to your teens, don’t expect to know everything at the beginning! It’s a learning process, and I hope these editing and grading tips will give you more confidence.
Today we’ll look at editing your students’ compositions with the intent of helping them write stronger final drafts. Then next time, we’ll talk about how to actually grade those finished papers.
Begin with Self-Editing
After your teen writes a rough draft, have him use a writing checklist to look for errors in his own writing. (Some programs, such as WriteShop I and II, include checklists—and they’re invaluable to both student and parent.)
Once he has self-edited his rough draft and written a revision, it’s time for you to review it and make suggestions before he writes a final draft.
Use a Teacher Writing Checklist
A well-written checklist will remind you of the lesson’s expectations so you don’t have to make guesses about what that composition or essay should include. This is the key to being objective and consistent. Using a checklist keeps you focused and fair because you’re not making stabs in the dark. Instead, you know just what you’re looking for as you edit the text.
Your child has had a chance to self-edit and revise already; this is your opportunity to catch and comment on anything that still needs attention. Typically, the more suggestions you give during editing, the better his final drafts will become. As you edit, do your best to identify the errors your student has missed during his own self-editing. Otherwise, he won’t even realize he made those mistakes—and they’ll go uncorrected in the final draft.
Is It Laziness?
Your role is to help your teens spot errors he just doesn’t see—those subjective details such as “strong topic sentence” or “communicated clearly.” He may think he’s done those things, but if you believe differently, you can then steer him in the right direction.
On the other hand, if he’s clearly being lazy about self-editing, and he’s not catching obvious things (such as “to be” verbs, repeated or weak words, or missing sentence variations), return the paper to him and tell him you will edit his paper once he has done his job.
Try These Editing Tips
Not only are the following ideas helpful for parent editing, they’re great tips to share with your teen when he does his own self-editing.
SEARCH FOR ONE KIND OF PROBLEM AT A TIME. Read through the paper several times. As you do, watch for something specific each time, such as strong word choice, sentence variety, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, etc.
Check the paper’s content. Did your teen fulfill the lesson expectations? Are there areas where he needs to add more details, facts, or explanation? Are any parts of the text unclear?
Is the writing organized and easy to follow? Does it flow well from one point to the next? Does he use transition words and phrases to connect ideas?
Is the paper’s tone appropriate for the audience? Does your student need to restructure any awkward or wordy sentences to make sure his writing is clear and readable?
4. Mechanics and Word Choice
Look for misspelled words and grammatical errors. Check sentence structure, word choice, and punctuation. Again, you’re more likely to catch errors if you look for one of these details each time you make a pass through the paper.
BE POSITIVE. Note things your student did well. Finding every error should not be your primary goal. Yes, it’s important and necessary to identify mistakes. Otherwise, your teen’s writing will never get better! Just remember to edit with grace and kindness so your suggestions are more well-received.
Suppose you’ve just made a big pot of chicken soup. You ask your teenager to take out the large chunks of vegetables, meat, and bones—anything he can scoop out with a large slotted spoon. This is just like self-editing, where he catches obvious errors in content, style, and mechanics himself.
When he has finished removing the big pieces, you then strain the broth to catch whatever he missed—those soggy celery leaves or pieces of onion skin that still remain. This is like parent editing, where you find the errors that are less evident to him—as well as the occasional bigger mistakes that went unnoticed the first time.
Even after straining the stock, you may find a few bits that never got caught—and that’s okay! It won’t ruin the soup. Likewise, neither you nor your teen will always spot every writing error. That, too, is okay.
In truth, even if you only catch half the mistakes in his writing, his revision will be greatly improved over the first draft. So relax and do your best, dear homeschooling mom, knowing that your encouraging input is making a difference.
April 30th, 2014 — High school, Writing & Journal Prompts
GREAT actors use many techniques to get inside the minds of their characters. With these Shakespeare journal prompts, high schoolers can learn firsthand how writing helps actors bring characters to life!
1. Fairy Antics
You are the mischievous fairy Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. You just learned that you applied a love potion to the wrong young man, and now two men are pursuing the same woman! Journal about your reactions to your mistake. Are you a little bit sorry? Are you looking forward to a day of entertaining mix-ups? Are you confident you can fix your mistake?
2. Midnight Meeting
In the first scene of Hamlet, two night guards convince Horatio to watch for a ghost who resembles the dead king. When the ghost appears, Horatio commands it to speak. You are Horatio. Write about your thoughts when you first call to the ghost. Are you truly afraid or simply curious? Do you believe in ghosts, or do you suspect the guards are playing tricks on you?
3. Word Games
When the English King Henry courts the French princess Katherine in King Henry V, he speaks very little French and she speaks very little English. You are Katherine. Journal about your thoughts during your conversation with your future husband. Are you shy, hopeful, or confused? Do you use all your language skills, or do you pretend to know less English than you really do?
Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!
February 25th, 2014 — High school, Teaching Writing
SPEECH writing offers a rare chance for students to impact an audience in lasting, meaningful ways. Through this kind of communication, they can learn to convey truth in a world with where morals are blurred and virtues are disappearing.
Speech writing combines narrative, descriptive, explanatory, and persuasive skills to make both logical and emotional appeals. After all, rhetoric (the art of persuasion) should engage the whole person, not just the mind or heart.
Even if your teens will never join a speech and debate club, encourage them to give an original speech in a group setting such as a class, family gathering, or graduation party. These speech-writing tips for students should help them get started!
The Prewriting Stage
When you write a speech, the prewriting stage represents about a third of the entire process.
- Choose a topic you feel strongly about. If you don’t care about the subject matter, neither will your audience.
- Evaluate your potential audience. Will you speak to a mixed group of teenagers or to a room of retirees? What are their values and interests? What kinds of music and cultural references will they relate to?
- Understand your purpose. Are you writing a speech to entertain, inform, or persuade? If you intend to persuade, are you trying to reach a like-minded or neutral audience or an openly hostile group?
- Research and brainstorm. Start gathering your facts and examples, and make a list of possible talking points.
The Writing Stage
Writing the first draft should consume about 20% of your time as a speech writer.
- Develop a “hook.” You need to capture the audience’s attention at the beginning of the speech and motivate them to keep listening. A humorous story or a startling statistic may serve this purpose, depending on the type of speech you’re writing.
- Construct a thesis. Your speech should present a clear message, with each sub-point logically leading to the final conclusion.
- Build a relationship with the audience. Establish your credibility as a speaker by demonstrating your connection to the topic. Did a hobby, a favorite author, or a family experience lead you to choose this subject?
- Organize your ideas. Offer a preview of what’s to come in the introduction, and be sure you follow those points in order.
- Finish with a strong conclusion. When you reach the end of your speech, restate your thesis and tie everything back to your introduction.
The Editing Stage
The editing stage requires another third of your time as a speech writer. As you revise, check for these items:
- Grammar. Poor writing could cause an audience to stop taking you seriously, even if your main message is solid.
- Style. In the writing stage, you focused on substance (what to say); now you can focus on style (how to say it). Without resorting to overdone “purple prose,” you can practice writing techniques such as parallelism, repetition, alliteration, and series or lists.
- Time. Read your speech out loud. It shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes.
- Sound. When you read the speech aloud, do you stumble over unnatural words and phrases? Perhaps you need to rewrite with more direct, simple language. Is your flow of thoughts easy to understand? Is your vocabulary appropriate to the audience’s age and education?
- Appeal to the senses. Your speech should engage the imagination—not put people to sleep! Do you use figurative language to help the audience visualize concepts? Include a descriptive passage to help them hear, feel, and touch your topic. Try to include narratives that people will identify with. You don’t need too many details… just enough to make the stories ring true and help you explain your persuasive points or morals.
- Organization. You can arrange your speech chronologically, topically, by comparison/contrast, or in some other way. Just be sure you’re consistent.
- Politeness. Have you used appropriate language throughout? Have you written with respect for yourself and others? The best speeches display compassion and empathy, rather than tear others down.
The Pre-Performance Stage
Once you’ve written and revised your speech, it’s time to practice! Try to memorize it, and watch your speed so you don’t speak too quickly. Practice in front of a mirror so you remember to move naturally, incorporating hand/arm gestures and facial expressions. Experiment with volume, high and low pitch, and pauses (take notes about what works and what doesn’t.)
Finally, have confidence! Stage fright is part of life, but the greatest performers have learned that passion and honesty set the speaker—and the audience—at ease every time.
Daniella Dautrich studied classical rhetoric at a liberal arts college in Hillsdale, Michigan.
October 30th, 2013 — High school, Writing & Journal Prompts
INFORMATIVE essays give teens a chance to thoroughly research, understand, and communicate a topic of interest. Let your high schooler choose one of these expository essay prompts, and encourage them to use their best writing organization skills!
1. The Map to Victory
Skilled military leaders carefully adapt their tactics based on battlefield terrain. Choose one war from history, and discuss the role of physical geography in at least two major battles. How did mountains, valleys, rivers, and deserts affect the strategies and outcomes of this particular war?
2. A Curtain Closes
Each culture passes down unique traditions for celebration or mourning when people pass from this life. Research three distinct cultures, and explain how their funeral and burial rites are linked to religious beliefs.
3. The Final Frontier
Less than a century ago, space exploration opened our eyes to incredible new possibilities for science, travel, and communication. Write an essay about either the history of manned space flights or the story of the Hubble Space Telescope.
4. Jingle All the Way
The Christmas season brings many songs, activities, and decorations from countries around the world. Write an informative essay about the origin and development of one Christmas tradition, such as Christmas trees, stockings, or advent wreaths.
If you enjoyed these expository essay topics 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, such as:
Compare and Contrast Essay Prompts
Persuasive Essay Prompts
October 24th, 2013 — High school
NOW THAT Pinterest has been around awhile, it’s hard to believe not everyone is on the bandwagon. Are you? For homeschoolers, Pinterest is so much more than a place to gather recipes and decorating ideas . . . it’s a smorgasbord of teaching tips!
Some time ago, I posted 8 writing ideas from Pinterest. Most of those ideas were directed at elementary grades, so today I’d like to point you toward some terrific Pinterest ideas for high school writing.
1. How to Teach Note Taking Skills
Part of preparing teens for college is teaching good note taking skills during high school. How to Teach Students Note Taking Skills explains the basics of when and how to take notes and introduces teens to both column-style note-taking and mind-mapping.
2. How to Choose a Topic for a College Application Essay
If your teen plans to go to college, it’s a given that the various applications will contain essay questions. Typically vague, they give students a lot of leeway. The trick is learning to reword a prompt so the topic feels comfortable and the response can be both powerful and personal. This article will teach your student How to Choose a Topic for a College Application Essay.
3. Writing Truths for Reluctant Teens
How can you encourage your high schooler when he feels stuck? What should you tell him when he can’t seem to get started writing? How do you help him handle perfectionism? Find encouragement with these 10 Writing Truths for Reluctant Teens.
4. Tips for a Quick Writing Makeover
Ideally, students should thoroughly edit and revise their essays before submitting a final draft. But when there isn’t much time to revise a piece of writing, there are still several easy adjustments they can make to improve a paper. For those crunch times, teach them these 5 tips for a quick writing makeover.
5. Vocabulary Play
You don’t have to be a little kid to enjoy playing with words! Check out these five fun ways to help students intentionally engage with vocabulary. I especially love the idea of making a word collage. Which is your favorite?
6. Create an Art Journal Page
Do you have an artistic teen? A dreamer? A poet? Here’s a step-by-step tutorial showing the process of creating an art journal page that combines scrapbook-type art, word art, and personal journaling. This is where writing meets art!
7. 119 Journal Prompts for Teens
This post offers 119 writing prompts that will especially appeal to teens. Even the most reluctant writer is sure to find a journal prompt that motivates or inspires!
Be sure to follow our Writing Ideas: Teens and Writing Prompts boards on Pinterest for more helpful writing activities like these!
Your Turn: What’s your favorite high school writing activity from Pinterest?
Copyright 2013 © by Kim Kautzer.