It can be tough to think of ways to keep things interesting when teaching writing to high school students.
Fortunately, there are so many great lesson plans out there to give you a starting point. We’ve compiled a list of 12 great lesson plans for teaching different writing techniques and styles to high school students.
1. News stories
It’s important for students to learn that different types of writing require different styles. For example, the structure and tone of a newspaper article differs greatly from a creative narrative. This news story writing lesson is a great way to help students produce writing with more lexical variation, complex sentences and passive structures.
2. Calling all characters
Writing fictional narratives can be daunting to many students who feel uncomfortable sharing their ideas, so breaking down the creative writing process is a good way to help students get the ball rolling. This lesson plan requires students to brainstorm character traits, behaviours and actions, then write scenes about that character. Although this lesson plan was designed for primary students, it can be adapted for secondary-level creative writing by removing the simpler games.
3. Drafting your essay
Essay writing is a major part of high school so it’s important to find different ways of engaging students to reinforce their learning of this type of text. This activity has students deconstruct other essays to learn about essay structure, which will help them when they go to write their own essays. Again, because this is a lesson plan for primary school students, it should be adapted to suit the grade of high school you’re teaching, for example, substitute the picture book for a secondary school novel.
4. Object creative writing
Rather than starting with characters, another way to prompt students to write stories is the object creative writing lesson plan. By giving students an object to describe, they learn to think creatively in response to a stimulus and develop their descriptive writing skills. Thinking on their feet will help them develop the skills to formulate their own creative ideas in the future.
5. Letter of complaint
Letters are a common text type that your students will be familiar with. The purpose of this lesson plan is to encourage students to use phrases that express attitude and emotion, which are found in letters of complaint.
Advertising uses persuasive language, so practicing this type of writing can help students in forming arguments in essays and debates. Learning how to sell something can also help develop confidence in students.
7. Peer editing
This lesson plan involves students editing the writing of their peers. Marking the work of others can help a student develop an understanding of their own writing skills by analysing what they would do differently. Responding to feedback from peers also encourages students to develop a positive attitude towards criticism and learning.
Writing about writing is one of the best ways to help students reduce the number of errors in their work. This lesson plan requires students to read over their work and identify one error that occurs frequently, then rewrite the piece without the error. This activity helps students learn how to correct their work and address habits so that they occur less frequently in the future.
9. Writing for a real purpose
Writing for a hypothetical purpose can leave students feeling unmotivated to produce their best work. For this lesson plan, students respond to real life scenarios that they’re personally interested in. This way, students adopt an authentic voice, based on real life experience, making their work more engaging.
10. The 100-word challenge
Being able to write clearly and succinctly is an important writing skill for students in high school and beyond. This lesson idea teaches students how to get to the point in a small number of words, by asking student to respond to a prompt in 100 words or less.
11. Start a pseudonym project
If you have a students who are particularly shy about sharing their writing with others, you can introduce an anonymous system. Allow students to choose a pseudonym they will use for handing in work. The idea is that students will feel less conscious about being personal or passionate in their work, and therefore produce higher quality work.
12. Copy cat
Some types of writing, like poetry and creative writing, are harder for students than structured essays and short responses. To help students adopt more creative tones in their writing, this lesson asks students to bring in a piece of writing (poetry or novel) and write their own original piece using the same style and tone.
Learning to write different text types, from essays and letters, to creative stories and poetry, can be challenging for students. To help them along the way, it’s important to introduce lesson plans that encourage imagination and help develop lifelong skills that will improve their writing.
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Writing Lessons and
Activities for Every Grade
* W.R.I.T.E. =
Write, Revise, Inform, Think, and Edit
How do you help your students overcome their fear of the blank page? How can you make writing an exercise in personal expression, not drudgery? One key to better writing is better writing assignments -- and the Internet has them. Let's tour a few of the finest writing activities that the Web has to offer.
Ray Saitz, a teacher/librarian and facilitator of information technology at Clarke High School in Newcastle, Ontario, put his 15 years of English teaching experience to work in creating a haven of resources for educators like himself.
He is becoming a "wired librarian," and his Web site, Outta Ray's Head, is his niche and offering to the educational community at large.
"Essentially, I became frustrated at finding endless ideas on the Internet but no lessons with tips on evaluation and with original handouts for the class," Saitz told Education World. "Most of the sites that I came across were mainly elementary, and I wanted secondary school lessons."
Several terrific tried-and-true Writing Lessons are featured on the site. Saitz explained that two of his favorite and most successful activities are The Biography Assignment and Review of Anything.
In the biography activity, students work in groups of four to create six good interview questions. Each student conducts an interview with a partner and then the two exchange roles. Their grade is determined by their performance in creating interview questions, writing the biography of their partner, and designing a cover for a book or a magazine article based on the interview.
The review writing lesson involves studying and creating a review of any object, person, or thing other than a book or a film. Students combine the characteristics of the informal essay and the review to write and share an oral presentation that has a thesis and incorporates techniques presented during class.
Another activity that hasn't yet made it to the pages of Saitz's site has students writing the end to a short story. "The gist of the lesson is to take a murder/mystery/suspense short story of about two or three pages and copy it," he explained, "but omit the final important last paragraph. You can make up some story about how the story was discovered in an old trunk and the end was rotted off. Read the story with the lights out and make a big deal of acting it up to build suspense. Just when it nearly ends, stop and ask the students to complete the ending using the same style as the writer.
"The students all write pages and pages," added Saitz, "and then a few days later, you can come into the class with the original ending. I say it was found just that day and was in the newspaper. Then they compare their endings to the author's."
Saitz hopes that his site and its lessons provide a resource of ideas that will help teachers extend their repertoire. "I think that I learned the most when I was a student teacher and I saw other teachers teaching," he said. "When we graduate and start teaching, we can stop growing and learning. I hope that the lessons on the site help other teachers realize new possibilities or open new avenues of discovery."
These writing lessons and activities will allow the young authors in your classroom to shine!
Paragraph Writing. Many elementary teachers lose heart as they read short, choppy paragraphs from their students that contain little variation in sentence structure. Successful Paragraphs is a lesson plan with a unique approach to improving student writing. Students list three material things they wish for, three happenings that would make them happy, and three places they would like to visit. They follow a specific pattern to create a paragraph that tells what it would be like for them to enjoy all those things. Using the template helps them see how variation in structure makes for more interesting reading!
Terrific Topics. Often the most difficult part of writing is getting started, and this problem is frequently related to the quest for the perfect topic. A good topic is the well from which ideas flow, so it needs to be plenty deep! If you too are having difficulty coming up with assignments that will bring forth the wonderful stories your students have to tell, visit Writing Topics. This page, from the Write Source, suggests several topics for papers your students will love to write, and all grade levels are addressed. Be sure to bookmark or print this resource from The Write Source, a development house of educational materials.
Story Boxes. Creativity and language flourish in Story Boxes, an activity included on the Pizzaz Web site. You can collect objects for the story boxes, or you can have your students fill the boxes with objects and words written on pieces of paper or sticks. As the students draw objects from the box, a story unfolds. Use the plan as an oral storytelling activity or a written composition. This is not the only excellent lesson in the collection, so visit the homepage for more gems. Best of all, permission to print and copy the handouts is granted for classroom use!
Free Activities. Each month, Zaner-Bloser: Writing offers new, free activities on-line for use with students in grades 3 and up. The activities may be printed and shared with students to exercise their writing skills. A recent issue of activities addressed descriptive writing. Don't miss this opportunity to glean a few excellent handouts and ideas from these experts in the field.
More Free Activities.Scholastic.com: Writing also provides free activities to download and print. (To access these documents, you will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.) Some activities take a few minutes to load, but they are worth the wait. Sample activities include two types of stationery for student letters and a handout that encourages students to contemplate and write about their plans for the future.
Pop-Up Cards. There is an art to writing a good greeting card and an art to making it pleasing to the eye and unusual. Pop-up cards are definitely unique! Your students will be amazed when they follow the card-making directions at How to Make a Pop-Up from Joan Irvine: the Pop-Up Lady. When the work is complete, your students will have a lovely pop-up animal card that is ready for their own special sentimental touch -- the right verse!
Heroic Efforts. Have you noticed that in all epic tales -- Great Expectations, The Odyssey, Star Wars -- there seems to be a prevailing pattern in the story? This site explores the progression of the hero throughout these tales based on observations contained in The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell. Visitors to The Hero's Journey can examine the steps in a hero's story and read examples from ancient stories or present-day movies that illustrate the concepts. As a final project, students can follow the guidelines of the site to create their own hero stories in this pattern.
Essay Writing. What could be easier than writing a simple essay? Writing one with assistance from the Guide to Writing a Basic Essay! This site takes students through choosing a topic, organizing ideas, composing a thesis, writing the body of the paper, creating an introduction and a conclusion, and adding the finishing touches. With this on-line guide, there is no excuse for a poorly constructed essay.
Writing Worksheets. High-school English teachers have been waiting for a source like this! At OWL Handouts, the Purdue University Online Writing Lab has collected and published handouts for students that address everything from writing research papers to spelling and punctuation. Choose from an extensive group of straightforward guides to complement writing assignments in your classroom. Your students will thank you!
Teach your students to create great friendly letters and give them a reason to learn how! First, introduce the topic of the friendly letter and compare it to the business letter with the examples at Letter Formats. Next, have your students make their own stationery or print one of the cute selections at Friendly Stationery from Jan Brett.
You might have your students write to famous authors, political figures, or even celebrities. You'll find addresses for many well-known actors, actresses, and musical performers online. (Do a Google search for "celebrity addresses." You'll want to supervise student selections if you allow them to use this site.) Add an element of fun by calling the assignment "Dear John Letters" and having the students write to famous people who have John as a part of their names. Don't forget Elton John, Olivia Newton-John, and Pope John Paul II!
Is a business letter more what you had in mind? Then Parts of a Business Letter will help you prepare your students for the business world. Give your students some pointers in writing business communications, and then have them write letters to organizations. They could write to support the efforts of a charity or to complain about a problem with a product or a service. You might even have them write to an address in the book Free Stuff for Kids (published by Meadowbrook Press) and request free materials.
Anyone who writes knows how daunting the empty page can be! Graphic organizers help students overcome the blank sheet and help them put their thoughts in a logical order.
Kathy Baxter and David Leahy of Greenway Elementary School in Beaverton, Oregon, created graphic organizers and placed them on the school Web site for all to see. Setting and Events are designed to be used in writing personal narratives, and Persuasive helps students create persuasive pieces by forcing them to state an opinion, support it with three points, give examples, and summarize their belief in a conclusion.
Writing Plans from The Teacher's Desk
Put one of these great writing activities to good use in your classroom. Choices include a list of assignments for fifth- and sixth-grade students to write a paragraph a week for two years!
A+ Research and Writing for High School and College Students
Designed for upper-level students, this guide helps kids write research papers without going nuts! The site explains how to write a research paper, tells how to locate information on the Internet, and advises students about what material is best found in the library, not on the Web.
Article by Cara Bafile
Copyright © 2010 Education World
Last updated 08/04/2011