Middle school writing prompts
Free PDF download contains 2 prompts
On this page are two free middle school writing prompts with
detailed information about how to use them. If you teach writing
in a public, private, or homeschool situation you may use or adapt
these prompts in your classes.
Note: The difference between a middle school writing prompt and
one for high school use often is in how the paper must be developed
rather than in the "essay question" itself. There's
more on that topic on the page of thesis
statements responding to these prompts.
Middle school prompt #1: onomatopoeia
The first prompt of our middle school writing prompts begins
by putting the assignment in context. Middle school students will
be pleased to see they are familiar with the concept being discussed
even if they haven't heard the word onomatopoeia before.
Notice that this prompt uses the keyword of the topic frequently.
(I underlined it so you will see it.) That repetition is a help
to the struggling readers and writers in your classes. Repetition
is particularly useful for younger students and those who struggle
with reading and writing.
The next paragraph of the prompt identifies the basic assignment.
It specifies the type
of essayan extended definitionand the audience.
Ideally, you would want to use peer
readers to provide the authentic audience the prompt calls
Next, the prompt gives more details about how students should develop
the essay. It tells what kinds of sources are options, but
it leaves open the possibility for students to find others.
In addition to helping the students get their sources together,
the prompt also tells them what they need to include in their essay
The last section of the prompt tells students about any format
requirements that are specific to the assignment.
If you have a set of requirements
for all your formal written assignments for the entire year
(I hope you do!), you can add a line that says, "For full
credit, you must meet the general writing standards for the class
Including a copy of those standards or mentioning where students
can find those standards is a good idea. Middle schoolers have an
uncanny knack for losing their papers.
Middle school prompt #2: online search
The second of these middle school writing prompts is for a longer
paper. It begins by providing context.
The context poses the question that the student will have to answer
in the writing assignment. If you were introducing this assignment
in class, you could let students discuss the question before you
present the actual prompt.
This is what I call a no-brainer prompt. It
gives students only one option for a thesis and
tells them how their essay must be developed.
You may notice the key term effective online search,
which is the topic of the prompt, was not used in the context
paragraph. Instead the context paragraphs uses a synonym.
Such use of synonyms for the topic keyword is common in assignments
in authentic writing situations.
Beginning students may find the synonymous terms confusing. Be
sure to show them how they can use the synonym when they
compose their essays to make their writing sound less mechanical.
The next section of the prompt suggests ways students could develop
the three points.
Notice that students have four different ways they can find information
for their papers. The next section tells them they have to use
three of those for maximum credit. In other words, they cannot
get an "A" unless they have three of the types of evidence
sources; having all four, however, is no guarantee of an "A."
Requiring students to use evidence from more than one type of
source eases them away from the elementary school practice
of writing just what they already know.
Demanding more than just published sources keeps
them from getting the impression that writing means stringing
other people's ideas together. And that helps them avoid
This middle school writing prompt gives an upper word count
limit. Students who make an effort to include the material the prompt
calls for will write at least half that.
Unless your goal is for students to write long strings of words,
it is better to specify what content they must
have than to specify how much they must write. Nothing turns struggling
beginning writers off faster than being pressured to put words
on paper when they have nothing to say.
For middle schoolers, I recommend you add a list of anything
that you expect students to include in their papers even if
you have gone over the material 87 times in class. (For high school
and college classes, you can skip the list of what you require
in every assignment if you've discussed it at least 67 times in
class; for graduate classes, 27 repetitions ought to suffice.)