25 Alternatives to a Traditional Book Report

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The words “book report” can elicit groans from students at any age. Writing a summary of a book isn’t necessarily the most effective way to demonstrate learning in the digital age. With summary book websites online, the traditional book report is no longer an enriching task. Here are 25 alternatives to the traditional book report for students to demonstrate their comprehension and deeper understanding of a book.

25 Book Report Alternatives

  1. Interview a character from the book. Write a series of questions and answers from the protagonist or antagonist. You can even try focusing on a flat character.
  2. Write a diary or journal from the main character’s point of view. This can be done in a physical format or through blog posts online. Try a student-friendly blog site like kidblog.org or edublogs.org.
  3. Create a stop-motion video of major scenes from the book. Here are some tutorials on using stop motion in education.
  4. Draw a comic book version of the book.
  5. Give a book talk convincing someone to check out this book from a library.
  6. Write a script for a scene or scenes from the book. Cast famous actors as the characters.
  7. Create a playlist of songs that go with important moments or characters in the book. Explain the reason you chose each song.
  8. Design your own Google Lit Trip for the novel.
  9. Make a book jacket for the novel. Look at traditional book jackets for inspiration.
  10. Write the climax of the story from a different character’s point of view. (If it’s in the third person, try telling it in first person or vice versa.)
  11. Write an alternate ending for the story.
  12. Make a picture book or children’s version of your novel.
  13. Choose one of the themes (lessons) of the book and write about how it relates to current events.
  14. Write a narrative poem based on the plot of the novel.
  15. Make a scrapbook for one of the characters in the book.
  16. Explain why this book should or should not be read by students in your grade level. Back up your argument with specific evidence from the text.
  17. Create a glossary of vocabulary words from the book. Use images and specific sentences and context from the novel.
  18. Read a related book (same author, related theme, same series) and compare and contrast them in a short essay or Venn diagram.
  19. Create an online Jeopardy game based on themes, characters, plot questions, and other elements from the novel.
  20. Write a resume for the main character of the book. Use what you know about the character to make inferences to their experience and qualifications.
  21. If the main character is a child, write a short story about an event that happens in their adult life. If the main character is an adult, imagine an event that happened in their childhood and write about it.
  22. Create a social media profile (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat) and some posts for a character in the book. Use these templates or create real pages that comply with terms of service.
  23. Design the setting in Minecraft. Build a character’s home, neighborhood, city, or even country.
  24. Make a family tree for the main character of your novel. Create some artifacts (birth certificates, newspaper articles, scrapbook entries, photographs, etc.)
  25. Write a letter to the author suggesting changes in the novel.

These 25 ideas will have your student excited about reading and sharing what they learned from their latest book!

Of course, there is nothing wrong with writing a traditional book report, either. Check out this link for a lesson for middle schoolers on writing a book report.

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Hands On Math Activity: Estimating Area

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Here’s a hands-on activity you can do with your child to directly apply the concept of area to the place she knows best – her house. In addition, it is a good review of math skills and measurement because she must use a measuring tape to measure each room.

Hands On Math Activity: Estimating Area

Challenge your child to guess the largest and smallest rooms of the house – she might be surprised at how big her room really is!

What You Need:


  • Measuring tape
  • 
Paper and pencil
  • Clipboard (optional)
  • Real estate section of a local newspaper

What You Do:

  1. Begin by taking a walk around the house and asking your child to take some guesses. Which room does she think has the smallest area? Which has the largest area? Which bedroom has the smallest area? Which bathroom has the smallest area?
  1. Explain to your child that she will be measuring each room in the house to check if she guessed correctly. Offer a small prize depending on how many of her guesses are correct.
  1. Give her a sheet of paper and ask her to write the following on the top: A = L x W (Area = Length x Width) 12 inches = 1 foot. Then set her loose to roam the house, measuring and recording the length and width of each room.
  1. When she’s finished, help your fourth grader find the area of each room by multiplying the length and width. Point out that the area is reported in square feet. Compare the results with her guesses. Hopefully, she has earned a prize. If not, a small “participation” prize for her effort will keep her motivated to learn more!
  1. Now it’s time to tie this into some real-life learning. Have your child tally the total of all the rooms. If the weather allows, and you have a house with a yard, consider going outside and measuring your house and hard perimeters while you’re at it! Then, open the real estate section of your local newspaper and check out what you find. Which houses are closest to yours in size? Which houses would YOU most like to live in, and how big are they? Are the biggest houses always the most expensive? How big is your child’s dream house, and what does it contain?

What’s Going On:

To understand the concept of area, your fourth grader needs to grasp several underlying skills, such as measurement and multiplication. Next year, students will take these concepts even further as they learn to calculate percentages, decimals, and interest payments. Keep it real and relevant, and these big ideas will make sense in a deep, enduring way. And who knows? Maybe your young mathematician will even end up in that dream house after all!

This fun hands-on math activity was provided by the good folks at Education.com. Education.com offers guided lessons, printable worksheets, teaching tools and more for parents and educators. You can learn more at Education.com and follow them on Facebook.

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Stomp Rocket Science: Free Lesson Plan and a Giveaway

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After being cooped up all winter with textbooks and indoor activities, even moms get spring fever! With the sun starting to make its debut and the weather turning warmer, now is the perfect time to get out from behind those text books and get some hands-on science lessons outdoors.

Give Spring a Science Boost with Stomp Rockets

Maybe you remember Stomp Rockets as a kid, or you’ve seen them in the store? After all, they have been around for almost 25 years. If you have’t played with them yourself, you can tell it’s going to be fun, just from the name. Stomp Rockets!

Stomp Rocket Ultra LED is 100% KID powered: Run, jump and STOMP to launch these rockets up to 150 feet in the air! Click to turn on the powerful LED light inside, and these Stomp Rockets will really shine in the night sky, so it’s fun to play outdoors after dusk and on gloomy days too. Light up the night with vibrant color. The LED lights inside these rockets make them bright enough to double as a flashlight! Stomp Rocket Ultra LED is strong and durable, and great for active, outdoor play. Stomp Rockets have won lots of awards from industry experts, including iParenting Media, Dr. Toy and Creative Child Magazine. Includes a Stomp Launcher and 4 foam-tipped Ultra Stomp Rockets with bright LED lights inside. Refill rockets also available (item #20502). For kids ages 6 and up.

As if running, jumping, stomping and launching rockets into the air wasn’t just great all by itself, there are a TON of science experiments and concepts to learn from all of this fun.  Concepts include force, gravity, trajectory and so much more.

You can do a quick Google search to find some activities but did you know there is a corresponding curriculum you can use with your Stomp Rockets???

Use the “Stompin’ Science” book with Stomp Rocket Launch Sets to make science a blast! Kids can learn about things like gravity (what goes up must come down), trajectory, force and more by running, jumping and STOMPING to launch rockets — so learning is fun, interactive and active! Plus, the “Stompin’ Science” book makes teaching easy. It contains lessons for students of all ages and grade levels. Great for teachers, homeschoolers and parents who’d like to have some educational fun with their kids.

Here’s a peek at the lessons included in this book:

  1. Top Secret Toy Testing (grade K-8)
  2. Exploring Force and Motion (grades 3-12)
  3. Exploring Force and Mass (grades 3-12)
  4. Angling for a Stompin’ Good Time (grades 3-12)
  5. Speed Rockets (grades 3-8)
  6. What Goes Up ….. (grades 3-8)
  7. What Goes Up … May Not Come Down (grades 8-12)
  8. Up, Up and Away (grades 8-12)
  9. Get a Blast of Energy (grades 10-12)
  10. Analyzing Projectile Motion (grades 10-12)

Those are just the lesson plans. There’s another 16 pages dedicated to science fair projects!

Aren’t you super excited to get outside and use your stomp rockets to teach science now?!?!

To give you even MORE motivation, I’ve got a two special treats for you!

First, I’m give you lessons plans to teach Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion using your Stomp Rockets. This lesson plan has 3 adaptable experiments you can do in your own back yard and note booking pages to use too. This lesson plan is free, but for a very limited time only, so be sure to grab yours while you can (link at the end of this post).

Here’s the other special treat (I’m giddy with excitement!) …. one lucky Modern Homeschool Family reader is going to win his or her own Stomp Rocket set and science project guide!

Enter to Win Stomp Rocket Science

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If you just can’t wait to get started using Stomp Rockets and the lesson plans, you can find them on Amazon Prime:

Stomp Rocket Science Lesson Plan with Printable Worksheets and Notebooking Pages

As promised, here’s the lesson plan. Don’t forget, it’s only free through May 3rd, so download yours now!

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5 Vocabulary Games for Middle School

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One of the most effective ways to improve test scores, writing, and reading comprehension is to improve vocabulary! Why have students copy down definitions or make old-school flash cards when they can learn new words with some fun games? Here are 5 vocabulary games for middle school students you can try in your homeschool!

1. Play Vocab Bingo! Students write down a different word in each box from a list of vocabulary words. When the teacher reads the definition of your word, the student marks it. When the student get a “bingo” (blackout, diagonal, horizontal, or vertical), they win! This game can be played with just one student. It’s not necessarily a race to win! Individual students may benefit most by playing the blackout method, where they must mark every word on their bingo sheet.

2. Roll a word! Have your student write down specific vocabulary words and then roll a dice. Each # on the dice gets a task (1-give the definition, 2-give a synonym & an antonym, 3-write a sentence, 4-draw a picture, 5-make a connection, and 6-your choice). See more from Southern Fried Teachin’ here!

3. Play Pictionary. Have students illustrate their vocabulary while you (or other students) guess the word and its meaning. This works especially well with content specific vocabulary words such as though specific to science and social studies.

4. Make up meanings. Write the actual definition mixed with fake definitions of a word. You may also have your student generate some fake definitions if there are multiple students playing. The student will guess the real definitions. This works well with brand new words or challenging words that may be seen on standardized or advanced placement tests (i.e. SAT, ACT practice tests).

5. Free Rice: This popular online game allows students to answer vocabulary questions while giving back to the community and the world! Free Rice has a variety of vocabulary subjects from English to foreign languages (Spanish, German, French, Italian, and Latin) to more content specific vocabulary for Math, Science, and Humanities. Check out the SAT prep section as well! For every correct answer, the United Nations World Food Program will donate 10 grains of rice to a country in need. Learn and give back!

These five fun vocabulary games with make learning new words engaging and meaningful without the monotony of flashcards or memorizing definitions. Try one or more out with your kids!

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Writing Units for Middle School

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Proper writing is one of the most essential skills your child will need in highschool, college and beyond.

In this day of short-hand texting, emojis and gifs, writing has become a lost art.

Getting middle schoolers engaged and enjoying writing isn’t difficult though! I’ve found that helping the find inspiration and providing them with simple and clear instructions is the key. That’s why I’ve created the 4 writing units for middleschoolers for you to use in your own homeschool program. Each of these can be used as a stand-alone unit or you can purchase the all (and save money!) for a comprehensive writing program.

Report Writing Unit for Middle School

This unit is designed for homeschoolers in grades 5 – 8. It contains 10 lessons that will guide your student through the process of writing a report, from start to finish. This unit can be used on it’s own or combined with any of our 3 other writing units.

Journaling Unit for Middle School

Journaling is a great way to introduce your child to wrting. This unit is designed
for homeschoolers in grades 5 – 8. It contains 7 lessons that will guide your
student through the process of starting, and maintaining, a aily journal. This unit can be used on it’s own or combined with any of our 3 other writing units.

Writing A Book Review Unit for Middle School

This unit is designed for homeschoolers in grades 5 – 8. It contains 9 lessons that
will guide your student through the process of writing a book review.
Use it as part of your literature curriculum, on it’s own or combined with any of our 3 other writing units.

Writing Poetry Unit for Middle School

This unit is designed for homeschoolers in grades 5 – 8. It contains 7 lessons that
will guide your student through the process of writing poetry. Use it as part of
your literature curriculum, on it’s own or combined with any of our 3 other writing units.

Writing Unit Bundle for Middle School

Save money with this bundle of writing units! This bundle of writing units is designed for homeschoolers in grades 5 – 8. It contains 4 units (a total of 33 lessons) that will guide your child through process of writing a report, book review, journal and poetry, step-by-step.

If you’re looking for more great printable homeschool resources, click this link to visit our store on Gumroad.

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5 Fun Ways to Teach Fractions

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Learning about fractions is an integral part of any middle school curriculum. Teaching these concepts can be tough, but these fun ways to teach fractions can make the probability of learning so much stronger! (I love Math puns.)

1. Use Fraction Manipulatives

Using fraction strips can help students see the processes rather than just know the math. The build it, draw it, write it model allows students to use fraction strips (small pieces of paper with fractions listed that students can build and put together to show the different operations) to actively model and show what they learn with their class. Students build the fractions with their strips, draw it out on paper, then write out the equations.

See it in action on Teaching Channel. Here’s a step-by-step lesson on using Fraction Strips with Teaching Mahollitz. Her practices are from an elementary classroom but definitely work with middle school students!

2. Break out the Dominoes

Dominoes are a perfect way to bring games and math together! Hold the dominoes vertically (the top number is the numerator; the bottom number is the denominator) and have students place the numbers on a number line in order. Play with both improper and proper fractions, or you can make sure the smaller number is on top to just focus on proper fractions. Learn more about number lines and fractions at Scholastic.com.

Working on operations? Line up two dominoes vertically and choose an operation. Have students write out and verbally explain their process!

3. Get Cookin’!

Make fractions relevant by showing practical applications outside the curriculum. Use different measuring tools and bake some cookies! Double recipes to teach multiplication with fractions. Talk about proportions and ratios by making a salad with several different kinds of fruit. Don’t have the facilities and supplies for kitchen activities? Check out this idea from Girl Tech and convert your favorite recipes based on the number of people who will partake!

4. Musical Fractions

Your students will be sure to think the glass is half full of fun with this fraction activity! (Well, it may be a 1/4 or 2/3. . .). First, fill up glasses with different fractions of water. Next, add some food coloring for fun. This also lets the students know it is the amount (fraction) of water in the glass (not the color) that makes the difference in the pitch when they hear the different sounds made when tapping the glasses with spoons! Let students write their own melodies by writing out the fractions on a piece of paper. Learn more about this and other magical math activities at weareteachers.com.

5. Math Mosaics

Build math mosaics with fractions of different colors. Teachers can provide the different challenges (1/4 of the design is blue, 1/4 yellow, 1/2 red). This activity makes for prime differentiation as teachers can challenge students with more difficult patterns or have the students come up with their own challenge. Designs can be completed with markers or crowns on grids or with pieces of tissue or construction paper. The possibilities are endless! See more ideas for math mosaics at Scholastic.com.

These hands-on activities can simplify the process of teaching fractions, and make it more fun!

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Sensory Play DIY Recipe – Water Bead Sensory Play

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Kids LOVE playing with water beads. It’s a great sensory activity.

Follow this simple recipe for creating your own water beads!

Sensory Play DIY Recipe – Water Bead Sensory Play

Ingredients:

  • Colorful water beads
  • Warm water
  • Airtight container with lid (shallow rectangular containers work better than bowls or small deep containers)
  • Old measuring cups, plastic spoons, plastic eggs, seashells, or toy creepy crawly bugs.

Optional: a few drops of eucalyptus, tea tree, or lemon essential oil.

Directions:

Pour ½ of mixed color water beads in large shallow container.

Add 4-6 cups of water. Let sit overnight.

If beads have not expanded all the way add another 2 cups of water.

Add fun objects for sensory play: measuring cups, seashells, plastic spoons, toy snakes and bugs, abc letters or beads, dinosaurs, ramekins, old jars, etc.

When done playing put the lid on so the water beads don’t dry out.

As needed, add water and a few drops of eucalyptus oil to kill pathogens.

Picture-8-300x168This Sensory Play recipe was provided by Katie Vega.

Katie Vega is a mom of 5 in Columbus, Ohio. She is an internet marketer, marketing/branding consultant, and e-book author. She began her career in the Network Marketing industry in 1999, and over the years has totally transformed  her business to use her passions and talents. In early 2013 she left her job to build her business at home part time so she could homeschool her children.

 

One of her passions and goals  is to show moms with ADHD or behaviorally challenged kids how they can manage the chaos at home and run a profitable business without losing their mind!

 

Visit KatieVega.com to learn more.

 

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8 Great Projects for Teen Scientists

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Hands-on, real-life learning can make science come to life for secondary students. Gone are the days of assigned Science Fair projects. These 8 projects for teen scientists will bring inquiry and project-based learning home! With any of these projects, make sure younger students have adult supervision as some use chemicals and electricity.

8 Great Science Projects for Teens

Dye Flowers

There are several different methods that allow you to create your own beautiful bouquets, just like the ones you see at floral shops or the supermarkets. Carnations are a perfect choice for this process. Because flowers absorb water and nutrients through their stems, by using food coloring in this simple experiment, you can produce gorgeous hues to adorn your home with this easy floral art and science project!

Conduct Electricity

Using simple, affordable materials you can find at home or in your local hardware store, you can test the conductivity of certain solutions. The site above gives you step-by-step instructions on how to build your device as well as different solutions to try!

Secret Messages

Keep your notes private, turn off the texting, and write in invisible ink! This is a simple experiment that requires only a lemon, paint brush (or cotton swab), and a white piece of paper. Write a message with lemon juice, hold up to a heat source, and ta-da! Your words are revealed. Just don’t let everyone in on the secret!

Physics Interactives

Explore dozens of ways to learn physics concepts through simulations and tutorials for physical projects. One of my favorites is the Roller Coaster Model that help bring Newton’s Laws to life with an interactive model to help understand velocity and force.

Make Your Own Cloud

Learn the types of clouds and create your own. You may have seen the cloud in the bottle experiment, but what about making a cloud in your mouth?! Learn the physics behind it, and give it a try!

Get Your Beverage Ice Cold

Practical science experiments are the best! Figure out how the fastest way to cool a can of soda (or flavored sparkling water in a can) with this experiment you can complete with objects in your home then take your icy cold beverage to the pool, on a walk, or just pop the tab at home!

Make Your Own Smart Phone Projector

The big bonus to this project is watching your favorite Netflix series or YouTube videos on your wall! Learn about convex lenses (like the human eye), and build your own projector with cardboard, magnifying glass (or camera lens), and a smartphone!

Make Giant Gummy Bears

Learn about osmosis and diffusion and watch your gummy bears grow in this experiment! (Just make sure not to eat all the goodies before you get started!)

Want to try some more awesome experiments? Here are a few sites to check out with dozens of ideas to bring out the scientist in you!

Home Experiments on scifun.org

Backyard Brains (some experiments require additional equipment for purchase)

KidSpot Science Experiments

Energy Quest Science Projects

Science Toy Maker

Exploratorium

Project Noah

NASA Space Place

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Using Maps to Study Literature

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Maps are traditionally aligned with Social Studies and Geography curriculums, but they can be extremely useful in studying literature. There are so many different resources to explore when learning about the setting of a story. Here are a few different ways to use maps to study literature in your Language Arts curriculum!

Google Lit Trips

Google Lit Trips are files used to follow the travels of characters within a novel by using Google Earth. Hundreds of Lit Trips are already available to download. Middle School novels include Fever 1973 by Laurie Halse Anderson, My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier, and Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Students can even create their own Google Lit Trips from their favorite novels.

Study Imaginary Maps

Did you know that the Library of Congress has a website where you can find primary and secondary resources to use with your students for free? One of the little-known sections of this site is a collection of imaginary maps used in literature. The site links resources including maps from The Lord of the Rings Project and The Maruder’s Map in Harry Potter. Maps give readers a visual peek into an imaginary world, perfect for creating imagery in the reader’s mind.

Create Your Own Maps

Have students create their own maps to go along with the setting of their favorite stories. Use free software online such as National Geographic Mapmaker Interactive which gives easy access to layers and tools to showcase literary settings throughout the world. Students can create their own maps using Google products like Google Earth or Google Maps.

Creative cartographers may want to draw their own fantastic maps. Here are some tutorials using Photoshop. Many of the tips can be applied to paper drawings as well.

Minecraft

Minecraft is a vast educational resource, especially when it comes to creating settings based on novels. Students build worlds found in the pages of fiction and bring them to life on screen. Build in creative mode and allow more interaction and games in survival modes.

There are so many ways to use maps to study literature. From integrating technology software to hand drawing beautiful creative works of art, maps can be used to study setting and character’s journeys in a story.

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31 Writing Prompts for Teens

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You hear it all the time. The way to get better at writing is to just do it. . .write! What happens when the words don’t flow? You can sit there waiting for divine inspiration to strike from the muses, or you can have writing prompts ready at your disposal to help you fight so-called “writer’s block”. Here are 31+ prompts (one a day and then some for our short months) to kickstart your writing!

31 Writing Prompts for Teens

If you’re struggling to get your teenager into creative writing, try letting him or her pick from this list of writing prompts!

1. Make a List. . .or 10

This activity can serve as brainstorming for future writing or work as a writing tool itself. Make a list of all the things you love (or hate), favorite books, inspirational quotes, story ideas, character names, and more. The lists literally can go on and on!

2. Write an unsent letter.

Write a letter to a friend, teacher, parent, crush, or hero with the words you want to say but aren’t ready (or maybe shouldn’t) put out there.

3. You are arrested for a crime you didn’t commit in a case of mistaken identity. Write about what ensues.

4. Write about your favorite physical feature (or your least favorite).

5. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

6. Write a story using the strongest character traits of your family members in the main characters of your story. Feel free to switch them up. (i.e. if mom is super organized, make the daughter super organized in the story)

7. Write about your first kiss (or the one that hasn’t happened yet).

8. Take a dabble into fan fiction. Write a story from the perspective of a character in your favorite TV show, movie, or novel.

9. List all the things you love about yourself. Write a poem based on that list.

10. Think about the last time you had a good cry. Write down how you felt in lyric (song) form.

11. Create a new invention that fulfills a need in your life. Write up the plans for your new idea.

12. Make a list of questions you’ve always wanted to know the answers to but are too afraid to ask.

13. Think of your first memory from your childhood. Write about it from the point of view of a child at that age.

14. You just found a bag of money with a note. It simply says, “Pay it forward.” What do you do?

15. Make a list of random acts of kindness you can complete. Do one of them.

16. Write about an embarrassing moment you had but from the perspective of someone who witnessed it.

17. Think about an adult in your life that you admire. Write a letter from them to you with the advice you think they would give you about life.

18. Create your own ice cream flavor based on your personality. Write a description/recipe.

19. Write about a problem in the world and how you could fix it with creative (even impossible) means.

20. Someone tells you that teenagers are lazy. Write your response proving them wrong.

21. Make a list of your favorite songs. Write a parody for one of the songs related to your own life.

22. Go on Instagram (or other social media). Write a story or poem based on the first image that you see.

23. Observe people at a mall, park, or another public place. Write a character sketch based on a stranger that you see.

24. Convince the government that your birthday should be a national holiday.

25. Write about your dream vacation on a limitless budget.

26. You’re the star of your own reality show. What is about? What’s it called? Write the first episode.

27. You’re snowed in for a week with your best friend and no parents. What happens?

28. Please really is the magic word. Every time you say “please”, something amazing happens. Write a story about what happens when you discover this for the first time.

29. Pick a random book in your collection. Open to a random page. The first sentence is the first sentence of your story.

30. Write a story with a few words and phrases in a different language. (i.e. hello, love, goodbye, fear).

31. Write about your perfect day.

If you breeze through these writing prompts or are looking for more inspiration, check out some of these sites below for more fantastic writing prompts.

1. 100 Not-Boring Writing Prompts for Middle and High Schoolers
2. Three Story Elements Prompts
3. Writing Prompts About Gratitude
4. Reflective Essay Prompts for High School Students
5. 365 Writing Questions
6. Six Word Memoirs
7. Blackout/Found Poetry
8. 15 Visual Writing Prompts
9. Using Photos as Writing Prompts
10. More Writing Prompts

 

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