In Palmer, MA since 1998
Recently due our national health situation, we have observed that many parents are having difficulty getting their sons and daughters to do schoolwork at home. This is particularly true when it comes to development and practice of written expression skills. Below, find some good topics which your student might use to compose an essay. They are designed for students in grades 8-12. We will continue to add topics, so feel free to return often for new ideas. If you need some assistance, please let us know. Newest topics are on top; previous topics are on the bottom.
18. Get your student a small booklet or open a dedicated Word document. Have the student record some thought, idea, joke, worry, or whatever each day in a small paragraph. Put a date on the entries. When this national health crisis is over, take the booklet or save the document file in a secure place. When the student is 18 or 21 years old, bring out his or her journal for everyone to review and reflect.
17. Some people write letters to family and friends, and some people send emails. These can be quite chatty and long. However, when you wish to send a post card to someone, you are limited in space. Take an index card and on one side of it, write a postcard message to a family member or friend. Make it short but interesting!
16. Ask your parents to select a newspaper, magazine, or online news story or feature article for you to read. Then compose an essay which summarizes that article. (There are right ways and wrong ways to do this, but one good approach is to write about the article's main idea in one or two sentences, include 2-3 details from the article, and conclude with some personal perspective or impression that you had after reading it.)
15. Sensory loss - We talk about having five basic senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. How would you feel if you had to give up one of your senses? Write an essay identifying the sense you would give up, and why you choose that one.
14. Sometimes we want to perform the opposite task than we tried to do for number 13 below. We often compose a sentence or paragraph, and it is just "too wordy." We want to prune our sentences, to make them tighter and more conscise. (For example, you might write: "The teacher requested over and over to all the students in the class that we finish up our class assignments before the bell rang at 2:30 pm." You could probably prune this sentence, without leaving out any key information, to the following: "The teacher repeatedly asks us students in the class to complete our assignments before 3:00 pm.) Write a paragraph and then see if you can prune it. This is a useful skill 1) when you written 200 words but the assignment calls for a maximum of 150 words or 2) when you are writing a response in an essay question. Think about your answer carefully, and you might write half as many words but still get full credit. (Lots of students I have worked with wrote essays that were way too long and repetitive, and still did not answer the question fully...)
13. Write an essay on a topic of your choice. Then, go back and try to find as many synonyms (words with the same meaning) that you can for the important words in your sentences. We want you to continue to work on improving your written vocabulary. (For example, you might write this: I went to the story to buy food for my lunch. You might revise it to say this: I traveled to the supermarket to purchase meats and vegetables for my noontime meal.) This raises your vocabulary level but also provides more interesting details for your reader.
12. English is a crazy language. We have some words which are spelled and pronounced exactly the same but which have different meanings. For example, a "park" is a place you go to play in but "park" also means to put your car somewhere. Two men can "box" but sometimes a gift comes in a "box." You can "train" your dog, but I like to go on a "train" trip. Some words even have more than two meanings - I put my picture of an elephant with a long "trunk" into my big travel "trunk" and then went outside to put it into the "trunk" of my car. Make a list of ten pairs of words that have multiple meanings, and then compose a paragraph using those words. Make your composition interesting but have it make sense also!
11. A time capsule is a box or strong container that you use to collect important or interesting things, and then you store it away. You (or someone else) will open it 10, 25, 50, or 100 years later. If you were asked to put five items (which are important to you today) into a time capsule which will be opened in 100 years. what would you put into it? Be specific. Describe the items fully. Explain why you select those items.
10. Trust is an important word. If you trust someone, you accept what they say, believe they will help you if you need help, and know that they are looking out for you. From a piece of literature that you have read (book or poem) or seen (movie), select two characters who trust each other. Compose a five-paragraph essay that identifies the characters, provides examples of their trusting relationship, and explains how this sense of trust is important to the book, poem, or movie.
9. Ask one of your parents to tell you about some item or event that was important to him or her when he or she was your age. Write an essay about it, including comments about your parent's feelings of this item/event as well as your own impressions.
8. Explore your back yard - go outside and sit in it for ten minutes. Then, tell a stranger about it in a well written paragraph. (Try to include some mention of as many of your senses as possible - sight, touch, smell, hearing, etc. - You may not want to include taste, but that's up to you...)
7. "Every cloud has a silver lining..." What does this idiom mean? In what kind of situation would this phrase be used? (If you don't know, do some research.)
6. Research Project - Students sometimes feel they are powerless to make changes in our world. Write a 5-paragraph essay about ways in which young people your age could make a contribution to the saving of our environment. (Alternative topic - Write about a young person who has already made some significant contributions to improving our natural environment.)
5. Project - The writing of a good letter is a "lost art" today. Write a letter to a friend, family member, or relative once a week for the next month. (See if they will write you back!)
4. Who is your hero/heroine? Do you have a mentor? Write an essay in which you describe a person who has had a great influence on your life.
3. Some people like Saturdays because they hope to relax all day. If you could design a "perfect Saturday," what activities would you choose for that day? Be specific.
2. Tell the life story your family pet.
1. You will not be attending your regular school for several weeks, and perhaps you will not go back for the rest of the year. Write a 5-paragraph essay about what you hope to accomplish before the end of June.