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Independent Writing Assignments for the English Classroom

Updated on August 15, 2013
donnah75 profile image

I am a high school English teacher who is passionate about writing, theater, directing and enjoying a positive life with family and friends.


After nearly ten years of teaching, I have taken the time recently to reflect on my life and career path. It surprises me sometimes that I have spent so many years teaching high school English. As all teachers know, there are days that are stressful and days that are joyous. There are days where we think we have made a difference and days where we wonder what we have gotten ourselves into. There are days that plan A goes smoothly, and then there are the days when we need a plan B, C, and D. In the end, I always remind myself that as an English teacher, it is my job to ensure that I am helping my students become strong readers and writers who can be literate citizens. Although we do many things to meet that goal, that is the goal we need to reach when our time in the classroom comes to a close.

One of the ways that I ensure I am meeting the goal of encouraging literate citizens is to assign independent reading and writing assignments from time to time. I know that it is important to write about the things I love and the things that I am interested in. That is when I do my best writing. Therefore, it makes sense that giving my students the opportunity to write about their own interests and passions will allow them to produce their best writing. With all assignments though, students need direction and a place to start. Below is the text of a handout I created for my classroom for independent writing projects. Feel free to pull out these ideas and use them on a day that you need a plan B.

The ideas listed here are also good starters for writers of any age. Stuck for an idea for your next Hubpages article? Try one or more of the ideas and formats that follow. Good luck!

How often do you assign independent writing?

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  • Independent writing projects can be submitted each quarter for extra credit. (Sometimes they will be assigned.)
  • You may not submit the same type of project more than twice during the school year.
  • All final drafts should be typed in at least 12-point font.
  • All final drafts should adhere to the conventions of the genre in which you choose to write. (A play script should look like a script! A poem should look like a poem!)


1. Poetry – For this option, you should write a set of at least five poems.

2. Short story – Your story can be fiction or non-fiction.

3. Newspaper article – Refer to the ‘Types of Writing’ page in your writer’s notebook for the different kinds of articles you can write. You may even choose to submit your article to the school newspaper!

4. Script – Write an original script for a play or movie. It is not required, but if you would like to perform your piece either live or via video, you may do so on the due date. Remember to include stage directions, a list of characters at the beginning, set the scene, etc.

5. Refer to the ‘Types of Writing’ page in your writer’s notebook for more ideas of kinds of writing you can produce for this project. Some of the items on that list will not meet the requirements for this assignment, for example you may not do a poster, greeting card, logos, etc.

Stephen King's Advice on Writing


Types of Writing to Try

My students and I spent time creating this list of "types of writing to try." I asked them to think of genre and structure or form. It was a great activity, and I suggest that you have your students do a similar brainstorming activity if you have time. genre




historical fiction

realistic fiction











science fiction

structure / form

poetry – sonnets, haiku, epic, free verse


short story




scripts – movie, play, radio

pamphlets / brochure

diary / journal

travel logs

directions / instructions






picture books

nursery rhymes



greeting cards

logos / slogans


newspaper – articles – news, feature, sports

editorials, obituaries, advice columns, advertisements

  • Find a picture that you really like in a magazine, newspaper, or on a postcard. Cut it out and tell the story that you see happening in the picture. (The story can be completely fictional.) This works well with art.
  • Have you seen any great, or not so great, movies lately? Have you purchased a new cd lately? Write a movie or music review.
  • Are you a sports fan? Have you been following the teams here at school? Write a sports article for a newspaper. Check out the sports pages of today’s newspaper for inspiration.
  • Do you know an interesting person in the community or in our school community who’s story must be told. Interview that person and write a profile of them.
  • Do you love children’s books? Write and illustrate your own children’s book. Be sure to spend some time investigating the proper structure of these books in the elementary library. (Yes, they have a specific structure!)
  • Is there a subject you have been dying to know more about? Do some research and write a researched essay to show your findings.
  • Do you have an opinion about an issue that we are facing in our community or our world? Write an editorial or a persuasive essay that showcases your opinion. Check out the opinion articles in the newspaper for inspiration.
  • Still stuck? Talk to your classmates. Find out what they are doing. Ask for help. Also, check out to read published work by teens across the country.

Do you need ideas for independent book projects? Check out my book project ideas by clicking here.


Written by Donna Hilbrandt.

© 2012 Donna Hilbrandt


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    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Stephanie! Good luck with teaching the new course. I also started teaching a college level course this year (within the high school where I work). It is a whole new level and wonderful challenge. Sadly, this hub hasn't performed as well I as I would have liked, so I really appreciate the read and comment. :)

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      As a former high school English teacher and current English professor, I find this hub very nice to read. It is great to know there are others out there who are giving students an option and a challenge. I like the list of genres you provide. I am teaching a class this semester for the first time at a university where they allow the professors a lot of freedom and encourage the use of different genres, so I am going to start incorporating these more.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Vellur!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Very useful and interesting information. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks, Bill. At some point it struck me that there wasn't a balance between standardized testing and authentic writing. I try to strike a better balance because I know how important writing is for people to learn and discover. I don't know about the state of education, but I will try to do my part. Thanks for your support.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm all for it! Have kids write often and then more often. Great suggestions here my friend; keep on doing what you are doing and I'll keep feeling better about the state of education. :)