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essay writing exercises high school

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essay writing exercises high school

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essay writing exercises high school

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essay writing exercises high school

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essay writing exercises high school

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essay writing exercises high school

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essay writing exercises high school

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Literacy Ideas

Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers

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Essay writing is an essential skill for every student. Whether writing a particular academic essay (such as persuasive, narrative, descriptive, or expository) or a timed exam essay, the key to getting good at writing is to write. Creating opportunities for our students to engage in extended writing activities will go a long way to helping them improve their skills as scribes.

But, putting the hours in alone will not be enough to attain the highest levels in essay writing. Practice must be meaningful. Once students have a broad overview of how to structure the various types of essays, they are ready to narrow in on the minor details that will enable them to fine-tune their work as a lean vehicle of their thoughts and ideas.

Visual Writing

In this article, we will drill down to some aspects that will assist students in taking their essay writing skills up a notch. Many ideas and activities can be integrated into broader lesson plans based on essay writing. Often, though, they will work effectively in isolation – just as athletes isolate physical movements to drill that are relevant to their sport. When these movements become second nature, they can be repeated naturally in the context of the game or in our case, the writing of the essay.


essay writing | nonfiction writing unit | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

  • 270  pages of the most effective teaching strategies
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  • All explanations are reinforced with  concrete examples.
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Planning an essay

essay writing | how to prepare for an essay | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

The Boys Scouts’ motto is famously ‘Be Prepared’. It’s a solid motto that can be applied to most aspects of life; essay writing is no different. Given the purpose of an essay is generally to present a logical and reasoned argument, investing time in organising arguments, ideas, and structure would seem to be time well spent.

Given that essays can take a wide range of forms and that we all have our own individual approaches to writing, it stands to reason that there will be no single best approach to the planning stage of essay writing. That said, there are several helpful hints and techniques we can share with our students to help them wrestle their ideas into a writable form. Let’s take a look at a few of the best of these:


Whether students are tackling an assignment that you have set for them in class or responding to an essay prompt in an exam situation, they should get into the habit of analyzing the nature of the task. To do this, they should unravel the question’s meaning or prompt. Students can practice this in class by responding to various essay titles, questions, and prompts, thereby gaining valuable experience breaking these down.

Have students work in groups to underline and dissect the keywords and phrases and discuss what exactly is being asked of them in the task. Are they being asked to discuss, describe, persuade, or explain? Understanding the exact nature of the task is crucial before going any further in the planning process, never mind the writing process .


Once students have understood what the essay task asks them, they should consider what they know about the topic and, often, how they feel about it. When teaching essay writing, we so often emphasize that it is about expressing our opinions on things, but for our younger students what they think about something isn’t always obvious, even to themselves.

Brainstorming and mind-mapping what they know about a topic offers them an opportunity to uncover not just what they already know about a topic, but also gives them a chance to reveal to themselves what they think about the topic. This will help guide them in structuring their research and, later, the essay they will write . When writing an essay in an exam context, this may be the only ‘research’ the student can undertake before the writing, so practicing this will be even more important.


The previous step above should reveal to students the general direction their research will take. With the ubiquitousness of the internet, gone are the days of students relying on a single well-thumbed encyclopaedia from the school library as their sole authoritative source in their essay. If anything, the real problem for our students today is narrowing down their sources to a manageable number. Students should use the information from the previous step to help here. At this stage, it is important that they:

●      Ensure the research material is directly relevant to the essay task

●      Record in detail the sources of the information that they will use in their essay

●      Engage with the material personally by asking questions and challenging their own biases

●      Identify the key points that will be made in their essay

●      Group ideas, counterarguments, and opinions together

●      Identify the overarching argument they will make in their own essay.

Once these stages have been completed the student is ready to organise their points into a logical order.


There are a number of ways for students to organize their points in preparation for writing. They can use graphic organizers , post-it notes, or any number of available writing apps. The important thing for them to consider here is that their points should follow a logical progression. This progression of their argument will be expressed in the form of body paragraphs that will inform the structure of their finished essay.

The number of paragraphs contained in an essay will depend on a number of factors such as word limits, time limits, the complexity of the question etc. Regardless of the essay’s length, students should ensure their essay follows the Rule of Three in that every essay they write contains an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Generally speaking, essay paragraphs will focus on one main idea that is usually expressed in a topic sentence that is followed by a series of supporting sentences that bolster that main idea. The first and final sentences are of the most significance here with the first sentence of a paragraph making the point to the reader and the final sentence of the paragraph making the overall relevance to the essay’s argument crystal clear. 

Though students will most likely be familiar with the broad generic structure of essays, it is worth investing time to ensure they have a clear conception of how each part of the essay works, that is, of the exact nature of the task it performs. Let’s review:

Common Essay Structure

Introduction: Provides the reader with context for the essay. It states the broad argument that the essay will make and informs the reader of the writer’s general perspective and approach to the question.

Body Paragraphs: These are the ‘meat’ of the essay and lay out the argument stated in the introduction point by point with supporting evidence.

Conclusion: Usually, the conclusion will restate the central argument while summarising the essay’s main supporting reasons before linking everything back to the original question.


essay writing | 1 How to write paragraphs | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

●      Each paragraph should focus on a single main idea

●      Paragraphs should follow a logical sequence; students should group similar ideas together to avoid incoherence

●      Paragraphs should be denoted consistently; students should choose either to indent or skip a line

●      Transition words and phrases such as alternatively , consequently , in contrast should be used to give flow and provide a bridge between paragraphs.


essay writing | essay editing tips | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

Students shouldn’t expect their essays to emerge from the writing process perfectly formed. Except in exam situations and the like, thorough editing is an essential aspect in the writing process. 

Often, students struggle with this aspect of the process the most. After spending hours of effort on planning, research, and writing the first draft, students can be reluctant to go back over the same terrain they have so recently travelled. It is important at this point to give them some helpful guidelines to help them to know what to look out for. The following tips will provide just such help: 

One Piece at a Time: There is a lot to look out for in the editing process and often students overlook aspects as they try to juggle too many balls during the process. One effective strategy to combat this is for students to perform a number of rounds of editing with each focusing on a different aspect. For example, the first round could focus on content, the second round on looking out for word repetition (use a thesaurus to help here), with the third attending to spelling and grammar.

Sum It Up: When reviewing the paragraphs they have written, a good starting point is for students to read each paragraph and attempt to sum up its main point in a single line. If this is not possible, their readers will most likely have difficulty following their train of thought too and the paragraph needs to be overhauled.

Let It Breathe: When possible, encourage students to allow some time for their essay to ‘breathe’ before returning to it for editing purposes. This may require some skilful time management on the part of the student, for example, a student rush-writing the night before the deadline does not lend itself to effective editing. Fresh eyes are one of the sharpest tools in the writer’s toolbox.

Read It Aloud: This time-tested editing method is a great way for students to identify mistakes and typos in their work. We tend to read things more slowly when reading aloud giving us the time to spot errors. Also, when we read silently our minds can often fill in the gaps or gloss over the mistakes that will become apparent when we read out loud.

Phone a Friend: Peer editing is another great way to identify errors that our brains may miss when reading our own work. Encourage students to partner up for a little ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’.

Use Tech Tools: We need to ensure our students have the mental tools to edit their own work and for this they will need a good grasp of English grammar and punctuation. However, there are also a wealth of tech tools such as spellcheck and grammar checks that can offer a great once-over option to catch anything students may have missed in earlier editing rounds.

essay writing | Perfect essay writing for students | Essay Writing: A complete guide for students and teachers |

Putting the Jewels on Display: While some struggle to edit, others struggle to let go. There comes a point when it is time for students to release their work to the reader. They must learn to relinquish control after the creation is complete. This will be much easier to achieve if the student feels that they have done everything in their control to ensure their essay is representative of the best of their abilities and if they have followed the advice here, they should be confident they have done so.


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ESSAY WRITING video tutorials

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Free tools to make your students better writers and readers ., a non-profit, provides free literacy activities that build reading comprehension, writing, and language skills for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Writing Across the Curriculum: Quill's nonprofit mission is to now build both reading and writing skills through free, OER content across the curriculum. Over the coming years, we will be building a library of free ELA, social studies, and science activities that engage students in deeper thinking through writing prompts that provide immediate feedback.

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Quill Reading for Evidence

Provide your students with nonfiction texts paired with AI-powered writing prompts, instead of multiple-choice questions, to enable deeper thinking.

Students read a nonfiction text and build their comprehension through writing prompts, supporting a series of claims with evidence sourced from the text. Quill challenges students to write responses that are precise, logical, and based on textual evidence, with Quill coaching the student through custom, targeted feedback on each revision so that students strengthen their reading comprehension and hone their writing skills.

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Using the evidence-based strategy of sentence combining, students combine multiple ideas into a single sentence. They then receive instant feedback designed to help them improve their clarity and precision.

Quill Lessons

The Quill Lessons tool enables teachers to lead whole-class and small-group writing instruction.

Teachers control interactive slides that contain writing prompts, and the entire class responds to each prompt. Each Quill Lessons activity provides a lesson plan, writing prompts, discussion topics, and a follow up independent practice activity.

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Quill Grammar has over 150 sentence writing activities to help your students. Our activities are designed to be completed in 10 minutes so you have the freedom to use them in the way that works best for your classroom.

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You can quickly and easily set up your classroom in Quill by inputting student names or providing students with a unique code. If you use Google Classroom or Clever, you can automatically set up your classroom with one click.

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Essay Assignments That Actually Engage High School Writers

Cookie-cutter essays may reflect students’ attitude toward the assignment, not their writing ability. Here’s a way to make that stack of grading more rewarding.

Teenage girl sitting on floor at home doing homework with laptop and books

Have you ever been three papers into reading a stack of essays and realized that they were all pretty much the same? Years ago, after reading the 100th cookie-cutter essay on characterization in Of Mice and Men , I realized that the agonizingly boring essays were not really my students’ fault—they were the predictable result of the assignment that I had given them. Ever since then, I’ve striven to prepare students to produce writing that I truly enjoy reading. It took me some time and experimentation, but here are the keys I’ve discovered to getting students engaged and creating writing that is a joy to read.

Connecting Readings to Students’ Lives

After 25 years of teaching, I’m still having epiphanies about how to engage students. One such realization is that if I want students to dig into anything I’m teaching in my classroom, I must find a way to help them connect it to something else they already know or care about.

It was my husband, Joe, a history instructor at a local community college, who helped me realize this with an assignment he gives, aptly named the Connections Paper. He gives students a handful of documents, both primary and secondary, and asks them to discuss how the documents relate to each other, how the documents help them make sense of the past, and how the documents help them make sense of the present.

This deceptively simple task prompts students to connect seemingly distant events to their own world and gives these events richer dimension and meaning. I became determined to replicate this connection with my students in my high school English classes.

Providing Real-Life Models and Choices

In Writing With Mentors , Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell detail how to use “the work of real writers and the real reading you do every day” to support student writing. One of the projects that excites my students the most is our podcast unit , and one reason it works so well is that students use writing produced for real audiences—not just their teacher—to guide their own writing about a topic of their choice.

The mentor text method consists of students breaking down the structure and techniques used by the writer in a particular piece of writing, and employing some of what they find to create their own original pieces. Although we use podcast scripts in this particular assignment, this method has possibilities limited only by the mentor texts you can find. From résumés to lab reports to poetry to video game reviews, students can learn to write anything, and the fact that they are using writing produced by people outside of classrooms is incredibly engaging for them—and for teachers as well.

Another reason mentor texts are so engaging and effective is that they provide students with choices in how they will develop their writing—they can choose which of the writer’s moves to use in their own writing. After sharing and analyzing some carefully selected podcasts with my students, I encourage them to bring in ones that tie into subjects that they are particularly interested in. They not only learn more techniques for creating their podcast but also see the diversity of topics and formats that current podcasters use.

Finding Different Approaches to the Research Paper

There are many other ways to build choice into writing, and I use some of them in my Education Synthesis paper with my American Literature students. We begin with an essential question: What is the purpose of education, and how well is the U.S. fulfilling that purpose? Students read several pieces of writing that touch on that topic and take notes on anything they notice that answers the question.

Some of the texts I’ve used in the past include essays, short stories, poetry, videos, comics, and articles:

  • “School Is Hell” cartoons by Matt Groenig
  • “Superman and Me,” an essay by Sherman Alexie
  • “Changing Educational Paradigms,” a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson
  • “The Bees,” a poem by Audre Lorde
  • “Learning Like a Jungle Tiger,” a video by Trevor Ragan
  • “Shoulders,” a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • “On Listening to Your Teacher Take Attendance,” a poem by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
  • “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” an essay by David Sedaris
  • “A Talk to Teachers,” a speech by James Baldwin
  • “James Baldwin’s Lesson for Teachers in a Time of Turmoil,” an article by Clint Smith

After reading the texts I provide with the essential question in mind, students begin to formulate an answer, which will become the claim in their argumentative essay. They then branch out on their own, seeking more research to support their argument, and occasionally adjusting their claim as they discover more evidence.

The instructions for the final paper are simple. It must include:

  • a thesis in the introduction that answers the essential question: What is wrong with our educational system, and what changes can we make to improve it?,
  • evidence in the body paragraphs to support their claim from multiple sources, including the ones we read as a class and ones they found on their own, and
  • students’ own commentary explaining how the evidence supports their argumentative claim.

The resulting papers are refreshingly full of students’ own ideas and reasoning and free of the stilted repetition of facts, summaries, and half-page quotes that I used to dread when collecting essays. When given the opportunity to make real-life connections and choose what they will write about, my students astound me with their engagement in and ownership of the writing process, and reading their work is now a whole lot more rewarding.

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Our 2020-21 Writing Curriculum for Middle and High School

A flexible, seven-unit program based on the real-world writing found in newspapers, from editorials and reviews to personal narratives and informational essays.

essay writing exercises high school

Update, Aug. 3, 2023: Find our 2023-24 writing curriculum here.

Our 2019-20 Writing Curriculum is one of the most popular new features we’ve ever run on this site, so, of course, we’re back with a 2020-21 version — one we hope is useful whether you’re teaching in person , online , indoors , outdoors , in a pod , as a homeschool , or in some hybrid of a few of these.

The curriculum detailed below is both a road map for teachers and an invitation to students. For teachers, it includes our writing prompts, mentor texts, contests and lesson plans, and organizes them all into seven distinct units. Each focuses on a different genre of writing that you can find not just in The Times but also in all kinds of real-world sources both in print and online.

But for students, our main goal is to show young people they have something valuable to say, and to give those voices a global audience. That’s always been a pillar of our site, but this year it is even more critical. The events of 2020 will define this generation, and many are living through them isolated from their ordinary communities, rituals and supports. Though a writing curriculum can hardly make up for that, we hope that it can at least offer teenagers a creative outlet for making sense of their experiences, and an enthusiastic audience for the results. Through the opportunities for publication woven throughout each unit, we want to encourage students to go beyond simply being media consumers to become creators and contributors themselves.

So have a look, and see if you can find a way to include any of these opportunities in your curriculum this year, whether to help students document their lives, tell stories, express opinions, investigate ideas, or analyze culture. We can’t wait to hear what your students have to say!

Each unit includes:

Writing prompts to help students try out related skills in a “low stakes” way.

We publish two writing prompts every school day, and we also have thematic collections of more than 1,000 prompts published in the past. Your students might consider responding to these prompts on our site and using our public forums as a kind of “rehearsal space” for practicing voice and technique.

Daily opportunities to practice writing for an authentic audience.

If a student submits a comment on our site, it will be read by Times editors, who approve each one before it gets published. Submitting a comment also gives students an audience of fellow teenagers from around the world who might read and respond to their work. Each week, we call out our favorite comments and honor dozens of students by name in our Thursday “ Current Events Conversation ” feature.

Guided practice with mentor texts .

Each unit we publish features guided practice lessons, written directly to students, that help them observe, understand and practice the kinds of “craft moves” that make different genres of writing sing. From how to “show not tell” in narratives to how to express critical opinions , quote or paraphrase experts or craft scripts for podcasts , we have used the work of both Times journalists and the teenage winners of our contests to show students techniques they can emulate.

“Annotated by the Author” commentaries from Times writers — and teenagers.

As part of our Mentor Texts series , we’ve been asking Times journalists from desks across the newsroom to annotate their articles to let students in on their writing, research and editing processes, and we’ll be adding more for each unit this year. Whether it’s Science writer Nicholas St. Fleur on tiny tyrannosaurs , Opinion writer Aisha Harris on the cultural canon , or The Times’s comics-industry reporter, George Gene Gustines, on comic books that celebrate pride , the idea is to demystify journalism for teenagers. This year, we’ll be inviting student winners of our contests to annotate their work as well.

A contest that can act as a culminating project .

Over the years we’ve heard from many teachers that our contests serve as final projects in their classes, and this curriculum came about in large part because we want to help teachers “plan backwards” to support those projects.

All contest entries are considered by experts, whether Times journalists, outside educators from partner organizations, or professional practitioners in a related field. Winning means being published on our site, and, perhaps, in the print edition of The New York Times.

Webinars and our new professional learning community (P.L.C.).

For each of the seven units in this curriculum, we host a webinar featuring Learning Network editors as well as teachers who use The Times in their classrooms. Our webinars introduce participants to our many resources and provide practical how-to’s on how to use our prompts, mentor texts and contests in the classroom.

New for this school year, we also invite teachers to join our P.L.C. on teaching writing with The Times , where educators can share resources, strategies and inspiration about teaching with these units.

Below are the seven units we will offer in the 2020-21 school year.


Unit 1: Documenting Teenage Lives in Extraordinary Times

This special unit acknowledges both the tumultuous events of 2020 and their outsized impact on young people — and invites teenagers to respond creatively. How can they add their voices to our understanding of what this historic year will mean for their generation?

Culminating in our Coming of Age in 2020 contest, the unit helps teenagers document and respond to what it’s been like to live through what one Times article describes as “a year of tragedy, of catastrophe, of upheaval, a year that has inflicted one blow after another, a year that has filled the morgues, emptied the schools, shuttered the workplaces, swelled the unemployment lines and polarized the electorate.”

A series of writing prompts, mentor texts and a step-by-step guide will help them think deeply and analytically about who they are, how this year has impacted them, what they’d like to express as a result, and how they’d like to express it. How might they tell their unique stories in ways that feel meaningful and authentic, whether those stories are serious or funny, big or small, raw or polished?

Though the contest accepts work across genres — via words and images, video and audio — all students will also craft written artist’s statements for each piece they submit. In addition, no matter what genre of work students send in, the unit will use writing as a tool throughout to help students brainstorm, compose and edit. And, of course, this work, whether students send it to us or not, is valuable far beyond the classroom: Historians, archivists and museums recommend that we all document our experiences this year, if only for ourselves.


Unit 2: The Personal Narrative

While The Times is known for its award-winning journalism, the paper also has a robust tradition of publishing personal essays on topics like love , family , life on campus and navigating anxiety . And on our site, our daily writing prompts have long invited students to tell us their stories, too. Our 2019 collection of 550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing is a good place to start, though we add more every week during the school year.

In this unit we draw on many of these resources, plus some of the 1,000-plus personal essays from the Magazine’s long-running Lives column , to help students find their own “short, memorable stories ” and tell them well. Our related mentor-text lessons can help them practice skills like writing with voice , using details to show rather than tell , structuring a narrative arc , dropping the reader into a scene and more. This year, we’ll also be including mentor text guided lessons that use the work of the 2019 student winners.

As a final project, we invite students to send finished stories to our Second Annual Personal Narrative Writing Contest .


Unit 3: The Review

Book reports and literary essays have long been staples of language arts classrooms, but this unit encourages students to learn how to critique art in other genres as well. As we point out, a cultural review is, of course, a form of argumentative essay. Your class might be writing about Lizzo or “ Looking for Alaska ,” but they still have to make claims and support them with evidence. And, just as they must in a literature essay, they have to read (or watch, or listen to) a work closely; analyze it and understand its context; and explain what is meaningful and interesting about it.

In our Mentor Texts series , we feature the work of Times movie , restaurant , book and music critics to help students understand the elements of a successful review. In each one of these guided lessons, we also spotlight the work of teenage contest winners from previous years.

As a culminating project, we invite students to send us their own reviews of a book, movie, restaurant, album, theatrical production, video game, dance performance, TV show, art exhibition or any other kind of work The Times critiques.


Unit 4: Informational Writing

Informational writing is the style of writing that dominates The New York Times as well as any other traditional newspaper you might read, and in this unit we hope to show students that it can be every bit as engaging and compelling to read and to write as other genres. Via thousands of articles a month — from front-page reporting on politics to news about athletes in Sports, deep data dives in The Upshot, recipes in Cooking, advice columns in Style and long-form investigative pieces in the magazine — Times journalists find ways to experiment with the genre to intrigue and inform their audiences.

This unit invites students to take any STEM-related discovery, process or idea that interests them and write about it in a way that makes it understandable and engaging for a general audience — but all the skills we teach along the way can work for any kind of informational writing. Via our Mentor Texts series, we show them how to hook the reader from the start , use quotes and research , explain why a topic matters and more. This year we’ll be using the work of the 2020 student winners for additional mentor text lessons.

At the end of the unit, we invite teenagers to submit their own writing to our Second Annual STEM writing contest to show us what they’ve learned.


Unit 5: Argumentative Writing

The demand for evidence-based argumentative writing is now woven into school assignments across the curriculum and grade levels, and you couldn’t ask for better real-world examples than what you can find in The Times Opinion section .

This unit will, like our others, be supported with writing prompts, mentor-text lesson plans, webinars and more. We’ll also focus on the winning teenage writing we’ve received over the six years we’ve run our related contest.

At a time when media literacy is more important than ever, we also hope that our annual Student Editorial Contest can serve as a final project that encourages students to broaden their information diets with a range of reliable sources, and learn from a variety of perspectives on their chosen issue.

To help students working from home, we also have an Argumentative Unit for Students Doing Remote Learning .

Unit 6: Writing for Podcasts

Most of our writing units so far have all asked for essays of one kind or another, but this spring contest invites students to do what journalists at The Times do every day: make multimedia to tell a story, investigate an issue or communicate a concept.

Our annual podcast contest gives students the freedom to talk about anything they want in any form they like. In the past we’ve had winners who’ve done personal narratives, local travelogues, opinion pieces, interviews with community members, local investigative journalism and descriptions of scientific discoveries.

As with all our other units, we have supported this contest with great examples from The Times and around the web, as well as with mentor texts by teenagers that offer guided practice in understanding elements and techniques.


Unit 7: Independent Reading and Writing

At a time when teachers are looking for ways to offer students more “voice and choice,” this unit, based on our annual summer contest, offers both.

Every year since 2010 we have invited teenagers around the world to add The New York Times to their summer reading lists and, so far, 70,000 have. Every week for 10 weeks, we ask participants to choose something in The Times that has sparked their interest, then tell us why. At the end of the week, judges from the Times newsroom pick favorite responses, and we publish them on our site.

And we’ve used our Mentor Text feature to spotlight the work of past winners , explain why newsroom judges admired their thinking, and provide four steps to helping any student write better reader-responses.

Because this is our most open-ended contest — students can choose whatever they like, and react however they like — it has proved over the years to be a useful place for young writers to hone their voices, practice skills and take risks . Join us!

  • Chess (Gr. 1-4)
  • TV (Gr. 1-4)
  • Metal Detectors (Gr. 2-6)
  • Tetris (Gr. 2-6)
  • Seat Belts (Gr. 2-6)
  • The Coliseum (Gr. 2-6)
  • The Pony Express (Gr. 2-6)
  • Wintertime (Gr. 2-6)
  • Reading (Gr. 3-7)
  • Black Friday (Gr. 3-7)
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essay writing exercises high school

50 Engaging Narrative Essay Topics for High Schoolers

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What’s Covered:

Narrative essays vs. analytical essays, how to pick the right narrative essay topic, elements of a strong narrative essay, engaging narrative essay topics for high schoolers, where to get your narrative essay edited for free.

Narrative essays are an extensive form of writing that gives readers the opportunity to follow along as a person goes through a journey or sets of experiences. Rather than providing analytic insight, narrative essays simply share a story and offer a first-person account. These essays may seem easy to write at first, but it takes a certain finesse to write a narrative essay that is interesting, cohesive, and well-researched. Whether you’re looking for a unique topic to write about, or just want some new inspiration, CollegeVine is here to help! These 50 narrative essay topics are engaging, unique and will have you writing in no time.

A narrative essay is a great way to express your personal experiences and opinions, but it is important to remember that this type of essay is different from an analytical paper. In a narrative essay, you do not need to provide background information or explain your thoughts and feelings; instead, you simply tell a story. It’s important to avoid too much telling in your writing; instead, use creative details and vivid imagery to make readers feel as if they are actually right there with you.

Where You Will Encounter Narrative Essays

This type of essay is typically encountered in high school, where students may be required to write personal statements to prepare for their Common App essay . Narrative essays are also commonly seen in AP Language and Composition. Therefore, it’s important you are aware of the style because you are bound to have a narrative essay assignment.  

Of course, before you start writing, it is important to pick the right essay topic. There are many factors involved in the process of picking the perfect narrative essay topic for your story.

You should always choose a topic that you are passionate about, since writing on something you care about will make the process much easier. Not only will it be more interesting to create your paper around something that truly interests you, but it will also allow you to fully express yourself in your essay. You also want to be sure that the topic has enough material to work with. If your chosen topic is too short, you will not have enough content to write a complete paper. For example, if you are writing about your experience getting lost at the mall, make sure that you have enough information to work with to craft an engaging narrative. 

The best topic for an engaging narrative essay is one that focuses on showing versus telling, has a clear structure, and provides a dialogue. These elements come together to form an engaging narrative essay. Regardless of what subject you pick, any topic may be turned into a fascinating, A+ worthy narrative using the tips below.

Show, Don’t Tell

To write a good narrative essay, it’s important to show, not tell. Instead of simply informing your audience, show them what you mean. For example, instead of saying “I was nervous,” you could say “My heart began to race and my stomach filled with butterflies.” Also make sure to use sensory details, such as sights, sounds and tastes, and include a personal reflection at the end of your narrative. 

Begin with a Strong Opening Line

A good narrative essay will begin with an attention-grabbing opening line. But make sure to avoid common clichés, such as “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Instead, come up with something original and specific to you and your situation. For example: “My pre-calc teacher was obsessed with circles. I mean, he even used circular note cards.” Or, “It all started the day my mom brought home a guinea pig.”

Follows a Three-Act Structure

A strong narrative essay follows the same three-act structure as other essays. But in order to make it interesting, you’ll need to come up with a creative way to break things down into sections. For example, using the guinea pig example from above, you could write the following:

  • Act 1 – Introduction: The day my mom brought home a guinea pig.
  • Act 2 – Conflict: The day I had to say goodbye to my beloved pet.
  • Act 3 – Conclusion: Looking back at how much I miss him now that he’s gone.

Conclude with Personal Reflection

To conclude your narrative essay, you’ll want to explain what this specific experience taught you or how you’ve changed. For example, upon realizing that her pre-calc teacher was obsessed with circles, the writer of the previous example begins to notice circular shapes everywhere. Another way to conclude your narrative essay is by touching on how this experience impacted you emotionally. For example, after losing his guinea pig, the writer explains how much he missed it.

Use Dialogue

Include a conversation in your essay to make it come alive. For example, instead of simply saying that you met a new friend, talk about how you introduced yourselves or what they were wearing when you met them.

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The following list of 50 narrative essay topics is divided into categories. This will make it easier to find a topic that fits your writing style.

1. What is a childhood song that still sticks with you today?

2. Your first day of Kindergarten

3. Talk about a time when you’re siblings looked up to you

4. Describe the best birthday party you’ve ever had

5. Talk about the best day you ever spent with a childhood friend

6. Explain your first childhood hobby

7. Describe your first halloween costume

8. A family vacation gone wrong

9. Your first family reunion

10. Describe a tradition that is unique to your family

11. Describe your family to a person who’s never met them before

12. What frustrates you most about your family

13. If you could only keep one memory of your family, what would it be and why?

14. Describe a time your family embarrassed you in public

15. The most beautiful place in the world

16. Your favorite season and why

17. If you were a part of nature, what element would you be? Why?

18. When you go outside, which of your senses are you most thankful to have?

19. Describe the first time you witnessed a tornado 

20. Write a poem about your favorite season

21. Describe yourself as one of the four seasons

22. Describe a time in which you felt connected with nature

23. Describe the first time you played an instrument and how you felt

24. What major event would be much worse if music was removed, and why?

25. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

26. What would a life without music look like?

27. If you could master one instrument, what would it be and why?


28. What if you had never met your best friend?

29. Describe a time when you fixed a broken relationship

30. Talk about a movie that defined a relationship for you

31. Describe your first date

32. Describe the first time you made a friend

33. Describe your relationship with your parents

Self Reflection

34. Have you ever fooled someone? If so, describe what happened and how you felt about it

35. What is the worst thing you’ve done to someone else?

36. Write about the difference between how things seem and how they really are. 

37. Have you ever been embarrassed in some way? If so, describe the situation and how it affected you as well as those around you

38. Have you ever witnessed something really beautiful? Describe it

39. Is your glass half empty or half full?

Overcoming Adversity 

40. Have you ever been very afraid of something but tried your hardest to appear fearless? If so, describe that experience

41. When have you ever succeeded when you thought you might fail

42. What are your secret survival strategies?

43. Describe the last time you were stressed and why?

44. Describe a time when you were discriminated against

45. The most memorable class you’ve had and why

46. Your favorite study abroad memory

47. Describe your kindergarten classroom

48. Describe your first teacher

49. The first time you experienced detention

50. Your first field trip

Hopefully these topics will get you thinking about a personal experience that could make for a thoughtful and engaging narrative essay. Remember, a strong narrative essay must contain relatable details and a clear flow that keeps the reader entertained and engaged to read all the way to the end.

If you need some additional guidance on your narrative essay, use CollegeVine’s free peer review essay tool to get feedback for free!

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essay writing exercises high school

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5 Writing Activities To Prepare For High School

Prep for high school by practicing these writing activities.

Most middle school students aren’t fully prepared for high-school writing assignments. Help your middle-schooler get ready for high-school essays and tests with these engaging activities.

Writing narratives

essay writing exercises high school

Read this article about famous grumps in literature.

Write a short story in the Writing Tool about navigating our current situation with one of those grumps as the main character.

  • Decide if you want to create a happy or tragic ending for your story.

Family activity:

As a family, look at some of the articles recently published on our editorial site and pick out one that could possibly be developed into a TV show.

  • Imagine the main character and how the story might continue over its seasons.

These activities address CCSSI Writing Standard: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Writing a story

Read this article to understand the points of view that authors use when telling a story.

  • Look up the word omniscient to understand the 3rd person omniscient point of view.
  • List as many book titles as you can that tell their story from this perspective.

Describe a day in your home from each of the different perspectives.

  • See how the story changes depending on how you narrate it from the unique point of view.

Have each family member write about a moment you all shared together from their perspective.

  • See if the stories and memories match up as you read all your stories aloud!

These activities address CCSSI Reading Standard: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and explain how it is conveyed in the text.

Writing thesis statements

Read this article on the different types of thesis statements.

Find and evaluate the thesis statements in these articles:

  • Is “Emergency” The Right Word To Describe What’s Happening At The Border?
  • Has The Word “Expert” Lost Its Meaning?

Create your own thesis statement that answers one of these writing prompts .

  • You can write in’s Writing Tool .

essay writing exercises high school

Watch a commercial together.

  • See if you can find the “thesis” of the advertisement and where the advertisers try to lay out the evidence in visual form.
  • Have everyone write down their answer and then read aloud the thesis statements you found after the commercial is done to see who you all think got closest.

These activities address CCSSI Reading Standard: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

Performing character analysis

Read this slideshow about character names that became so famous their names entered the English language . Choose one of the characters and read the texts they originated from while keeping in mind why they might have become such iconic characters.

Now it’s your turn to come up with an iconic character! Read this article about about picking names for characters .

  • Can you create a story about a character with a specific personality? Who knows, maybe your character’s name will eventually enter the lexicon !
  • Write your story in the Writing Tool .

Show pictures of your friends or random people to your family members. Try to have them guess what kind of name would suit the person based on their perceived looks and personality. Ask them why they picked each name.

These activities address CCSSI Reading Standard: Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

Researching sources

essay writing exercises high school

Read this article on the difference between primary and secondary sources . See if you can find a primary source on a topic that interests you. An example would be historical data or documents, original lyrics, or a novel.

  • Here are some ideas to research in case you need help finding a topic.

Find a secondary source on the same topics. An example would be a newspaper article or encyclopedic information.

Remind yourself what subjective means here by reading the definition. Then determine how subjective the sources you found are.

  • What point of views are being expressed in your primary and secondary sources? Do you agree with them?

Find a primary source that was published or created on each family member’s birth date. Compare the different writing, events, or creations you find. Can you find any connection to yourself or your family from the past?

essay writing exercises high school

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A Comprehensive High School Writing Curriculum Guide

high school writing curriculum guide

In this comprehensive high school writing curriculum guide, I explain necessary components of planning a writing for a year. 

Writing is an essential skill that students need to develop in high school. Part of teaching this essential skill is encouraging, inspiring, and mentoring.

However, not all writing curriculums are created equal. A well-structured writing curriculum can help students understand the fundamentals of writing, improve their skills, and explore their creativity.

use several writing curriculums

High School Writing Curriculum: A Comprehensive Guide

Honesty time: I do not suggest one entire curriculum but rather, pieces from several sources. Many tools can get you to meeting standards, encouraging young writers, and working through common struggles. However, as someone who has taught in various capacities for over twenty years, one set curriculum will probably not work. You will need to incorporate pieces of your own to address the learners in front of you and modify it each semester.

Therefore, in this blog post, I’ll explore the components, considerations, and requirements for high school students.

high school writing curriculum guide

Why are you writing about a high school writing curriculum?

If you have followed me for a few years, you were with me while I finished my second master’s degree, one in English Literature . Now, I teach dual-credit writing courses at my high school in coordination with a local community college. Many of my subscribers teach a similar class for high school credit.

The previous seven years, I taught freshmen and worked with those standards. Therefore, my teaching load focuses on standards for seniors, a shift for me.

As I create and build my high school writing curriculum, these considerations come into play.

essentials for English class

Understanding the Essentials of a High School Writing Curriculum

A comprehensive high school writing curriculum will address students’ writing skills and grammatical knowledge. Meeting language skills alongside the writing standards can happen naturally.

A well-rounded high school writing course will also address essential aspects such as argumentative writing (sometimes referenced as persuasive writing), informative, and creative/narrative writing, providing students with a holistic understanding of the writing process.

Here is my teacher’s guide to incorporate all these factors.

a structured approach

Importance of a Structured Approach to Writing

A structured approach to writing is essential in a writing curriculum. In my teaching career, I have taught several semester-long courses like public speaking, creative writing, and English 101. My #1 learned lesson: Have an overarching project that builds community in classes. For public speaking, speakers set goals for public speaking. In creative writing, writers compile a journal with writing prompts.

In a standard writing class, we use images to write about mentor sentences and fun topics . Images help young writers envision their responses, and the images work as a form of scaffolding. An ongoing activity, a habit, allows writers to reflect on their writing process, figurative language use, and sentence structure. Take time to reflect with students.

diverse writing activities

Diverse Writing Assignments

Instilling excellence in writing skills and grammar instruction is essential for an effective writing curriculum. One research paper and one narrative alongside “drill and kill” grammar will not produce an engaging high school writing curriculum.

A few of my favorite writing assignments for high school:

  • Mini-memoirs (narrative standards)
  • Response to informational text (an assortment of standards)
  • Argumentative RAFT (argumentative standard)
  • Researched famous events (expository standards)

If you look at the mentor texts (below) and provide excerpts to your classes, you will also create diverse writing assignments from those inspired pieces.

create a calendar for your writers

Calendar of Writing

Map out your calendar of dates. No amount of researching and organizing will help us creators of a high school writing curriculum: We must sit down with a calendar.

My high school writing curriculum contains two large-ish type assignments, one due about six weeks into the semester and another at about fourteen weeks. I space them out so that students understand my expectations and feedback, so that we have worked through our standards together, and so that large assignments are not due when students are already overwhelmed. Spacing out assignments in this manner also provides me time to provide meaningful feedback.

If you are interested in looking at my outline for a creative writing course, you can make a copy on Canva (for free).

grammar and writing

Grammar Excellence

If you have floated around my blog for a bit, you’ll realize that my preference is not to teach grammar with worksheets. A grammar workbook and worksheets have their place, sure. But once classes understand the basics of language, I branch into additional resources.

For instance, with my high school grammar activities , students use interactive pieces to practice punctuations, to add types of clauses to sentences, and to experiment with difficult concepts. The pieces allow writers to take their own writing and implement lessons. In doing so, they are experimenting with language.

Another addition to any writing program will be addressing grammatical errors . My suggestion is to assign paragraph writing and while grading, note common errors. Then, provide direct instruction and practice correcting the errors.

Any grammar curriculum will connect grammar to writing. One of my goals is to approach language in a positive way so that my brave writers feel empowered instead of crushed by grammar rules.

writing standards

Meeting Standards with Writing

Writing standards define the expectations for what students should be able to do at each grade level. These standards aim to develop clarity, coherence, and effective communication through writing.

However, meeting these standards can sometimes be a challenge for both students and teachers. Below, I explain what helps me as my students and I work to meet writing standards.

importance of writing standards

Importance of Writing Standards

Writing standards are guidelines that outline the skills and knowledge students should acquire in writing. They provide a common framework for teaching writing skills, ensuring consistency across classrooms and grade levels.

Be prepared to breakdown standards with students in sensible ways. For instance, in my creative writing activities, I break down pieces like implementing pacing and external conflicts into smaller lessons. With those smaller activities, we can dive deep into the standards.

Overall, writing standards promote clarity, coherence, and effective communication, which are essential skills in the 21st century.

implement your writing curriculum

Implementation of Standards

The more you build your writing curriculum, the more engrained and natural the standards will be.

To start, align writing activities with specific standards. By doing so, you ensure that the writing skills targeted are directly tied to the standards. This alignment helps reinforce the skills and knowledge necessary for students to meet the standards effectively.

Additionally, incorporating a wide range of writing skills into lesson plans allows you to address multiple standards simultaneously, providing a comprehensive writing instruction experience for students. In the example above, pacing and external conflicts will occur in smaller activities and then implemented into larger one.

Don’t fear breaking down a standard with students. (Some teachers call this process “unpacking the standards”). The more you discuss writing expectations that derive from the standards, the more meaningful discussions you and your students will have.

mentor texts

Considering mentor texts.

Mentor texts are simply example texts that work well for providing example of structure, vocabulary, language use, and any other piece of writing. Below, I have included books from which I pull pieces. Included are explanations of ways I use the excerpts.

Plus, university writing courses often use excerpts, so using them is a great way to prepare classes. If you read a publication like the New York Times, keep your eyes open to pieces you can add.

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This book might be the most loaned book from my classroom library. Dashka Slater is a journalist who wrote The 57 Bus , a story told from two perspectives of what became a hate crime.

Five Little Indians

Michelle Good’s novel portrays the lives of residential school survivors. The uses for Five Little Indians is diverse. Dialogue, setting, and pacing shine through in this story.

The Forgotten Girls

Monica Potts’ memoir weaves research into a narrative. The story covers rural women and their limited options. When older students write narratives, I encourage them to add research and use Potts’ memoir as a mentor text.

The Sun Does Shine

I’ve written about The Sun Does Shine before. Pieces from Anthony Ray Hinton’s story have been in my American literature class too. For a writing class, chapter two, “All American,” works well for modeling background and flashback.

Chapter twenty-seven, “The Symbols of Caste” works as a model for comparing two situations. Isabel Wilkerson compares America’s response to slavery to Germany’s response to the Holocaust. Her pacing and transitions serve as strong examples.

Slavery by Another Name

Douglas A. Blackmon’s book provides examples of incorporating primary sources into research. The end to the chapter, “New South Rising” has a short piece to analyze with writers.

The chapter, “Took Over the OxyContin Belt” serves as a mentor text for narrative nonfiction. From its hook to its powerful concluding paragraph, this short chapter helps me to model narratives.

Patient H.M.

Patient H. M. is about lobotomies, written by the grandson of a famous doctor who performed them decades ago. Luke Dittrich incorporates interviews into research. You can also use excerpts to model writing about delicate topics.

Excerpts from larger books provide authentic texts for young writers and if they are interested, you can loan them the book. Incorporating mentor texts into your high school writing curriculum provides young writers with inspiration and examples.

For those readers who are designing a homeschool writing curriculum, you can ask your local librarian for suggestions regarding books of varying genres.

high school writing curriculum guide

In conclusion, a high school writing curriculum should provide a structured approach to writing that covers key components such as grammar, vocabulary, and essay writing. It should also offer options that cater to different learning styles and preferences.

While most writing curriculums have their merits, it is important to incorporate creative elements to engage and inspire today’s high schoolers with your own touch. By tailoring the curriculum to your student’s needs and interests, you can make the learning experience more enjoyable and effective.

Replace a student workbook with excerpts, webinars, and audio pieces to diversity the curriculum.

Remember, the goal is to equip them with the necessary skills to express themselves confidently and effectively in various writing formats. You can see details of my high school writing curriculum as a foundation for your classes.

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8 Descriptive Writing Activities to Hone Your Students’ Language Skills and Creativity

These sentences get the point across: 

I could smell the peppers. It was dinner time. I washed my hands. 

But we can make them more detailed and engaging :

The sweet, burnt scent of roasting peppers hung in the air. I knew dinner was almost ready. I washed my hands, watching the dirt swirl around the sink and disappear. 

How do you get your ESL students from the first example to the second? By introducing them to the wonders of descriptive writing!

The descriptive writing activities listed in this post can be adapted for any age group and all levels of ESL learners. With a little guidance from you, your students will be writing wonderfully descriptive sentences in no time.

8 Activities for Introducing ESL Students to Descriptive Writing

1. transform non-descriptive sentences to descriptive, 2. describe a painting or picture, 3. describe an object, 4. describe a restaurant, 5. describe your best friend or family member, 6. describe a favorite food, 7. describe your favorite room at home, 8. describe your best or worst vacation, why teach descriptive writing to esl students, how to make students aware of descriptive writing, literary devices, the five senses, reading for imagery.

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

Here are some descriptive writing activities that will encourage your students to get creative with the English language! You can even tweak any of them to focus on certain categories of vocabulary words, such as food or travel. 

Prepare a worksheet with sentences that are rather basic and lacking description. Students must transform these sentences into more descriptive sentences. Remind your students to use their five senses and literary devices.

For example:

It was cold.→The air was frigid and I couldn’t feel my ears.

The car was red and fast.→The car was apple-red and could easily go 120 miles per hour.

Students can work individually or in pairs. They should share their sentences at the end of class.

Print out a selection of images. You can use famous paintings or photographs.

Assign a different image to each student, then ask them to describe it using their five senses, literary device and adjectives.

Give them a sufficient amount of time to think about it. Then, collect the images again and display them in front of the classroom. Students will then read their descriptions, and the rest of the class will try to determine which image the student is describing.

Let students choose an object and write a description of it for 10 minutes. Set a word minimum or maximum limit as needed and encourage them to be as descriptive as possible.

You can implement different guidelines. For example, “you can’t use any color names” or “you must use all five senses” or “you must use one literary device.”

Once they’re ready with their descriptions, students take turns reading their descriptions. The rest of the class must try to guess the object their classmate describes.

For this activity, challenge your students to write their own descriptive paragraphs. 

Have them describe their favorite restaurant. In a restaurant, all your senses are turned on and sight may be overwhelmed by smells and sounds .

At the end of class, ask for students to volunteer to share their descriptions before you collect their work.

This activity is great for focusing on other types of descriptions. In addition to describing appearances, students may also describe things such as mannerisms, feelings and characteristics .

Students should share their descriptions with the class.

I like this activity because it’s easy for students to simply describe the taste or sight of their favorite food, but they should also work on describing the smell of the food as it is prepared and the  texture  of the food in their mouths.

You can introduce different vocabulary related to food such as: salty, bitter, sweet and spicy.

Again, make sure you save time at the end of class for students to share their descriptions.

Another nice activity that gets students thinking is describing their favorite room in their home.

Students should think about size, colors, the atmosphere and furniture, among other things. Make sure you ask them to say why it’s their favorite room.

Save time at the end of the lesson for them to share what they wrote if they want.

This activity encourages students to bring their reader into the vacation. They must describe the setting, order of events and the people who were with them.

If you have time, encourage them to write about both a great vacation and an awful vacation, which will make them work with descriptions and words of both positive and  negative connotation.

Descriptive writing can be summed up in one short statement: Show, don’t tell. 

Descriptive writing creates a clear image in the reader’s head. It describes something or someone accurately and in a way that makes it come alive for the reader.

For ESL learners, practicing descriptive writing can not only enhance their writing but also be a fun and creative way to practice English. After all, descriptive writing exposes them to some of the more subtle and beautiful aspects of the English language, such as diverse vocabulary and literary devices like similes and personification.

Begin with explaining some of the general ideas of descriptive writing. Before students can write descriptively, they must understand the basics of descriptive writing.

Aside from having a solid list of adjectives and adverbs at their fingertips, they should be familiar with the following concepts:

Descriptive writing is more than just using adjectives and adverbs. Literary devices can help writers write descriptively.

Here’s a sample list of useful literary devices. Choose what you want to introduce depending on the level of your students: 

  • Alliteration: The repetition of a sound or letter in words close to each other.
  • Imagery:  The visual description of something.
  • Onomatopoeia: Words that sound like the sounds they describe.
  • Personification: Giving inanimate objects living attributes.
  • Simile: Comparing two things with the words “like” or “as.”

Practice using these devices by having students create individual sentences for each. Give students a chance to share their sentences with the whole class.

Another key element to good descriptive writing is using all five senses . Most of the time, students get into the habit of describing only what can be seen. However, it’s important to incorporate all of the senses: taste, touch, sight, smell and sound.

Write the five senses on the board, and list down relevant adjectives under each. Encourage students to share as many adjectives as they can think of.

Then ask your students to think of different ways to describe the classroom using different senses. What do they see? What do they hear? What does the classroom smell like? What does it feel like to sit in the classroom? Since the classroom has no taste (hopefully), for the taste column you can ask students to describe what they ate that morning.

Ask your students to write a few sentences individually and give them a chance to share with the class.

Another great way to introduce the idea of descriptive writing to your students is to have them read some examples. Read a descriptive passage (either your own or one you found online) and have students identify the literary devices and senses that are used.

Alternatively, you can give them two passages to compare and contrast, one that’s lacking descriptive language and one that describes the same thing, but more creatively.

Take it one step further by removing some of the descriptive language and asking students to use their own words to complete the passage.

These activities will really get your students thinking about writing and writing descriptively. And remember, get creative yourself! Descriptive writing can be applied to just about any topic.

Happy writing!

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essay writing exercises high school

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Writing South Carolina Volume 11

Dark blue background with outlines of goldenrods decorating the top half of the graphic.

The Honors College is proud to showcase selections from the 11th annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest. Featuring submissions from high school juniors and seniors from across the state, the works are edited by Honors students from our SCHC 384 course.

Bright and strong, the tall goldenrod is South Carolina’s state wildflower. We think Solidago altissima also represents our state’s best young writers. Here are 18 of them, each of whom composed an original response to our annual question, “How can we make South Carolina better?” Read on and take heart. These writers are bright and strong indeed.

First Place – My Name, My Roots, My Home by Dayanara Reyes

Second Place – I Promise, You're Not Forgotten by Zayd Kidwai

Third Place – "Hands Up!" by Brookelynn Little

Honorable Mention – A Queer Child's Lullaby by Lily Heiner

Argumentative Essays

Savoring Heritage, Saving Health by Kensley Green

Education and the Role It Plays in the Development of Democracy by Brantley Metcalf

Navigating Towards Equity: We Need to Inspire Change by Raghav Pallapothu

The Red Flood of Ignorance by Davies Roberts

Education Inequality: The Need for Reform by Justin Schlag

Dollars for Scholars by Sophia Strobel

Thirty-One Seconds by Shaina Dashiell

Tangled Love by Catherine Milburn

The Dealer's Daughter by Kendall Pifer

Personal Essays

State-Owned by Abigail Bailey

Chronology of My Neighborhood by Avelyn Bailey

Roadkills by Kimora Brown

The State of My Identity by Eunwoo Choi

Subarus, Trucks, Giraffes, and Unity by Kristin Rotchford


The annual South Carolina High School Writing Contest wouldn’t be possible without other individuals and organizations. We thank South Carolina Honors College alumnus  Thad Westbrook , the  Pat Conroy Literary Center  (Jonathan Haupt, executive director); the  South Carolina State Library  (Leesa Aiken, director);  South Carolina Academy of Authors (Wilmot Irvin, chair); and the  South Carolina Writers Association  (Ash Smith, president). We also thank Felicia Mitchell , grand judge for this year’s contest, and the many high school guidance counselors and teachers who encouraged students to submit. The students in the fall 2023 semester of SCHC 384, Finding Your Voice: Writing and Editing for Life, were the first editors of volume 11. They are Alex Alleyne, Allison DeHart, Catherine DeMino, Lauren Douglas, Abigail Elliott, Seth Gould, Isabel Jordan, Hannah Augsbach Lamma, Sanskruti Patel, Paul Ward Pratz, Ronnie Rahenkamp, Rylyn Reynolds, Alexis Simpson, Caroline Smith and Kennedy Westendorff. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.

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8 Best Essay Writing Competitions for High School Students in 2024

best essay writing competitions for high school students 2024

I recall a time during high school when I was tasked with writing an essay for my English class on “The significance of old age and death” in Shakespeare’s King Lear. While this topic may have intrigued some, it didn’t particularly captivate me. I approached the assignment with less enthusiasm, going through the motions. However, my perspective shifted when I discovered high school essay competitions that allowed me to choose my topic within a specified theme. 

As a budding economics nerd, i decided to explore the “impact of hyperinflation on the working class” in one of the competitions. although i didn’t receive any awards, the experience left me with a sense of pride, and the skills i gained continue to benefit me in college. , writing essays can seem daunting, especially when the topic fails to ignite one’s passion. however, high school students are fortunate to have numerous opportunities to explore both creative and academic writing. these platforms offer students the freedom to delve into diverse topics, from economics and law to justice, philosophy, climate change, and beyond. , renowned institutions worldwide host essay competitions tailored for students, providing them with a platform to showcase their intellect and creativity. below is a carefully curated list of competitions that might catch the eye of admission officers at your dream college:, our recommended list of high school essay writing competitions in 2024., grc social impact essay competition 2024, cambridge re:think essay competition 2024 , john locke institute 2024 global essay competition, harvard international review academic writing contest, columbia political review high school essay.

Columbia Undergrad Law Review High School Essay Contest 

The Aristotle Contest 2024 

The Harvard Crimson Global Essay Competition 2025

Deadline: December 15th, 2024

Eligibility: all high school students worldwide, prize: top five authors win an exclusive internship with one of grc's university branches at harvard, wharton, columbia, and other renowned schools), supporting a consulting team with a client project from february to may 2025. additionally, top 6-10 winners will receive academic guidance and support from an ivy league mentor through at least three coaching sessions and have their work published by the grc think tank on grc’s insights platform., grc is a global student-run consulting firm consisting of over 1,000+ members who advise the world’s largest ngos, governments, charities, and startups. as an international 501(c)(3) non-profit, grc operates branches at 20 top universities worldwide, including harvard, upenn, imperial college, and columbia. , every year, grc hosts an essay competition for high school students from across the globe to propose solutions for good. this year’s prompt challenges participants to craft an argumentative piece addressing a pressing global issue and proposing a compelling solution. topics include technology for good, global health, sustainable development & climate change, innovations in the public sector, modern solutions to human rights issues, and the role of education in promoting gender equality & social mobility., deadline: may 10th, 2024, eligibility: high school students aged 14 to 18 years from around the world. , prizes: cash awards (up to $150), ccir academy scholarship, an invitation for a featured interview on the ccir podcast and website, and an invitation to the award ceremony and dinner at the university of cambridge (free of charge)., the cambridge centre for international research (ccir) was established by a group of cambridge graduates with a clear understanding and vision of the transformative power of knowledge for society. ​their mission is to connect leading researchers and scholars from top academic institutions with the broader public, increasing social access to these transformative resources., organized by ccir, the re:think essay competition encourages critical thinking and exploration of a wide range of thought-provoking and controversial topics. the competition promotes intellectual exploration and challenges established norms and beliefs while offering opportunities for envisioning alternative futures. societal issues for discussion include nine topics: religion and politics, political science and law, linguistics, environment, sociology and philosophy, business and investment, public health and sustainability, genetics, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and neuroengineering. , the competition is guided and judged by an advisory committee comprising academics and experts from elite universities worldwide, including harvard, cambridge, oxford, and mit. , deadline: may 31st, 2024, eligibility: high school students from any country., prize: scholarship worth up to $20k and invitation to dinner and prize-giving ceremony in london, uk., the john locke institute is an independent educational organization that works to embolden the best and brightest students to become more academically ambitious and intellectually adventurous., the john locke global essay prize, hosted by the institute, is a prestigious competition that fosters the characteristics that transform good students into exceptional writers. this competition promotes independent thinking, depth of knowledge, clear reasoning, critical analysis, and persuasive writing style, nurturing growth and honing argumentative skills. the essay spans seven subject categories: philosophy, politics, economics, history, psychology, theology and law. , the judging panel comprises senior academics from renowned universities, including oxford and princeton. , deadline: may 31, 2024, eligibility: grade 9-12 students residing in the us or internationally, prize: certificate and recognition on the website, the harvard international review bridges the worlds of academia and policy through outstanding writing and editorial selection. the review has featured exclusive interviews and editorials by 43 presidents and prime ministers, 4 secretaries-general, 4 nobel economics prize laureates, and 7 nobel peace prize laureates., the harvard international review academic writing contest, initiated in 2020, aims to promote and highlight exceptional high school writing on topics about international affairs, grounded in analytically-backed perspectives. , the competition is organized by season, and for the upcoming spring 2024 edition, participants can choose between two distinct themes: “inequalities in a vuca world” and “global challenges and collective actions”., entries should explore the specified themes from a global standpoint rather than focusing solely on us politics. potential topics include agriculture, business, cybersecurity, defense, education, employment & immigration, energy & environment, finance & economy, public health, science & technology, space, trade, and transportation, deadline: june 1st, 2024, founded in 2001, the columbia political review (cpr) is columbia university’s premier undergraduate publication for multi partisan political discourse. its mission is to provide an open forum for political thought on issues of local to global significance. , the mission of cpr is to cultivate the next generation of politically engaged writers. in doing so, they host an annual high school essay contest, inaugurated in 2017. through this initiative, cpr seeks to amplify the voices of talented high school students amid global challenges such as pandemic, conflicts, and uncertainty, offering a platform for innovative and creative solutions to the world’s most pressing issues., the essay prompt for this year’s contest encourages students to delve into the political landscape of one of the 64 countries expected to hold a national election. participants are tasked with researching and writing about the most critical issue at stake in the chosen country’s election., columbia undergrad law review high school essay contest  , deadline: june 21st, 2024, eligibility: high school students, below grade 12 level, internationally ., prize: the winning essay will be published on the culr website, and winners will be invited to a speaker event hosted by culr., the columbia undergraduate law review (culr) was founded to provide the columbia university community and the public with a platform for discussing law-related ideas and publishing undergraduate legal scholarship. many undergraduates and non-law students find legal issues unapproachable or complex. the culr’s mission is to create a space where students can engage in debate and discourse about the law, supported by scholarly research. , the culr is launching the 2024 high school essay content, focusing on the principle of “freedom of speech '' enshrined in the first amendment of the us constitution and its application on social media platforms. the prompt challenges participants to consider the balance between protecting against harmful ideas, combating misinformation, and upholding the principle of free speech. specifically, participants are asked to discuss whether removing harmful ideas is a viable strategy to combat misinformation and societal harm, such as covid-19 medical misinformation or hate speech while considering the value of free speech. additionally, participants must reference at least one court case or legal document in their essays., deadline: june 24th, 2024, eligibility: canadian high school students at or below the grade 12 level., prizes: cash awards up to $500., the university of toronto department of philosophy, in collaboration with the ontario philosophy teachers’ association, presents the annual aristotle contest. this contest aims to recognize and evaluate the best philosophical work by current canadian high school students. it offers students interested in philosophy a chance to have their work reviewed and acknowledged by the largest post-secondary department of philosophy in north america., participants are invited to submit their finest philosophical work on one of three main topics: the potential of artificial intelligence to produce art of aesthetic value, the significance of human free will, and the morality of pet ownership., the harvard crimson global essay competition  2025, deadline: january 2025 (pre-registration has commenced), eligibility: high school students, below grade 12 level, internationally., prize: exclusive internships with the harvard crimson, published work on the official hcgec website, crimson credit with crimson education to help reach individual goals and generous cash prizes., the harvard crimson, the nation's oldest continuously published daily college newspaper, was founded in 1873 and incorporated in 1967. the crimson has a rich tradition of journalistic integrity and counts among its ranks of editorship some of america's greatest journalists. more than 40 crimson alumni have won the pulitzer prize; many of their portraits line the walls of the crimson., the harvard crimson global essay competition (hcgec) serves as a platform for ambitious high school students aged 13 to 18 worldwide, cultivating their passion for writing and encouraging the expression of ideas through creative, argumentative, and journalistic forms.  , the competition comprises two key rounds: regional qualifiers across five regions, followed by the global finals. to advance to the global round, participants must secure a position in the top 15 of their respective regional qualifiers. , while the 2024 competition has concluded, pre-registration for the 2025 edition is now open..

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10 Best AI Essay Writer Platforms to Help You Get Better Grades

Essays are some of the most common homework assignments for students from middle school all the way through to college. And it’s not always easy to find time to get every essay done on time or write about subjects you struggle with. That’s where AI essay writing platforms can help. Most AI essay writers use powerful natural language technology to generate essays, add citations, use AI to auto-complete essay paragraphs, research subjects, and much more. It’s a powerful learning tool, and this list will look at 10 of the best options to use.

EssayGPT – Best AI Essay Writer Overall


When it comes to the best AI essay writers, EssayGPT by HIX.AI tops the list. It stands out for its highly impressive technology, capable of tackling almost any subject imaginable, from complicated science essays to in-depth literature analysis.

So much more than a simple AI essay writer, EssayGPT also offers editing and auto-complete features, helping students fine-tune and improve their work. It can automatically fill out phrases and sentences with a click, as well as add citations to your essays in various styles to suit the tone and target audience.

But EssayGPT’s feature list doesn’t end there. It also comes with built-in grammar and plagiarism checkers to ensure that your work is free of mistakes. And it has a powerful search tool that students can use to look up relevant and useful information to draw from when completing their essays.

  • Industry-leading technology
  • A major time-saver to help you hit any deadline
  • Much cheaper than a tutor or human-based essay writing services
  • Prices can add up if you use it often

Enjoy academic success with EssayGPT.

EssayWriter – Best AI Essay Writer for Researching


EssayWriter is another AI essay generator that can appeal to students at any level of academia. With its advanced technology and deep database of academic resources, it makes it easy for students to look up relevant references and sources connected to the topics they’re writing about, making it faster and easier to create informative and detailed text.

That’s not all. EssayWriter also comes with a simple citation generation, letting you make citations that are formatted to suit common standards, like APA and Chicago. Plus, it has a built-in plagiarism detector to ensure your work is original, coupled with real-time AI content suggestions to help you complete essays more quickly.

  • Customizable writing styles and tones
  • Sources accurate content from academic sources
  • Great value for money
  • Requires an internet connection to access

EssayFlow – Best AI Essay Writer for Any Form of Essays


EssayAI is a leading undetectable AI essay generator that stands out on the market. It produces high-quality, undetectable essays in great detail, with expert citations and sources listed throughout, showing you exactly how each point was made and supported.

It offers a range of customization options, allowing you to tailor your essays to specific target audiences, adjust tones of voice, select preferred languages, and more. This level of customization ensures that your essays are precisely crafted to meet your unique requirements and effectively engage your intended audience.

  • An excellent undetectable AI essay writer
  • Adds lots of quality citations
  • Many customization features
  • Needs to upgrade to unlock more features

EssayAI – Best AI Essay Writer for Undetectable Academic Writing


ToolBaz – Best AI Essay Writer for Adjustable Creativity


Next on our list is ToolBaz. Launched in 2022, the ToolBaz AI essay writer is part of an extensive suite of AI writing solutions on the ToolBaz platform. It’s fast, reliable, and ready to use at any time, whenever you need it.

This AI essay writer also has a unique adjustable creativity feature. It lets users change the creativity of their essays via a simple slider, giving the AI bot more or less freedom to get imaginative with the content.

  • Completely free to use
  • Useful for high school, middle school, and more
  • Simple, beginner-friendly interface
  • Sometimes requires manual editing

Caktus AI – Best AI Essay Writer for Improving Your Knowledge


Caktus AI is an AI essay writer that is trusted by students and teachers alike as a reliable learning aid. Instead of simply doing work for students, this AI platform, founded by Harrison Leonard and Tao Zhang, is designed to teach them and help them improve.

Caktus AI fills its essays with precise citations and the most accurate information, sourced from published essays and academic textbooks. This results in high-quality, easy-to-read output text that can help you improve in even the trickiest subjects, with prices starting at $14.99 per month.

  • A vast database of academic resources
  • Designed by students, with students in mind
  • Flexible pricing to suit your budget
  • More expensive than other AI essay generators

Essaybot – Best AI Essay Writer for High School Students


Next up, we have Essaybot. This company was founded in 2023 and has staff both in China and the U.S. It’s quickly become one of the go-to essay generator tools for many students, thanks to its ease-of-use.

With EssayBot, all you have to do is type the subject or concept of your essay into the box provided and then wait for it to create content for you. It’ll generate precise, relevant text for any subject you need help with, adding citations automatically and running a plagiarism check too.

  • Very easy for beginner users
  • Built-in grammar and spell check
  • Offers unlimited essay downloads
  • May struggle with college-level texts

StudyCrumb – Best AI Essay Generator to Use for Free


While many AI essay writing platforms charge high fees or recurring subscriptions, StudyCrumb is 100% free. Launched by the Crumb4Life company, which is based in Estonia, this trusty AI essay generator is completely risk-free and perfect to add to your academic arsenal.

Students can easily and quickly get help with any essay through StudyCrumb. It boasts fast processing times and is much more cost-effective than spending money on other tools or paying a human tutor.

  • Produces relevant, good quality content
  • Fast essay generation
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Text regularly needs manual editing

EssayService – Best AI Essay Writer for Easy Essay Generation


EssayService is an AI-powered essay generator that was launched in 2023 by a company that had previously specialized in human essay writing services. They decided to branch out into AI, resulting in the development of this clever and easy-to-use AI tool.

With the EssayService AI essay writer, users can paste their questions or subjects into a box and get instant essay generation. It also supports essay outline generation, giving you headers and talking points that you can then flesh out on your own.

  • Excellent for custom essay requests
  • Draws from a vast database of academic sources 
  • Can save you hours on essay writing
  • May struggle with complex science essays

PaperTyper – Best AI Essay Writer for Improving Your Essays


PaperTyper isn’t quite the same as the other essay writers on this list. Developed by a one-woman team, Juli Sheller, this tool is part of an entire suite of academic AI aids, including a plagiarism checker, grammar scanner, and more.

In short, PaperType has all you need to write essays, check them, proofread them, and fine-tune them. It’s ideal for students who want to do most of the work themselves, but still want to use AI to make improvements to the clarity and flow of their texts.

  • Completely free to start
  • Checks grammar and spelling for you
  • Works at all levels of education
  • Interface may be a little awkward for first-time users

Who Should Use an AI Essay Writer?

So, who are AI essay generators actually aimed at? Well, almost any kind of student can benefit from these tools. It’s important to note that many AI essay writers are capable of writing a range of different kinds of content, from persuasive essays to descriptive papers, analytical texts, and more.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter what level of education you’re at or what kind of work you’ve got to do. Every student can use and benefit from an AI essay generator. What’s more, they’re ideal for students who have very busy lives. As well as those who feel like they don’t have enough time to keep up with their assignments.

You may also enjoy big benefits from AI essay writing technology if you’re the kind of user who tends to struggle with certain subjects. Let’s say that you excel in geography but struggle with history, for instance. In that case, you can use AI to help out with your history essays and ease your stress in that subject.

What Should I Look for in an AI Essay Generator?

With all of those different AI essay writers on the market, you might not know which one you should actually use. Well, here are some key factors that you can focus on when trying to find the right one:

  • Reliable Citation Generation : The best AI essay writers make it easy to add citations to your work. Citations help to make essays feel more professional and can aid in getting better grades. Look for writers with built-in citation generators, and favor those that can add citations in different styles, like Chicago and MLA.
  • Grammar and Spelling Checks : Leading AI essay writers are also capable of scanning essay text to spot and fix errors. They can get rid of any little typos that could make your essay look rushed, for instance. They can also improve punctuation and grammar to produce a more professional and high quality piece of text.

Research Feature : Top quality AI essay writers should also make researching your essays a lot easier. Many of the best ones come with their own research features to help you look up relevant content. Focus on writers that allow you to find relevant content quickly to save time while writing essays.

Overall, AI essay writers are incredible tools to consider. They can help students in so many ways, easing their essay-related stresses, making their academic lives easier, saving them time, and even saving them money, too. Try one of the top 10 tools listed above and see how an AI essay generator can elevate your education.

This is a   guest post,   created for informational purposes only, and should not be considered as professional advice. Readers are encouraged to conduct their   own research   and consult with relevant experts before making any financial or investment decisions.

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Moscow High School, located in the city of Moscow, ID, is a renowned institution with a strong emphasis on academic and athletic excellence. Recognized for its commitment to providing a well-rounded education, Moscow High School offers an impressive array of athletics programs that nurture the students' physical and mental development. The school takes pride in its membership in the state athletics association, which provides an opportunity for students to compete against other top schools in Idaho. With a wide range of sports offered, Moscow High School promotes teamwork, discipline, and a spirit of healthy competition among its students. The coaches and staff at Moscow High School strive to create an inclusive and supportive environment that encourages each student-athlete to reach their full potential, both on and off the field. Moscow High School stands out as a leading educational institution in Moscow, ID, offering a stellar athletics program and membership in a reputable state athletics association. Through their commitment to fostering well-rounded individuals, Moscow High School instills values such as teamwork, sportsmanship, and dedication in their students, ensuring they are prepared for success beyond the classroom.

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"I am a qualified primary school teacher, and decided to go for the exciting challenge and opportunity of working abroad, I had never considered Moscow until I spoke to Lisa, who sold it to me..."

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"I am a qualified teacher and wanted a new life experience. I was recommended to ABL Personnel and I think that because Lisa has lived and worked in Russia she was able to offer me some really sound advice and find an amazing family for me. I have now been in Moscow two years and I am loving my experience here. The family I work for have been so good to me and I am very happy with my job as a Governess. "

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English Speaking Tutor / Governess - Live Out Position in Qatar: Start ASAP My client, a member of the Qatar Royal Family is seeking a formally qualified British teacher to work with her 16 year old daughter. The job is to help this young lady develop herself scholastically, especially in regards to her English, History and formal essay writing skills. The student speaks English however your command and passion for the English language will help her to further develop her own knowledge of the language and her ability to speak beautifully. My client is seeking a qualified teacher who has a true passion for teaching and a real desire to help educate her daughter both intellectually, socially and emotionally. You are to be her teacher, her friend and her role model so it is imperative that you possess intellect, a sense of humour and a deep interest in the world around you. You will have well developed teaching skills to guide your student’s mind whilst developing her intellect. My client seeks a teacher who can help her daughter engage in reading and develop a true love of one life’s most important past times. You must be well presented and well- spoken and be able to hold your own in any intellectual or social situation. As well as polite confidence we require a lady who easily smiles and shares her zest for life with those around her. The ideal candidate will have experience teaching the national curriculum and will ideally have previously worked for a High profile family, however I welcome teachers with just classroom based experience. You will need to be active and sporty and be able to swim. You will possess a cheerful and positive disposition and be flexible and willing to go the extra mile when required. This is a very high end family so they are looking for someone who is comfortable in all situations as you will be a role model through your display of good manners and etiquette. Your excellent communication skills and your lovely personality is what this family are looking for in a Governess. The family travel internationally, and as you will be required to accompany the young lady you need to be able to create exciting and intelligent lesson plans about the countries and cultures you will be visiting. Responsibilities: You would be responsible for supervising the afternoon daily routines and activities. Accompanying the young lady to high profile functions, during international travel, in both a sole and shared charge capacity, with the adaptability to intuitively know when needed and when to be discreetly available. • Expertly devises fun, creative learning opportunities that appeal to the young lady’s specific interests and hobbies • Delivers high quality, tailor made English and history lessons, engaging the young lady in imaginative, hands on activities to develop speaking, listening, reading, and writing – e.g. using innovative techniques to teach grammar and other usually mundane aspects of English language acquisition • Develop the young lady’s essay writing skills to a very high standard • Provide detailed feedback to parents and other family members when requested on the young lady’s wellbeing, social development and academic progress in form of bespoke reports, phone calls, text messages, emails and discussions where appropriate • Maintains professional, patient, flexible attitude to last minute requests, travel plans and changes to provide a good role model and promote a calm, happy environment despite disruptions • Build excellent relationships with non-English speaking staff at all levels and in many different locations, fitting in well to maintain smooth running of routines, security and travel plans Conditions • Working 6 afternoons per week with flexible hours • The salary is £1000 per week • Live out with fully furnished separate apartment in Doha • 4 weeks fully paid holidays per year • Visas and flights covered by employer Requirements • Start ASAP • Native English Speaking Person • Teaching qualification (B.Ed. or PGCE) • Previous experience in a similar role preferred • Creative, positive, outgoing person To apply please forward your CV, cover letter and a recent photograph. Or call me to discuss this job further, thank you Lisa [email protected] Ph.07885405192





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    About. Moscow High School, located in the city of Moscow, ID, is a renowned institution with a strong emphasis on academic and athletic excellence. Recognized for its commitment to providing a well-rounded education, Moscow High School offers an impressive array of athletics programs that nurture the students' physical and mental development.

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