You learn important skills in essay writing that you can apply to other forms of writing, but are essays always the best way to communicate ideas to others?

When Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. wanted to save a piece of American history in 1830, what did he do?

Did he write his senator? Take out an ad in the local papers? Write a letter to the editor? Make protest signs?

Although all of those things are legitimate ways of communicating with people, he did none of them yet still succeeded in saving the USS Constitution, an old warship that had fought in the important War of 1812.

How did he do it?

High School Writing Prompt -- You have an idea, a goal, a message. But how will you get your message out? Which method will you use? Read these examples and then give it a try.

He wrote a poem! Yes, his poem was instrumental in saving this important ship that you can see in Boston Harbor today! The name of his poem is “Old Ironsides.” You can read about it here.


Emily Dickinson had plenty to say, too, and she used poetry as well. She often wrote little poems and gave them away to friends and neighbors. Over 1,800 of her poems were found after her death.

Martin Luther King Jr. got his message out in powerful speeches.

When people in the 1960s and ’70s wanted to protest U. S. involvement in the Vietnam War, one of their most powerful “secret weapons” was writing songs. It’s true. Their messages about war and peace were powerful to move hearts and change minds.

Politicians get their messages out in speeches, slogans, billboards, debates, news releases, commercials, and editorials.

Every writer has to think intelligently about this: What is the best way to communicate this idea? How will you get your message out?

Now it’s your turn: Think about your idea, dream, or message. What do you want people to know about? What is important enough to you that you want to tell someone else about it? It can be huge or tiny, public or personal.

Once you have that idea, dream, or message figured out, think about HOW you want to express it: song, poem, letter to the editor, letter to a friend, email to a member of Congress, billboard, speech, ad or commercial, protest signs, 140-character tweet, novel, short story, script for a YouTube video, journal entries, and so forth.

Write down everything that you have so far: your message and your method. If you have the time and inclination, write your message using your chosen method.

Teachers, here’s this week’s middle school prompt.

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Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Watson
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Writing in Summer Informer

Worried that writing will fall off your kids’ radar this summer? Use these fun writing activities your kids will enjoy!

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Help your struggling writers—and you!—by identifying five hurdles to writing. Then learn practical actions you can take against those hurdles.

This article by me in The Old Schoolhouse magazine is also loaded with links to other helpful posts that will give you and your writers some welcome relief.

Click here to drain some of the tension from your writing class



Frustrated that your students don’t finish an essay or don’t know the steps to complete one? Worry no more! Click here for my latest article in The Informer about a super-practical writing schedule you WILL use!

Want daily writing prompts to tempt reluctant writers and delight eager ones? Find out more about Sharon’s daily writing prompts posted on SchoolhouseTeachers.com under “Dailies” or click here.

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Jump InGet your middle school student ready for high school with this popular writing curriculum from Writing with Sharon Watson, published by Apologia! Featured in Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, Jump In will prepare and even amuse your students as they learn the fundamentals of effective essay writing and storytelling.