Kick start a collaborative writing challenge with these 32 September writing prompts. It’s Hispanic Heritage Month and Classical Music Month. Those two things along with daily writing prompts based on national days will give your students plenty of topics for writing.
This blog post was updated on August 30, 2023.
Have you ever done a writing challenge in your classroom? They can be a fun way to incentivize writing, especially for students who are reluctant writers.
However, collaboration is better than competition, and setting up a collaborative writing challenge can be a way to start creating that classroom community every teacher needs and wants. Starting at the very beginning of the school year can set a positive tone that will last through June.
How to Set up a September Writing Challenge in Your Class
First of all, think of an end goal that will appeal to your students if they’re successful in this September writing challenge. You may even want to brainstorm this during a class meeting. (And build classroom community at the same time!)
Here are some ideas that usually go over well:
- Popcorn party
- Outdoor classroom for a day
- A movie based on your next read aloud
- A homebaked treat from the teacher
Try to think of ideas that won’t cost you any money, or that will cost a minimum, such as the popcorn party.
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It’s more fun if the writing challenge is a class challenge. The class succeeds together as a whole. After you’ve come up with an appealing end goal, then introduce the rules of the writing challenge.
Decide what the definition of success will look like.
More than 95% of the class has to write something in their September writing journal every day. You can turn this into a quick mini-math lesson if you teach upper grades. Have the students figure out what 95% completion is equal to. Take the number of writing days available, multiply by the number of students, and then multiply by 95%.
If you have 32 students, and 20 school days, you would have 640 September writing journal entries possible. Then, multiply by 95% and you’ll get 608. On an individual level, this would mean that 100% of the students in the class need to write 19 journal entries.
Some students will write all 20 days, and others might not. But the big goal is to reach the class end goal. This is where the collaboration starts.
The students that enjoy writing can help encourage those who don’t. They can help them brainstorm, they can help them make wise choices during free time to finish up any writing assignments still undone. This encouragement will build teamwork and a sense of community.
Don’t forget to incorporate some of these scaffolds for writing, (link) such as speech to text apps. When you arrive at the end of the month, hurrah! They will have done it!
Another idea is to start with a low goal, say 80%. Each month continue the writing challenge, but increase the percentage goal until the students reach a 95% goal. Then you could encourage them to hold that 95% for two months to win a bigger class reward.
Choose a way to do this writing challenge that works with the students you teach. The true goal, even though the students won’t realize it, is to instill that habit of writing every day.
My friend Sarah, at Sarah’s Writing Spot has some terrific picture prompts for the fall season. She outlines how to use them in this post, How to Use Inspiring Writing Prompts With Pictures in an Elementary Classroom. It could be a fun way to do this collaborative writing challenge, too.
Psychological Signals and Motivators for Writing Every Day
In this earlier blog post I wrote about the cue, routine, reward system for writing every day. What this does is set up the environment with physical and psychological cues that immediately get students ready to write.
You’ve certainly learned about the experiments with Pavlov’s dogs. After the dogs were conditioned, they began to salivate as soon as they heard the bell. The same principle can be applied to creating good habits with you and your students. (I’m not making any correlations between students and dogs, of course! ? It’s all about creating good habits with behavior cues.)
In my class, right after morning recess, the students came in with their usual jocularity. As soon as I turned on the ambient sounds, (I used relaxing nature videos) students knew to pull out their journals and begin writing. It was remarkable. The relaxing nature videos helped writing become a peaceful and happy time. Low stress, no stress, and lots of laughter and pride when we shared our writing.
What’s Included in the September Writing Prompts?
Biography Writing Prompts
This month, students will learn about Emma M. Nutt. Have you ever heard of her? I never had, but there’s a national day to celebrate her, the first female telephone operator. In addition to learning about her, students will get to learn a little bit about the development of early telephone systems. KaPow! It’s an all-in-one lesson with science and biography and writing together!
Of course the September 26th staple of learning about Johnny Appleseed, or John Chapman, is included too.
National Skyscraper Day
This holiday National Skyscraper Day is super interesting. Watch this video about some of the innovative and water saving features of one of the world’s tallest buildings in Dubai. The interviewee explains the technology behind the glass on the building and how it collects and conserves water from the dry desert air. He talks about how it is designed to withstand earthquakes and windstorms. He describes the innovative method created to provide power to the building. Don’t miss this one! Your students will love it too.
Patriot Day and Constitution Day
These are the September timely prompts for United States history and social studies. You can start a guided conversation in your class with these prompts and lead it into the activities you have planned for the day.
National Teddy Bear Day
This history writing prompt some facts on what President Theodore Roosevelt was known for and how the teddy bear was created based on an experience he had.
National Talk Like a Pirate Day
This is one of my favorite days. Aargh! If you teach in the lower elementary grades, there’s a perfect opportunity for you to also incorporate some of the activities for Talk Like a Pirate Day with phonics lessons about Bossy R. 🙂 In upper elementary, you might want to read about Blackbeard the Pirate with your students, or teach a lesson about piracy during the days of the Spanish Armada.
If you’re working on map skills with your class, I have a super fun Map Skills Game Show with a Pirate Theme that will make this day fun with learning!
State Studies and Research
Every month highlights at least four United States states. This month, the state studies include:
- New York
- North Carolina
- New Hampshire
If you teach state studies and do state research reports, every month you’ll find information for your students in these writing journals.
Mexican Independence Day
September 16th begins Hispanic Heritage Month. You can use this day’s writing prompt as an introduction piece into the history of Mexican Independence Day into a rich month-long study of Hispanic and LatinX cultures.
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Teach Students to Edit Writing With the CUPS System
You get a unique tool to teach students how to edit their writing in 5 minutes or less with all of my Daily Writing Journals. Using draggable highlighters, they spend one minute on each part of the CUPS editing process. One minute on Capitalization, one on Usage, one on Punctuation, and one on Spelling. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your students can improve their writing skills.
Here is a video showing how this unique method works.
In addition to the more academic topics, each month always includes some just-for-fun topics, and September is no exception. My hope is that you’ll have fun with these prompts and your students will enjoy learning and writing about them.