• Jessica Sherry

Back to School Writing Prompts

Growing up, I found the only upside to going back to school was shopping for it. New clothes, backpacks, lunch boxes, and supplies. I love reminiscing about my coveted purple Trapper Keeper. And before that, my Annie lunchbox (not really coveted, but special to me).



With my kids, school shopping resembles a treasure hunt, especially since teacher's wish lists are long and specific. Pencils became No. 2 pencils. Notebook paper became wide-ruled or college-ruled. Glue became stick glue. Teachers now ask for classroom supplies, and we're happy to oblige with Expo markers, tissues, and, of course, hand sanitizer.


According to this article, families spend an average of over $800 on back-to-school shopping, and around $1,200 for college students.


Good thing I've set money aside for it! As it's my youngest's senior year, back to school shopping has been on my mind. We're both looking forward to it... and so are the stores, given that displays popped up in early July. In the next few weeks, we'll scour Wilmington for the perfect everything she might need, and, surely, a few things she doesn't.



It's also inspired many story ideas. What doesn't, right?


Here's my list of Back to School writing prompts and story or character ideas to add a little excitement to the new year.


In the spirit of shopping...


Employee Janice puts great pride into her colorful, artful back-to-school display at the local retailer, only for it to be hit by a tornado of kids and parents every day, leaving it in ruins. Write a story about Janice and her ongoing battle to keep the shelves stocked and the families happy. How does this make her feel? And how might it might resemble destructive forces in her life outside of work?


Molly wasn't excited about starting her sixth grade year at a new school, but seeing her teacher's supply list made her even more nervous. Instead of asking for paper and pencils, Mrs. Harrigan requested weird things like... colorful duct tape, something green, and an object that inspires action. How will Molly prepare for school with a list like this?


Bend Elementary principle, Ms. Jeffers, never imagined the school's detailed shopping lists would inspire violence... but then, it happened.


Maddox knew waiting until the last day to get school supplies was a mistake. So was trusting her big brother Jerry to handle the responsibility. He's a well-known procrastinator. Now, the shelves are empty, already replaced with Halloween, and it'll take a dozen stores just to get the basics, if Jerry's rundown truck will make it that far.


Portal Stories Aren't Dead...


From treehouses, to wardrobes, to school buses... stories have historically taken kids out of the classroom for REAL adventures. And though portal stories have been done, that doesn't mean they can't get a reboot, especially with limitless other worlds to create. So, why not a portal story that begins by...


Sliding down the rickety slide on the playground.

Searching the antiquated trunk backstage.

Going behind the theater's curtains.

Playing the grand piano in the basement.

Splashing paint on the easel in the art closet.

Sorting the lost and found in the main office.

Checking out the oldest book in the library.



Start your story in the regular (boring) world, and shift it into another, more exciting one.


Try on another back-to-school perspective...


In his quest for healthy lunches, the head chef at Baker Street Elementary has already hit a major snag in his plans. Someone vandalized the new greenhouse and ruined the harvest he's committed his summer and the bulk of his budget to. How will he feed hundreds of kids now? And who would sabotage his efforts?


History teacher, Meg Ripley, has a secret life. Born with the ability to _______________, she always knew her adulthood would be a split existence between being an educator and a crime fighter. But over the years, she's become careless. Or tired. Because now, someone knows her secret, and she has no idea what it'll mean for her future.


Librarian Thomas Dent knows what's coming. His slashed annual budget reflects the truth--Libraries and librarians are becoming obsolete. But this is his life--turning students into readers and being a caretaker of books. How will he save his library from extinction?


Other Random Ideas...


Alone on the playground, new student Abby Green does what she always does with no one to talk to. She gets out her sketch pad and draws. Soon, the scenes become what she sees around her, and what she hopes will happen. When life imitates her art, she realizes there's power in what she creates. But how will she use it?


When English teacher, Mrs. Hastings, solved a local crime on her summer break, her students paid attention. When a crime was committed on the first day of school, her students turned to her to solve it. Only they wanted to help.


Senior Mel Andrews noticed something was different the moment she stepped into the building on the first day. It wasn't obvious, like a new paint color on the cinderblock walls, or even positive, like an improvement at all. It felt sinister, as if the hallways, lockers, and classrooms she'd grown so used to over four years in high school had grown smaller, and something not-quite-right moved between them.


Shorter Starters...


On the first day, no one expected _____________________________.


Stepping off the school bus at the front entrance, Ryan gasped when he saw _____________________.


Kids change over the summer, but teachers, too? It was like they'd all turned into functioning zombies!


Off all the books Mr. Myers could've picked to read aloud on the first day, why did he pick ________________________?


Tina was excited to start her seventh grade year, until she realized that her best friend _________________________.


When Mr. Singh explained that their year-long project would be overcoming a fear, Rudy knew he was in trouble.




What about your back-to-school ideas? For an event that inspires so much dread, excitement, relief, and just about every other emotion, it's a wonder we don't have more stories revolving around it. Share any light-bulb ideas below!



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