Project-Based Learning for Writers

Project-Based Learning for Writers

Project-based learning is hard. Often times, we fall in love with the research and stories of PBL but find it incredibly hard to effectively implement in our student’s life. This is especially true if our students are only interested in reading fiction and writing stories all day.

As you already know, writing is one of the most important skills you can have. Even writing stories of fiction and blogging can improve your student’s ability to write. But how could writing and storytelling fit into project-based learning? How do you get students to write for “school”?

Let’s jump into scaffolding learning and thinking of project ideas for students who love writing.

Quick Background

PBL is effective because it follows the “Principle of Directness” which states, in the paraphrased words of author of Ultralearning Scott Young, always try to learn in a situation that mirrors the ultimate use case of the skill. Or, in more human words, do the thing to learn the thing. This is because research shows humans are quite bad at transferring what we learn. That means, if you want to learn a language, speak the language. Or, if you really love writing, then write, write, write!

The first step to making your student care about “schoolwork” is showing why it’s relevant to their lives. You don’t like wasting your time and neither does your student. That means, your number one priority is tying every lesson back into how it could help them later. With that knowledge, we’re ready to start!

Identify future careers

If your student loves to write, then you’re in luck! It’s an important skill in almost any career. Most people think that, when a student really loves writing, they’re going to aim to become a novelist. But there’s many more fields out there that could use good writers. Some example of careers include screenwriter for movies, content marketer, journalist, communications specialist, copy editor, and more!

Of course, if your student is focused on a different career and doesn’t necessarily want to write for a living, you can still use the upcoming strategies to create your own project ideas!

Projects for Writers

Most projects can involve writing in some way, shape, or form. Students could write reflections about how the project went and what they learned. They could write a report as the final deliverable for a project (ex. researched the effects of space on the human body and submitted a small paper). They could journal and document their project progress.

But for writing-focused projects, here are a few different project ideas that can involve this type of work.

Project Ideas and Points of Inquiry for Writers

  1. Pick a product you love and write an ad for it. One of the most important uses of writing is to persuade people of an idea. Have your student pick a product they love (ex. iPhone, Artemis Fowl book series, a bike, a paintbrush, etc.) and pretend they were in charge of creating an ad for it. The ad could be a flyer, a commercial, or any other medium your student can think of. It would be helpful for them to study up on ads first—why certain ads work and what the components of good ads are. They could even study existing and past ads to model their own creative thinking. Afterwards, they can set out to create the ad.
  2. Write a detailed review and analysis of a movie they watched recently. If your student loves writing stories, they might also like reviewing and analyzing other stories. They can study the structure of the movie’s plot, make arguments on what components of the movie were good and bad, and more. The goal of this project is to determine if your student makes a good argument for their position on the movie.
  3. Write an argumentative essay on a topic you care about. If your student doesn’t like movies, they can also just write an argumentative essay. A strong essay can make the reader question their positions on issues and change their minds. Of course, they can only achieve that with coherent arguments, solid evidence and support, and clear explanations. To that end, you just have to have your student pick a topic that’s rich enough to provide arguments for different sides. It can’t be something as simple as “are oranges better than apples”. A good topic would be something like “what do adults not understand about my generation and technology?”, or “should the United States have one official language?”
  4. Analyze a news article and determine if it makes a strong argument. This project is similar in principle to the movie review project. Good journalists make good arguments. Your student can analyze an article that a journalist has written and determine if it’s persuasive. Some points for analysis include checking the journalists’s sources, determining if the logic between the journalist’s claims and evidence makes sense, and the overall clarity of their thesis.


When approaching academics using project-based learning, it’s best to give your student choice. As we know from self-determination theory, intrinsic motivation doesn’t occur unless choice is present. So, send this list to your student, support whichever choice they make, and try to fan the fire of their new interest!

If you’re interested in learning more about our online, project-based high school, please check our website and reach out to our team to learn more about how Sora can work for your student!

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