Every school day since 2009 we’ve asked students a question based on an article in The New York Times.
Now, seven years later, and in honor of the Oct. 20 National Day on Writing, we’ve collected 650 of them that invite narrative and personal writing and listed them by category below. Consider it an update of a previous post, and a companion to the list of 301 argumentative writing prompts we published in 2015.
Here is a PDF of all 650 prompts, and we also have a related lesson plan, From ‘Lives’ to ‘Modern Love’: Writing Personal Essays With Help From The New York Times.
Below, a list that touches on everything from sports to travel, education, gender roles, video games, fashion, family, pop culture, social media and more. Like all our Student Opinion questions, each links to a related Times article and includes a series of follow-up questions. All questions published since May 2015 are still open to comment by any student 13 or older.
So dive into this admittedly overwhelming list and pick the questions that most inspire you to tell an interesting story, describe a memorable event, observe the details in your world, imagine a possibility, or reflect on who you are and what you believe.Continue reading the main story
When I opened my eyes, I found myself sitting on a stool in an empty bar. There was a drink in front of me that I didn’t remember ordering. I shielded away from the lights above me, wincing as my eyes refused to adjust. Pain rippled across my chest. I couldn’t breathe…
A man sat down next to me, the smell of smoke clinging to his leather jacket. He rapped the wooden table. “A scotch on the rocks, one third ice.” I glanced over at him, meeting his steady gaze. He smiled at me. “Name’s Thanatos.”
I could feel the temperature in the room dropping, one degree at a time. Shivering, I told him my name. My breath clouded in the air. I fought to keep my eyes open, and pain again worked its way through my chest. I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the voices calling…
I opened my eyes. A thin bartender brought his drink over, eyes hollow and cheeks gaunt. I wanted to talk to him, but something about his posture warned me against it. He ever so quickly glanced at me before hurrying away.
“Are you ready?” asked Thanatos, swirling his drink with his left hand. The ice cubes hugged the outer edge of the cup, clinking together noisily. He leaned back against the counter, and again he met my gaze. “Yes, or no?”
I swallowed, frozen in my seat. “I don’t understand. What are we –” My breath caught in my throat. I couldn’t breathe…
Thanatos gently touched my shoulder, and the weight on my chest disappeared. My breath came back, and I felt the pain dissolve away. For a brief moment, a smile flickered across his face. He looked much older than I originally had thought, the stubble on his chin more grey than black. “My dear girl,” he began, pausing to sip at his drink. “Are you ready to die?”
I understood my situation then. The pain, the inability to breath, the voices calling to me. “I’m dead,” I whispered, putting a hand to my stomach. “Someone shot me.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “It is quite unfortunate. You have my condolences, and all that.”
“Then who are you?” My voice shook.
He let out a breath, not quite a sigh, and stared at his amber-colored scotch. “From the beautifully infinite set of days I have existed in this universe, I have learned one thing, and one thing only; we fear endings.”
I folded my arms, resting them on the scratched bar counter, and waited for him to continue. “I’m no more powerful than you. Who am I to play God? I am no creator. I am merely a side effect.”
“A side effect of what?”
“Of life, my dear. I am a side effect of awareness, of the universe wanting an audience, of human nature.” He said this with his eyes resolutely fixed on the lights above us. “If the tale of humanity is an epic poem filled with glowing hope, then the universe is an untold tragedy which has no end.”
“You never answered my question,” I said. “Who are you?”
He crookedly smiled, and I doubted he would give me a straight answer. “I have been given many names, though I doubt I have a true name. I do not believe I was born, or even created. I simply am.” He leaned in closer to me, setting the drink down. “My name is Death.”
I could feel him gauging my reaction. “I hate to say it, but I was expecting a little more cloak and dagger and a little less alcohol. Though I’m not objecting. This is a nice change.” I took a sip of my drink and raised an eyebrow at him. He threw back his head and laughed, shoulders shaking.
“I like you,” said Death, fighting to keep his face straight. He stood, downing the rest of his drink. “Truly, I do. But don’t let me keep you. Places to go, people to see, right?”
I didn’t know how to respond. “Until the next time, darling,” he said, giving me a wink. Death raised his arms. The lights flickered, rattling in their fixtures. On the wall behind him, I saw the shadow of dark wings unfurling.
He reached forwards, his leather jacket becoming a cloak of darkness, draping over his shoulders, and touched his hand to my forehead. Ice ran through my veins as I felt the bullet wound on my abdomen reappear, blood dripping down my chest.
Then I was gone.
Credits to Witt.Stanton