Reformation Essay Ideas For High School


To say that the Protestant Reformation had a great effect on the world is a vast understatement. Kings, kingdoms, and even everyday people felt the sting—and the freedom—this new movement brought.

Your students will be writing opinions, stories, and more while exploring some of the issues and topics associated with the Reformation.

If you’d like your students to learn more about Martin Luther in an interesting biography, check out When Lightning Struck by Danika Cooley of Thinking Kids Press.

These prompts are appropriate for students in 5th – 12th grade.

Let’s dig in . . .



Reformation Prompts

1. Your opinion

Five hundred years ago, an educated man wanted to start a conversation about certain things he wanted to change in his church. He wrote out a copy of the points he wanted to discuss and sent it to his boss; he also may have hung a copy of his points on the door of his local church to announce his intentions to begin a discussion about them.

Follow this link for the rest of the prompt. >>


2. Your explanation

Read Martin Luther’s shocking Ninety-five Theses here or here. Then choose one of his 95 statements and explain what he meant by it.


3. Your personal story

When Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Saxony (in what is now Germany), on October 31, 1517, he wanted to start a conversation with influential people about how salvation can be found in Christ alone, not in other acts or in the buying of indulgences (official papers from the Catholic Church).

What he did not foresee was the reaction he would get (his life was now in danger) and the movement he inadvertently would start, now called the Reformation.

Write about a time when you did or said something and then got a reaction you did not expect.


4. Your thoughts

Hundreds of Protestants were burned at the stake for their faith, both men and women, in the years during the Reformation. When the political climate changed with Protestant royalty on the throne, hundreds of Catholics were burned at the stake. You can read more about this in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. In more modern times, Christians have been tortured or beheaded for their faith.

If you were laughed at, marginalized, ridiculed, fired from a job, or otherwise punished for being a Christian, how do you think you would react? Write your ideas.



5. Your fictional story

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”

This is what Martin Luther told his accusers while on trial before Emperor Charles V less than four years after he’d published his Ninety-five Theses. He would not recant (take back) what he said against the church selling indulgences, that people who bought them would have salvation. Thesis 32: “Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.”

Luther knew he could be excommunicated, which he was, and he knew he could be killed, yet he did not change his mind or buckle beneath the pressure.

Create a character who is in trouble because he or she will not change a strongly held belief. Where is your character? What situation will you put him or her in? What will happen to your character?


Looking for fun middle school writing prompts? Look no further!

Engage your teen writer with these intriguing high school prompts.


Download a free sample of our popular middle school writing curriculum Jump Inhere.

Download a free sample of our updated and improved The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School , 2nd Edition, with FREE Grading Grid samples here.

Download 2 free chapters of our unstuffy high school literature course Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collidehere.

Looking for a captivating literature course for your 7th and 8th graders? Download a free lesson from Their Blood Tingledhere.

Do you have a story writer at home? Download a free sample of our elective Writing Fiction [in High School]here.

Copyright © 2016 by Sharon Watson.

Photo credit: Martyrs plaque in Maidenstone, Kent, Creative Commons. Wittenberg door by Pecold |
Image credits: Sharon Watson
This post contains affiliate links.

Lesson One - Turning Points

Suitable for: Middle/High School


  • Students will understand how people are affected by places and events.
  • Students will communicate their opinions in an essay including historical facts.
  • III - People, Places and Environment: describe ways that historical events have been influenced by physical and human geographic factors.
  • V - Individuals, Groups and Institutions: describe the various forms institutions take and their interactions with people.
  • VI - Power, Authority and Governance: explain and apply concepts such as power, justice and influence to examine persistent issues and social problems.
Time frame: 2-3 class periods

  1. During a unit on The Renaissance and Reformation, hypothesize how the Roman Catholic Church controlled daily life in medieval Europe.

  2. As a class, view "Martin Luther: Driven to Defiance" (Run time 4:50-6:21) and discuss the following questions:
    • How did the Roman Catholic Church control daily life in medieval Europe?
    • How did this control effect the population?

  3. Introduce Martin Luther's college experiences in Erford, his pilgrimage to Rome and teaching in Wittenberg based on what they will see in the film. Explain how each of these locations greatly influenced actions in his life. As a class, watch "Martin Luther: Driven to Defiance" fill in the Viewing Chart (PDF 8kb)

    Teacher Video Notes
    • View film 8:44-49:55
    • Erford (student) 8:44-16:44
    • Monk 16:44-25:25
    • Rome 25:25-34:16
    • Wittenberg 37:09-49:55

    Tips for filling in the Viewing Chart
    • Environment: Student should describe the landscape they see in the film clips
    • Activities: What activities were popular in that location as described in the film?
    • Social Issues: What were the issues important in each community at the time Luther was a resident?
    • Effect on Luther: After seeing and hearing about each location, students explain how that location affected Luther's ideas and attitudes.

    Download Viewing Chart (PDF 8kb)

  4. After the film clip, discuss, as a class or in pairs, which location students felt had the greatest effect on Martin Luther. Why?

  5. Based on the film, the chart and class discussion, have students write an essay stating their opinion on the most influential location in Luther's life.

  • Completion of Martin Luther Viewing Chart
  • Participation in class discussion of film
  • Essay based on rubric
    • States opinion clearly and completely
      Demonstrates strong knowledge of location and its affect on Luther's life
      Clearly presents and explains no fewer than three examples of how the location affected Luther's life
      Proper spelling, grammar and punctuation
    • States opinion clearly Demonstrates knowledge of location and its affect on Luther's life
      Clearly presents and explains 3 examples of how the location affected Luther's life
      Few mistakes in reference to spelling, grammar and punctuation
    • States opinion
      Demonstrates knowledge of location and/or its affect on Luther's life
      Presents and explains 3 examples of location the effect on Luther's life
      Mistakes in reference to spelling, grammar and punctuation
    • States opinion
      Demonstrates knowledge of location and/or Luther's life
      Presents and explains up to three examples
      Errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation interfere with understanding

In order to reinforce the idea that location influences a person's actions, students will interview an adult. They will ask similar questions to those used in the Viewing Chart.
Download Interview Form (PDF 12kb)

Tip: "Decade of Choice" is an opportunity for the interviewee to choose a decade they would like to discuss - the 1950's because they fought in Korea or the 1960s because they had their children.

Have students share interview experiences. Are there similarities among those people the students interviewed?

Can generalizations be made about turning points in various decades? If so, what are they? If not, hypothesize on the reasons behind the lack of similarities.

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