Akita Senior High School Writing Contest

2008 applicants

We are no longer accepting 2008 applications. The registration and essay deadline was August 29th.

What is the Akita Senior High School Writing Contest?

The competition is open to any Japanese student currently studying at any senior high school in Akita Prefecture. For the most part this competition is an attempt to break away from the current speech contest format which has come to place more importance on the delivery of the speech than on its content or the process of its composition. Therefore, the Akita High School Writing Competition judges will be looking for evidence of independent thought, original ideas, evidence of an interest in the subject the entrant is writing about, and ability to re-structure ideas over a series of drafts, and readability in the entrants’ submissions.

Competition outline

Competition format

This competition was created to give senior high school students in Akita an opportunity to express their own ideas and opinion in writing, to develop their written English skills, and to be encouraged as well as rewarded for their enriched performance in English language studies.

Entrants are asked to create an original piece of writing with a minimum of three hundred words. They will be required to submit all drafts made in the process of writing their entry, in order to give the judges an impression of the degree to which they have progressed over the course of the competition.

PLEASE NOTE: Entries must be the work of the entrants ALONE, and must be written without any direct outside assistance (i.e. no drafting, translating or direct correction by teachers). The indirect assistance and support of teachers is to be encouraged however.

There will be a number of themes or topics suggested for students at the end of this package, but entrants are encouraged to write on a topic of their own choice. There will be an entry fee for each student entered in the competition, prizes for the winners, and certificates as well as a compilation book for all entrants.

Hints and Tips

When it comes to getting students to sign up for the competition the following techniques proved useful. They may sound rather obvious, but I hope they will be of use.


  • Make posters (with all the essential information in Japanese), and put them up around the school (at least one in each home room class)
  • Send letters to the students. A phenomenal waste of paper, but they can be effective. Make sure you write your letter in Japanese or it will never be read.
  • Approach individual students. Perhaps the best approach. Everyone has their favourite students, ask them if they want to take part. Generally “genki” students will do better than “good English” ones.
  • Don’t coerce or let teachers coerce students into doing the competition if they really don’t want to. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of nagging or persuasion (in fact that’s what it will take to get students to enter), but there’s no point in forcing them to do it.

General strategies

  • Don’t take on too many students. It would be good for the competition to be as big as possible, but you will find the time you have to spend helping each student will realistically limit you to a group of ten or so. If more students than that want to enter from your school(s), take them on by all means if you want to, but be warned, it will be hard work, especially if you have to travel to more than one school.
  • Each year the most successful compositions are the ones that are imaginative, original and largely based on the students’ own experiences. This is a writing competition, not necessarily an essay writing competition, and students do not need to discuss Third World debt, the implications of biotechnology on late twentieth century society, or some such heavyweight topic in order to win. Encourage students to keep it simple and draw on their own imaginations and experiences.
  • It would really help the students if they write their entries in English from the start. It is not against the rules for students to make a draft in Japanese and then translate it into English, but their lives will be made much easier if they don’t do this. If they start off in Japanese, they will generally use vocabulary and grammar that is way above the level of their English, and may also choose a topic which is too difficult.


Friday, July 11th

Final day for registration and payment of entry fee.

Monday July 14th

Confirmation of entries sent via email to ALTs

Friday, August 29th

Final draft entries due

Monday, September 1st

Preliminary Judging

Saturday, September 6th

Final Judging

Monday, September 8th

ALTs are notified of the results


Originality and Quality of Ideas 40%

Is what the entrant writing about interesting and original? Is there evidence of independent thought, and does the entrant demonstrate that he/she is interested in, and stimulated by, the subject they are writing about?

Structure and Organization 50%

Does the entrant demonstrate and ability to rethink and restructure his/her ideas over a series of drafts? Is the piece well structured and easy to follow? Does the entrant demonstrate that he/she has sufficient command of English grammar to express his/her thoughts clearly?

Mechanics, Spelling, and Punctuation 10%

Do spelling, punctuation, and specific grammar points enhance or detract from the overall message the writer is presenting?

See also