Monday, June 3, 2013

I Certainly Hope You're All Prepared: Writing Prompts

It's hard to just start writing about something. If someone gave you a blank paper and said, "Okay, write! Fill up the whole page!" your mind would probably go blank. The same thing happens to many students. They need a little nudging and a little direction, which is why many teachers will provide some sort of topic or writing prompt. But I've found that giving students topics like "summer vacations" and "favorite holiday" isn't all that helpful either. It can give them something to write about, I suppose, but nothing I really want to read. And if it's boring to read, it's probably boring for them to write.

Who else did you play with? I'm hooked!

Writing about what you did for summer vacation can only be interesting so many times. Once. Once times.

The problem with one-word topics is that they just don't spark much creativity. And kids are dying to be creative. Something that helps spark this creativity is a good writing prompt. Not just a one-word topic, but a scenario that can give them a chance to be creative and have fun. With the right prompt, you will be surprised by what your students can come up with. And the bonus is it's fun for you to read too!

Here's one that I love to do. It's sure to spark some creativity, even in the most reluctant of students.

When the students walk into class I post this on the board:

After the students have finished writing their excuses, I have them walk out of class and pretend that they are just coming into class and realize they don't have their homework. I switch what's on the board to say this:

Some of the students get really into the acting part. It cracks me up. I get into my part as well and start out all chipper saying, "Welcome to class! I certainly hope you're all prepared!" Then they all put on their best guilty face and say they all forgot. I pretend to be shocked and annoyed and tell them I want to hear their excuses for why they forgot their homework.

Then the presentations begin of why they forgot their homework. Sometimes I choose whose was best or most convincing, sometimes I have the students vote.

Probably my favorite excuse came from a student who said he did his homework but on the way to school he had to help a cat who was stuck in an oil spill and the homework was ruined. It was funny and topical (right after the BP oil spill), and listening to all of their creative excuses made my day of teaching much more fun and fulfilling.

Try it!

And if you have any good writing prompt ideas, please, please give me some!


  1. That sounds like a lot of fun. And I certainly could have used the practice on that topic.

  2. Another winning idea! Love this. And, I love that it makes it fun for the teacher as well.