Using Writing Prompts:How do we get our students to write?

It can be hard to encourage creativity in the classroom. Students complain of not knowing what to write about so where do writers start and where do they get their ideas from?


One of the ways good writers work is to use writing prompts.  A writing prompt is a topic around which you start scribbling or jotting down ideas. It might be a single word, a short phrase, a complete paragraph or even an image or picture, and it gives you something to focus on as you write. You can choose to stick closely to the prompt or you may wander off in any direction!

In the Writing Group I’m in, we give each other prompts to work on. The exercise the muscle of the brain and to spark off ideas. Writing is a skill that improves with practice. Just like driving and just like any other skill. So, having a visual or a word or a sentence starter in the English lesson will help your students to get started. If the teacher helps their students practice their writing on a daily or almost daily basis, prompts can get their mind moving and lead them to write more and to want to write more.

Your students may end up with very rough notes or  something a bit better and complete, a paragraph from a story or even the entire story. The point is to simply start writing without being held back by any inhibitions or self doubt.

The following are some examples of writing prompts that you might use with your Senior Class(3rd-6th Class)

Tell your class not to worry about where the ideas take them or whether what they have written is “any good or not.”Just help them get into the flow of writing. Tell them they will be coming back again and again to perfect it and tighten it up. Perhaps, you might decide to write alongside your class?

  1. The river was flooding our town…
  2. Wool.
  3. The sound of buzzing bees.
  4. It was pitch black in the bedroom.
  5. What was that? Was that a noise outside?
  6. He always hated the sandwiches his Dad made him.

The writing prompt is only the beginning. You can give your students a writing prompt and ask them to write for a given amount of time, perhaps 5-10 minutes. Encourage them not to censor their work or stop themselves worrying about grammar or if they have written something silly or something that makes no sense or could even be real! In the primary english curriculum, teachers are expected to help their students see writing as a process and in this way, the writing prompt is the start of that process. Writers call the first time they write something down from an idea or a prompt, the “first draft” and there are many drafts!

I’ve designed a creative writing pack with writing pages and prompts on the theme of springtime on my teacher shop if you want to try this very effective writing tool out yourself.

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