Right now, some of my long-time followers are thinking that I have lost my mind. “Writing prompts? But, Jamie, you hate writing prompts!” It’s true. I have spent several years teaching about the reasons that I don’t use prompts in my writing workshop. I will keep spreading the word, but I also recognize that there is a time and a place for a writing prompt. And so I want to share 60 free writing prompts with you and help you to use them in your classroom!
Why I Usually Don’t Use Writing Prompts
I will keep this short, because I know that you came to grab the freebie. But I feel passionately about this and so I can’t give prompts without sharing why I’m not the biggest fan of them.
- When we tell students what to write about, we take away some of their excitement and engagement. It’s hard to learn to love writing if you don’t love the topic you are writing about.
- Students don’t put as much effort into a piece of writing if they are not engaged in the topic.
- Often, when we give a prompt, we spend more time teaching students how to be successful with that one exact piece of writing. They don’t know how to apply the lessons to other topics.
- Using prompts means that we don’t have to teach students to generate their own topics. This skill of being able to come up with their own ideas is one that they need in high school, college, and future jobs.
- Grading 25 papers about the exact same topic is pure torture for you.
So why are you giving us writing prompts?
Although I don’t use writing prompts on a daily basis, there are definitely times when a prompt is a great tool!
When to Use a Writing Prompt
Pre-Assessments and Post-Assessments
At the start and the end of each of my writing units, I have my students complete an on-demand writing assessment. The point of the assessment is to decide on needed lessons and support and then verify growth. It’s super helpful and keeps me from getting discouraged when student writing is not perfect. I give prompts because students have a limited amount of time to complete this writing sample. I don’t want them to spend half of their time trying to decide on a topic. (And during the pre-assessment they may not even understand the genre well enough to choose a topic.)
My writing units include lesson plans that are so simple that I have been able to leave them for substitutes. However, sometimes I REALLY want to be the one delivering the lesson. Or, it might be a tricky skill that I don’t think a substitute will be as equipped to cover. In times like this, a quick writing prompt is perfect! My students love to have a simple change of pace and it’s a piece of cake for a sub to teach and monitor. Prompts are always included in my emergency plans as well!
I am no Scrooge! I love holidays and I love to share the excitement with my students. Right before a holiday or a long break, I think it can be fun to do a themed prompt. I don’t spend TOO much time on these kinds of writing projects, but a day here or there can be so much fun!
We will always have students who complete an activity before the rest of the class. I keep fast finishers options SUPER simple. You can write, read, or practice math facts. Many of my students would choose writing and continue writing stories or reports with topics that they generated. But I always had a few that wanted to write, but didn’t want to work on their writing workshop masterpiece. They were looking for an easier prompt. I loved to have a basket or binder that they could grab one from quickly. It wasn’t something that I graded. It was more for fun and extra practice.
I always had something very simple for my students to work on when they came in the room and finished unpacking. This gave me some time to take attendance and read notes from parents. It was only a 10 minute time frame and so I think a quick prompt is a perfect activity to get students warmed up and ready for their lessons. Maybe once per week?
Grab 60 Free Writing Prompts
Gifting is my love language. I am always looking for ways to make a teacher’s life just a tad easier. I knew that I needed to create some prompts for you to use in your classroom!
I wrote 60 different prompts—five for each month. (Although many of the prompts can be used any month.) You will receive them in two formats: Google Slides and a printable PDF. This will make it even easier to use in your classroom! You can display them on your whiteboard, assign them in Google Classroom, or print and copy them. Easy!
Want more inspiration for teaching writing? Check out these tips to make writing fun.
Have a Not So Wimpy Day,
Daryl Kay Driskill
I am a substitute teacher. I would like to know which of your 60 writing prompts are your top 5 to leave for the substitue.
Not So Wimpy Teacher
Any of them could work well for a sub!
Great resources! Epecially for new teachers!
Great idea to help students to write!
Not So Wimpy Teacher
Thank you, Carol!