|by Sharon from Classroom in the Middle|
“I can’t think of anything to write about!” We’ve all had students who use this as their go-to response whenever it’s time to do a little writing, and at this time of year, maybe it does seem like they’ve used up all of their best ideas. As spring arrives, maybe teachers can even say the same thing. Still, there is lots of writing practice that kids need to do now, and having something interesting to write about can make that a whole lot easier. Here are some of the ideas and sources that I like to use when I need some fresh prompts.
Students of all ages love to have choices. A general topic with follow-up questions encourages kids to own the topic and start thinking about what they are going to write right away. For example, given the overall topic of “spring sports,” students could answer each of the following questions to narrow it down to a topic they could actually write about:
· Will my writing be fiction or non-fiction?
· If fiction, will it be realistic or fantastic?
· If non-fiction, will it be about me or other people?
· What sport?
· What happened?
Students should be able to put their answers together to create an individualized writing prompt such as “I’ll write a realistic fiction story about a high school baseball team and what happens when their star player breaks his leg just before the big game.”
Another possibility for narrative writing is current events. Students could read an article or two and maybe watch a video clip of a recent event and then tell the story in their own words. In this case, their writing would still be narrative, but it would also an exercise in summarizing. Of course, this would also work with a historical event that the kids are studying.
Informative or Explanatory Writing
Just as narrative writing works so well with current events or historical topics, explanatory writing works great with topics that students know a little about from science.
If your kids have had an outdoor science class to conduct an experiment or make observations, follow it up with a writing prompt. Ask the class what they learned from the outdoor lesson, and turn it into a simple prompt: “Explain . . . .”
Spring is a good time for how-to topics, too:
· how to use a telescope
· how to measure weather elements like wind speed
· how to plant a local crop
· how to set up an outdoor experiment to test the speed of wooden race cars
· how to play an outdoor “minute to win it” game that the student creates
I like to use two big, overall subjects here – the news, and things that affect the students directly.
· The news – This year, there is so much good material available thanks to the upcoming election. Rather than ask which candidate the students support, turn it around and ask their views on a certain issue, such as building the wall on the Mexican border. Then have students write about which candidate would best support their own position on that particular topic.
· Topics that affect students directly – free college for everyone (also an election year topic), rules for an end-of-year occasion such as an 8th grade dance or a high school prom, spring sports offerings at your school, the school dress code – all are topics that kids might be thinking about at this time of year.
Newsela is one source that I like to use for current topics; Time for Kids is another one, especially when quick, easy-to-read articles are needed. Both have a good variety of articles available on their website.
I have a number of posts that include writing prompts in the “Journal Prompts” section of my Classroom in the Middle blog. One of them is a link to a guest post that I wrote about using picture prompts.
The two resources shown below, from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, provide ready-to-use prompts for any season.
My Writing Prompts Package contains three PowerPoint presentations, each with 25 writing prompts shown one per slide. There is one PowerPoint for narrative writing, one for informative/explanatory writing, and one for opinion/argument writing.
This FREE Writing Prompts Sampler contains eight writing prompts - a few of each type. In addition to providing some free prompts, it will give you a good idea of how the prompts are written and displayed in the larger package.