For students who LOVE to write, there are few things more exciting than a blank page. They don’t see white space; they see opportunity, and they can’t wait to get started.
For many students, however, the opposite is true; just the sight of all that white, empty space fills them with dread. For them, the blank page is a vast wasteland stretching for miles and miles; they have to fill it, and they don’t have a clue how to begin. Enter the writing prompt!
Writing prompts are an excellent way to create a safe environment that encourages all students, even the most reluctant writers, to express their thoughts without reservation.
Students can step out of their personal comfort zones and focus on what they want to say, instead of how they’re saying it. This approach helps them quiet that “self-editing” voice that often forces them to proceed with caution, overthinking every word.
Writing prompts can also be effective in helping students break through writer’s block, providing a space to record free-flowing thought they can always revisit and organize at a later time if they choose.
Writing prompts can be very open-ended and creative, with little to no structure, so students can let their thoughts flow. Some popular types of word prompts include:
Give students a simple prompt and ask them to write whatever comes to mind. For example, you might present the following ideas:
- It must be interesting to be a bumblebee because…
- No matter how long I live, I’ll never…
Present a situation and give characters, a setting, objects, or plot ideas and ask students to weave them all together in a way that makes sense. Try this sample scenario:
- You walk into your Science classroom and notice no one is there. You’re not late, but the room is completely unoccupied. You notice there is an empty soda can on the floor near the back wall. Just above it, on the wall, there appears to be a chalk drawing of a famous cartoon hero. You notice that the room isn’t quite silent; there’s a faint humming noise, and it sounds like it’s coming from the chalk drawing. What happened?
Pose a question students can answer any way they like. You might ask the following:
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?
Give students a picture and have them write a story about what they see.
It’s a good idea to offer students a choice of prompts. This gives them greater control over their writing, and could provide the spark that leads to greater creativity. Help your students conquer the blank space!