Sunday, March 22, 2015

Writing prompts to unblock stuck students.

Using images as writing prompts is nothing new and some would argue that it is an old way of teaching that stunt student creativity and growth when writing. In my experience though a well used writing prompt activity can help students feel successful and give you some important assessment information that isn't tainted by wondering - is my student struggling with ideas, vocabulary or with writing in general?

One activity my students and I love to do together is an oral tell me more activity. I will show them a picture on the smartboard.

With this image I would tell students to tell their partners what they see. In the beginning students will always say "I see a dog" or "C'est un chien."  I then challenge the students to tell each other more. After a few minutes I stop students and we discuss our ideas. Slowly we build from "It's a dog" to "It's a little brown dog with big ears sitting on a blue boat. He is waiting for someone."  I then ask questions like "And then?" "Why?" "What happened next?'  Over time we build vocabulary and create great adventure stories build around these silly images. Often students will use the ideas from these oral sessions to go write their own stories later.

A great source for free images is

You can also download a pre-made set of story prompts at TpT.

In my classroom I also have a bucket of laminated photos that students can use as writing prompts when they are stuck for ideas or need inspiration for writing.

Another tool I use that is even more structured are pages that contain a picture and some vocabulary words about the picture beside the image. Learning to write, especially in another language like French can be challenging for students. Sometimes giving students a picture and vocabulary is very freeing for students. They can concentrate on writing rather than coming up with an original idea, finding the vocabulary they need, Students can produce interesting, unique stories that they would normally find difficult to put together independently. It is a great way to help give students who need a little extra help a boost.

Here is a freebie from my TpT store you can try with your students.

Freebie Writing Prompt activity

I still like to give my students choice when we do these kinds of writing activities so I usually have 2 or 3 options for pages with images and vocabulary bank.  Here are a few theme specific writing prompt activities I created for my students that you might like.

Spring Writing Prompts
Pirate Writing Prompts

So what did I learn at school today?  Writing prompts are still a useful and usable tool in our classroom. They can be used to build vocabulary, expand story telling skills and build imagination. They can help kids get down to the business of writing more quickly and for many students they are freeing rather then being restrictive. Do you use writing prompts with your students? How do you build vocabulary and writing confidence with your students?

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