Oct 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Picture Writing Prompts

Picture prompts or, rather, picture writing prompts are a great creative writing exercise. The object of these creative writing exercises is to take a picture or photo and look at it, trying to imagine a story behind it. The picture can be of a scene, an object a person or some combination of the three and you as the writer have to write a story that the image inspires. This method is also very good for writing poems and the more and more popular flash fiction pieces. Picture prompts are a great form of creative writing exercises because they allow so much creative freedom. Instead of being given a set of phrases or words to write a story from you just get a picture and this picture is supposed to inspire you to write a story. Usually emotions and feelings play a big part here, since this is what is most often invoked when looking at a picture or a photo.

The instructions for using picture prompts to do your daily writing exercises are to look at the image sitting quietly and relaxing your mind, letting ideas flow freely. You should however, focus your thoughts on the image. Do this until a story behind the photo forms in your mind. Once this happens start writing immediately either on the computer on by hand and the goal is to write the whole story in one sitting. This is merely the first draft so it doesn’t have to be perfect, as it will have to rewritten a few times before the story can be said to be finished. The reason why you should write the whole story from beginning to end once you sit down to begin is to ensure the best continuity of the story, and also because it is usually only by following the story through to the end that the real meaning comes out. This does not mean the story needs to be long, though, just that it has to nave a beginning, middle and a conclusion. You might even consider it a blueprint for a longer story, something to start from.

In order to become a good writer you need to practice often and well, daily I would suggest, but I do realize that schedules can be quite full. So try for three or four times a week at least. Creative writing exercises in the form of picture prompts are a great way to practice your writing. They are not constricting and allow you to really let your hair down, so to speak. So go check out some picture prompts right now, and remember to stay creative!

Oct 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Teachers – Prompt Writing (Using Children’s Literature) With Your Intermediate Students

As I have written about previously, using children’s literature as a means to stimulate writing is ideal for a number of reasons.

  1. There are more children’s books available than any of us could ever use, so the prompts can always remain fresh;
  2. the ideas in the book serve as models for the writing that students are asked to do;
  3. the book can be a reference to students who want to look at how to spell a word or what someone’s name was;
  4. the pictures in many books stimulate the ideas of students who are more visual learners.

In this article, you will learn several ideas for using children’s books to prompt writing for intermediate students (I.e., grades 4 – 8). In each case, I will provide a brief “lesson plan,” which I used. In several case, I will show examples of how students responded to the writing prompt. You are invited to use these in any way that works for you and your students.

The Art Lesson by Tomie de Paola

  1. Ask students if they have ever had a box of 64 crayons. Have them think about the first time they used crayons from a box of 64 Crayolas–or have them think about or talk about why they would like to have a box of 64 Crayolas.
  2. Tell students that you are going to read them a book about someone who got a box of 64 Crayolas.
  3. Read The Art Lesson by Tomie de Paola.
  4. Have available several boxes of 64 Crayolas (no other brand will do!) Give students this writing prompt (along with piece or two of drawing paper.


In the book The Art Lesson, by Tomie dePaola, it says, “On Tommy’s birthday, which was right after school began, his mom and dad gave him a box of sixty-four Crayola crayons. Regular boxes of crayons had red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown and black. This box had so many other colors: blue-violet, turquoise, red-orange, pink and even gold, silver and copper.” Do you have, or would you like to have a box of 64 crayons? Use the box of 64 crayons in the classroom (if you don’t have your own box) to draw a picture that could only be drawn with 64 crayons, not with a regular box of crayons. Describe your creation so it’s ready for display along with your unique drawing (that could ONLY be done with 64 Crayolos).

  1. Allow students to write and draw.
  2. Display students’ work.

Alphabet Soup by Peter Sis

  1. Ask the students if they have ever fussed about their food. Allow them to respond.
  2. Tell students you are going to read them a book entitled Alphabet Soup by Kate Banks. It is about a little boy who did not want his lunch of alphabet soup.
  3. Read the book (which is about a little boy who had something magical happen every time he spelled out a word).
  4. Give each student a small pile of letters from an alphabet soup package (sold in the pasta section of the grocery store). Have them see what words they can spell out.
  5. Give them the writing prompt shown below. Allow them to complete the task. Take some of the letters you have been given and make words. Then, choose one or two words to glue onto a big spoon that you can sketch. Remember that in Alphabet Soup by Kate Banks, whenever the boy put letters that spelled a word into his spoon, something magical happened. Consider that when you are spelling words in your spoon. When you have finished, write about why you spelled what you did in your spoon. I’ll be displaying everyone’s ‘spoon’ along with the writing you did to accompany the spoon spelling.

A Hippopotamustn’t by J. Patrick Lewis

  1. For several days, read “fun” poetry to your students. Enjoy it.
  2. Have students make a list of as many animals as they can think of. Students may work in pairs, in small groups, or alone. All lists should be displayed eventually, though, so that all students have access to all lists.
  3. Read “Pelicanaries” from Lewis’ book A Hippopotamustn’t. Display the poem so that all the students can see it.
  4. Lead a discussion as to how Lewis created the word “pelicanaries.”
  5. Let students work on creating new animal words by using the list of animals that they generated at the beginning of this activity. Give students the writing prompt shown below: Now that you have read, and undoubtably enjoyed, the poem “Pelicanaries” by J. Patrick Lewis, you are going to have some fun creating your own poetry–or at least a menagerie of unique creatures that someone else might like to write about.

First, make a list of as many animals as you can think of. See if you can come up with at least 50 animals. You may work with a partner, if you prefer.

After you have written down at least 50 animals, look at the beginnings and endings of those animal names. See if you can put two words together the way Lewis did with peliCAN and CANary.

You may want to use a dictionary to see what animals you can find that start with certain letters. For example, if you want to use hippopotamus, then you might look in the dictionary under MUS (which is at the end of hippopotamus) and see what animals you can find. For example, when I tried I found MUSkrat. I could combine these two animal names and come up with HIPPOPOTAMUSKRAT.

After you have created several new creatures, try writing poems that tell about these creatures. Then, illustrate your poems with your idea of what your creatures look like. HAVE FUN!!! I’ll be displaying your poetry and artwork for everyone’s enjoyment and learning.


Banks, Kate. (1988). Alphabet Soup. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
de Paola, Tomie. (1989). The Art Lesson, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Lewis, J. Patrick. (1990). A Hippopotamusn’t (And Other Animal Verses). New York: Dial Books for Young Readers.

Oct 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Creative Writing Prompts – Springboards For Stories

If you are just waiting and hoping anxiously for creative writing ideas to come to you, here is a suggestion. Stop waiting and get down to using some very simple techniques that will help you generate as many ideas as you want. Do you know that your mind is like a sponge that absorbs information all of the time, but it also needs an opportunity to give back in a creative manner?

The Trick of Concept Combination

To make new products to sell, people use a technique that is known as Concept Combination. You can use this same concept and create a multitude of new stories out of it.

All you have to do is just use your imagination and combine old stories and make them into new ones.

Can you remember that old outfit of yours that you asked the tailor or dressmaker to modify slightly so that it is more in line with a contemporary clothing style? Well, the same concept applies here as well.

What’s on your priority list?

What is it that is of the utmost importance to you when it comes to writing? If you are unsure, why not start by making a list of all the things that you feel are important and significant to you.

After that, examine the list thoroughly and take one element or concept from that list.

Your story is in that list

Suppose from that list, you feel that, “Honesty” is the most important element for you. So be it then, and waste no time to latch onto it and get writing.

You now need to take that word Honesty, and create a story based around characters that are defined by the concept of honesty, how honest they are, how dishonest, etc. Put a twist into the tale and write about how they were short-changed because of their honesty.

Start making a list of things

Now get down to seriously writing your story by making a list of things that could be useful to you. Consider the following;

  • List down inspirational and inspiring stories that you personally like.
  • Watch news channels, read magazines or books, and make a list of things that you think you could use in your story.
  • Just get down to it – start writing.

There are more that enough examples of great writers that force themselves to write at least 500 words every day. This is irrespective of whether they wanted to or not, but all linked to maintaining a positive writing routine in a consistent manner.

So, if you really want to write, get down to it soonest. You never know when the real inspiration could strike you.

Oct 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Why Using Creative Writing Prompts & Creative Writing Exercises Doesn’t Make You A Cheat Or A Fraud!

Many writers find themselves in the position of being caught between two stools.

One the one hand, you’re struggling to find new ideas and new ways of writing, and all you seem to be able to come up with is tired rehashes of work you’ve written dozens of times before.

On the other hand, you’re not prepared to try any writing exercises or prompts, because you feel that’s a cop out, or a shortcut.

You feel you should be able to come up with your own ideas and work, from the first word to the last, not by using anything that’s been created by anyone else, even if it is just to get started.

Obviously, this is not a very comfortable place to be and doesn’t make for a happy productive writer.

So what can you do?

Well, maybe the creative writing prompts and exercises route isn’t the big cheat you think it is.

Using a prompt or exercise to get you started, so you can then set your own creative talents free, is actually one of the best ways to develop as a writer, to keep your ideas fresh, to experiment, and maybe most important of all, to ENJOY your writing more.

Under a little closer scrutiny, the “it’s a cop out, it’s cheating” argument doesn’t really stand up.

If your argument is that you should be coming up with your own work from the very beginning to the end, then why do you use words that have already been invented? Why do you write in sentences? Why do you use punctuation?

Take this a step further even, why do you use the recognised letters of the alphabet and not invent your own new set of symbols every time you sit down to write??

When you use letters, words, sentences and other recognised ways of expressing yourself through writing, you do it because it’s a structure you can use to write effectively and easily. You don’t have to think about which alphabet to use, or what a symbol to represent the emotion “jealousy” or the colour “blue” might look like.

With creative writing prompts and exercises you’re using the same theory and process. You’re just using a certain structure or outline or starting point to give your writing some direction and some form.

Writing prompts and exercises just get you started. What you do once you’ve set off writing is entirely up to you, and completely, uniquely your own work.

So if you’ve been struggling for that breakthrough to give your writing the breath of fresh air it needs, but have been avoiding using writing prompts or exercises because you feel they’d make you a fraud, then think again.

They could well provide the starting blocks you need to take your writing into the realms of greatness…

Oct 31, 2014 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

10 Writing and Assessment Prompts For Students – From Counting Sheep to Runic Characters

As an educator, you want to set up situations and learning experiences so that your students clarify their understanding of the new concepts you are teaching. Coming up with a variety of new and different ways to elicit your students’ thinking is a challenge, to say the least! In this article, you will get 10 writing prompts, each with applications for different learning situations. Note: definitions are provided, if needed.

1. Alternative to counting sheep (for insomniacs)

  • Try counting prime numbers next time you need to fall asleep. How do you think it would work?
  • If you need an alternative to counting sheep, try describing the steps a fluid takes from the mouth to “the outside world” as it travels through the excretory system. Go ahead and write about what you would say as you’re lying awake.
  • Write about the steps to ___________. Now you’ll be ready to recite those next time you’re having trouble falling asleep.
  • Write a list of everyone that you know personally and count them.

2. Amendment

  • Write the 31st amendment to the US Constitution and tell why we need it. Be persuasive.
  • Add an amendment to the “Bill of Rights” based on what you have learned in this class.

3. Analogy

  • Write an analogy that describes the relationship between factoring & multiplying binomials.
  • Write an analogy that describes the use of software metrics in systems development management.
  • Listen for analogies that newscasters use. Keep a list and explain which ones you think are most effective.

4. Anecdote

  • Write an anecdote on the first time you cooked something.
  • Write an anecdote about pi (and its adventures).
  • Write an anecdote about a meaningful childhood experience. What is the learning from that experience that you would want to pass on to others?
  • Write an anecdote about your first clinical experience in ______________.

5. Anthem

  • Write an anthem based on some aspect of the culture and history that we have been studying.
  • What would be the words to the “Mathematics Anthem”?
  • Write an anthem that is a tribute to Darwin.

6. Anthology

  • Write several poems about math or write several short stories about the same thing. Collect them to form a mathematics poetry anthology.
  • Someday, you might have your own children–or you will certainly have some friends who have children. What children’s stories would you want to have in an anthology that you could share? Explain the thinking behind your selections.

7. Annotation

  • Read a book about ___________ (whatever subject area you are teaching). Please annotate the book so I can include it in my file.
  • Read an article about __________ (whatever subject we are studying). Annotate it by putting your responses on sticky notes, which you attach to the article.

8. Announcement

  • Prepare an announcement inviting the rest of the students to the special wood shop fair that is coming up soon.
  • Read the newspaper looking for events that would be pertinent to the students, teachers, and/or parents of this school. Prepare an announcement that could be printed, emailed, or read aloud.

9. Anything boustrophedonic (boustrophedon is a kind of writing that goes left to right and then back again right to left. The term is from Greek roots meaning ‘as the ox plows’)

  • Write definitions for words you are learning (in your own words, of course) boustrophedonically.
  • Write a secret message to your favorite friend using boustrophedon.
  • Write the definition of a math term and measure the actual length when it’s written using boustrophedon (vs. just the ‘regular’ way).
  • Write a paragraph boustrophedonically, which explains something that you have recently learned in our class.
  • Tell me about the last tahw dna pirt gnippohs you bought.

10. Anything written in runic characters

  • Write a message to your teacher about what you’ve learned in the last week.
  • Would you prefer to use the alphabet we use or runic characters? Tell why.

I hope this list is useful to you and that it helps spur your thinking to come up with even more ideas to use in your classroom!