If you're an English teacher, finding or creating creative writing prompts can be challenging, especially after a long, busy, stressful day. And usually, you need them quick--not to mention you also need them nearly every day.
So, I've come up with 9 writing ideas (with a total of 37 prompts) to use in classrooms. Plus, additional links for more prompts that are seasonal or subject specific (just scroll down a bit for the list.) You can also sign up for the newsletter, which includes new and creative writing prompts.
And as always, all of these creative writing prompts can be adapted to fit your students' grade level or age.
The snail photo above with writing prompts in the caption is an example of this.
You can find pictures anywhere. Of course, you can also use ones you've taken (pending they are appropriate for academia). Or, you can find pictures in magazines, books, or other sources.
The best pictures to use are those that are funny, unusual, or interesting--the ones that catch your attention. Because if they've caught your attention, they will probably captures students' as well.
One place to find interesting pictures is the book called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (by Chris Van Allsburg). It contains 14 black and white bizarre pencil drawings. They are weird. Clean, but weird. And thought provoking. I used the book's pictures quite a bit when I taught middle school, but I've used them with high school students too. (The pictures are also good for adult writing workshops. And, may inspire you to come up with other creative writing prompts or even full lessons.)
Once you find a picture, cut it out, scan it, or take a picture of it. You can project the image onto a classroom screen via an Elmo or computer (uploaded from an email, USB/flash drive). (Personally, I like this method, rather than killing trees with photocopies or wasting plastic creating a transparency for use on an overhead projector. But, if that's all you have access to... then you have to do what you have to do.)
TIP: If you must use photo copies, just make enough for a class set. Use the set throughout the day with each class. (Warning: students may write on your copies. You may want to make and keep a few extra copies aside to replace the ones that become marred.)
Once you have the picture and distributed the copies (or projected the image on a screen): ask students to write about the main person or object in the picture. It's more creative if they choose someone or an object in the background.
Updated Note: you could also ask students to bring in a picture that's interesting to them. Tell them to bring a school appropriate picture they like or find interesting to use for a class activity. But, don't tell them what it's for... Then the next day the prompt is to write about something in that picture.
Here are some example pictures with writing prompts:
Writing prompt option 1: Look at the picture. What do you see? What is happening or has happened? Write about that.
Writing prompt option 2: Look at the picture. Then answer the following questions: why is half a car hauled behind a whole car? How did that happen? Why?
Writing prompt option 1: These birds are having a meeting of some kind. Why are they excluding the bird on the left closest to the woman waving? Or are they? Write about the bird meeting and that smaller bird.
Writing prompt option 2: Look closely at the bottom right corner of this picture. What does that little bird think about all those big white birds? Write a story from his or her perspective.
This writing prompt is great for persuasive essays. (If teaching high school students, it is also good practice for the SAT test.)
Select a news story that is causing some conflict in your community or nationally. Ask students to pick a side. (And no, tell them, they CANNOT choose UNdecided. Make them choose--even if it means their essay is fiction, because they don't particularly believe what they write.)
Warning: This is an update since our American election (2016). It seems there may be some issues too touchy for the classroom. Use your judgment carefully... you want to choose a controversial, hot topic but not one that will cause several parent phone calls or make students hate each other... The last election had that effect on some people--and their children in the classroom.
Here's a creative writing prompt news story example :
Controversial News Story
Writing prompt option 1: Do you believe people should be fined for not having health insurance? Choose either yes or no (but NOT both). Support your answer by providing at least three reasons to explain why.
Writing prompt option 2: Who gets the money collected when people have to pay a fine--or who should? Do you believe people benefit in some way from those monies? Support your answer with three examples.
Bring an item to class. Ask students to pretend they are the item and write about an adventure they take as that item.
TIP: Bring a different item for each class you teach, i.e. 6- 50 minute classes, bring 6 different items. Why? Because once word gets out, students may copy each other.
Warning: This is a fun activity, but some students in middle and high school may turn the activity into something inappropriate. So, warn the class to be "school appropriate" with their stories...
Here are some example items:
Below is a sample writing prompt.
Everyday Items Creative Writing Prompt 1
Writing prompt option 1: Imagine you are a pair of thick woolly socks. Write about what you love most about your life as a pair of socks.
Writing prompt option 2: You are a pair of woolly socks, and you've lived a great life. But, today you noticed a hole near the heal of your left sock. What will you do, so you aren't replaced?
Everyday Items Creative Writing Prompt 2
Writing prompt option 1: Imagine you are a cookie just removed from your home (the cookie package). What will you do to return to your family (i.e. the other cookies in the package) instead of becoming a human snack?
Writing prompt option 2: Think about how a cookie is made in a factory. Write about the cookie's journey from the cookie's perspective.
Everyday Items Creative Writing Prompt 3
You are a pair of scissors working in a florist's shop. Write about your day and how you help the florist make people smile with each neatly trimmed, gorgeous floral design.
Think about the novel or story students will read or are reading in class. Ask students to write a new ending from the point of view of a NON-leading character.
Or, ask them to write a personal essay pretending to be a non-leading character.
Here are a few examples:
Here are a couple of creative writing prompts related to world travel. You can write these on the board or project them on a screen:
For young children especially, creative writing prompts about family are perfect for the classroom. Here are some family specific prompts to get them thinking and writing.
Nearly everyone either has or knows a pet of some kind. Here are some creative writing prompts specifically about pets.
Because technology (thankfully) is part of our life, here are some writing prompts specifically for technology.
This is one of my favorite creative writing prompts. It's great for Fridays, before holidays, or during the last few weeks of school, because it's different and students don't expect it. (So, it holds their attention when you're competing for it with summer or a holiday break!)
Here's what you do...
Bring a paper bag to class with an object that fits inside.
Shake the bag. Allow the students to see only the outside of the paper bag. Ask them what they think it is.
After they make a few guesses, ask them to think about what the object is but silently to themselves.
Then say something like the following:
"You may know what the object is. Now, write a (narrative essay, journal, or whatever it is you want them to write) about a time when you encountered the object. It could be about someone you know who used it or a time when you saw it. But, keep your writing to yourself."
The fun part about the mystery bag writing prompt is reading the essays. So, when students finish ask for a few volunteers to share their story aloud.
AFTER everyone has shared, remove the object from the bag so students can see it.
Sometimes students guess correctly, other times they are way off. But, it's a fun way to bring a good laugh and a sense of community to your classroom.
Note: if you have more than one class, make sure you have a different item in the bag for each class. As word gets out, students will think they "know" what's inside. That way you can surprise them.
As a former teacher, I understand how difficult it is to plan creative lessons after a long day. You just want to get them done and go home.
I'll continue to add more creative writing prompts here. But, I've also provided some links below for others I've created for you. :-)
Click on the links below to see subject specific writing prompts.