How to Spark Young Writers’ Imaginations with Writing Prompts

by | Aug 19, 2023

When I was in college, I took classes from a professor who is an author and prominent film critic. At the start of class, she would have us write by hand in our notebooks for about ten or fifteen minutes. Often she gave us a prompt to follow, but the final piece of writing was not graded. 

This was a wonderful way for us to switch into writing mode. It helped us clear our minds from worries, push away thoughts about other classes, and get into a creative flow. I typed all of my other assignments so writing by hand was refreshing, forcing me to slow down and truly reflect on what I was putting on the page.

I loved this exercise in college so I decided to try it with my own groups of writing students. If you’ve ever taught a big group of elementary or middle school students, you know that they can become very rambunctious. 

Setting a timer and having them work on a writing prompt at the start of class is a fantastic way to get them to settle down, warm up their writing muscles, and start thinking creatively. 

Additionally, impromptu writing is an important skill for academic success. Tests in all school subjects often contain short essay prompts. Impromptu writing helps train students to organize their thoughts and write quickly and well under pressure. 

Here are five more ways writing prompts can improve a student’s writing skills:

  1. The prompt can get a reluctant writer excited about writing. Many of the prompts in my eBook, 31 Best Writing Prompts, are for writing stories. I’ve rarely seen a student who didn’t have fun writing a story.
  2. They can help students practice their penmanship.
  3. They can help students work on specific areas of writing. For example, you could give the students a lesson on similes and metaphors, and then ask students to write a response to a prompt and include their own similes and metaphors.
  4. They can help students practice writing on a consistent basis. An essay can take a long time to outline and write, and younger students might not even be ready to write essays yet. Prompts are a quick and easy writing assignment. It’s a fun way for students to reinforce grammar and punctuation rules and learn to spell new words.
  5. They can spark a young writer’s imagination. Several of my students have wanted to continue working on their stories after the 15-minute timer went off. When they came to the next class, their short response to a writing prompt had turned into a several pages long story.

If you subscribe to the email newsletter, you’ll receive my free eBook, 31 Best Writing Prompts. These are prompts I’ve tested in the classroom that will get young students excited about writing. I recommend this guide for older elementary and middle school students. I’d love to hear if you’ve used it yet with your students.

Have any questions about using writing prompts or any additional strategies to share? Let me know in the comments.

On the Bookshelf: Inkwell Scholars Book Recommendation

One of my favorite books as a kid was The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. I loved flipping through the pages and letting the gorgeous, mysterious illustrations spark ideas for my own stories. Van Allsburg is the author and illustrator of Jumangi and The Polar Express

Here’s the blurb about the book from Wikipedia: “[The Mysteries of Harris Burdick] consists of a series of images, ostensibly created by Harris Burdick, a man who has mysteriously disappeared. Each image is accompanied by a title and a single line of text, which encourage readers to create their own stories. Many famous writers have tried to put their own twists on the pictures.”

This book would make an excellent additional collection of pictorial writing prompts. You can check it out for free here on Archive and here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

God bless and happy reading and writing!

P. S. If you’re looking for writing prompts for older students (high school or college age), check out these exercises I’ve collected here and here on my website

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“Thanks to Nicole’s instruction, two of my reluctant writers have come to enjoy writing,
feeling more confident and eager to work on their assignments.” — Silveria Shultz