How to Use Writing Prompts in Teaching Writing September 21, 2009
What is the Purpose of Your Writing Prompt? Have You Defined a Goal or Objective?
The most important thing about a writing prompt is for the teacher to have a purpose for the writing prompt. Many teachers don’t think a lot about what their purpose is when they put up a writing prompt.
The thought process usually goes about as far as:
• I want them to write about something that they will have an interest in.
• I want them to write about something that will inspire them.
• I want them to write about something that they will think is fun.
A Little Extra Thought and You Will Get Writing that is More Thought Provoking (Both you and your students will think so!)
The reason teachers use lesson plans is because we want to make the most of our students time. We need to know what it is that we wish to accomplish with our lesson. We want to have a goal, or an objective. If we don’t know where we are going… we will be on the road to nowhere.
Using a writing prompt is no different. We can define our purpose and objectives in many different ways, and I’ll touch on a few.
The Wrong Way to Use a Writing Prompt (a.k.a. Quick! Think!)
Be honest… have you ever gone through this thought process?
“What am I going to have the kids write about? Quick! Think! Hmm… Okay… kids… what you are going to write about today is… hmm… okay… what it is… you are going to write about… umm… what did you… or what… no… describe a time when…”
The thinking that went into your creation of the writing prompt is likely to be reflected in the creation of the writing that the students do. If you don’t think it’s that important, they won’t think it’s that important. Even if they don’t observe exactly how you created the writing prompt, students have a sixth sense for what they perceive as “busy work.”
Here Are a Few Ways that You Can More Clearly Define Your Purpose, Goal, or Objective When You Give Students a Writing Prompt:
1. You Can Base Your Purpose on the Kind of Growth You Wish Your Students to Experience
• Write in a new and unique way. (In a way they have never written before.)
• Focus on, explore, or expand their creativity
• Break the mold of their previous writing and expand their horizons
• Focus on or experiment with structure
• Focus on or explore word usage
• Focus on or explore the imagination
• Focus on or explore their thoughts
• Focus on or explore their feelings
• Think about their own thinking along with how they learn
• Learn the subject material by writing (Writing across the curriculum)
2. You Can Base Your Purpose on Bloom’s Taxonomy
• You want them to know (facts, information)
• You want them to comprehend or understand (internalize)
• You want them to apply what they have learned or know (use the information)
• You want them to analyze information (what is the significance of this information)
• You want them to synthesis information (kind of like creating new information from old information)
• You want them to evaluate (Is this good/bad, true/false?)
3. You Can Base Your Purpose on Common Essay Structures
• You want them to compare and contrast something (compare and contrast essay)
• You want them to give information about something (informational essay)
• You want them to describe something (descriptive essay)
• You want them to evaluate something (evaluative essay)
• You want them to give the cause and effect of something (cause and effect essay)
• You want them to tell a personal story (personal narrative essay)
• You want them to tell a story that has a point of view (narrative essay)
• You want them to describe a process (process essay)
• You want them to follow a line of argumentative reasoning through to its logical conclusion (argumentative essay)
• You want them to persuade someone about something (persuasive essay)
• You want them to critique something (critical essay)
Check back to read these upcoming articles on “Writing Prompts.”
1. Easy, Fast, and Fantastic Ways to Create Writing Prompts that Will Engage Your Students
2. Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum: Remembering that a Writing Assignment in Any Subject is a Writing Prompt