60 Free Writing Prompts and How to Use Them
Hey there! It’s Jamie from Not So Wimpy Teacher, and I’ve got a special gift for you today: 60 Free Writing Prompts. There are five prompts for every month of the year. Some are fun, seasonal prompts, and others are evergreen—you or your students can pick and choose and use them any time. I know you’ll find some you and your students love.
This gift is actually a little bit ironic. For years I’ve been known as the writing teacher who hated writing prompts. I made a big deal about how I didn’t use prompts in my classroom and told anyone who would listen why writing prompts are not the best way to teach writing. And I still stand behind my reasons.
I believe that when we tell students what to write about, we take away some of their excitement about writing. Nobody likes being told what to write about all the time. It’s hard to enjoy writing when you don’t like the topic. And students don’t work as hard on a piece that is not meaningful to them.
Often, when we give kids writing prompts, we aren’t really teaching them how to write. Instead, we are giving them detailed instructions on how to complete one specific project. But the skills aren’t transferable to other writing projects. They also miss out on the opportunity to practice valuable writing skills like learning how to generate topics, conduct research, use evidence, or write exciting leads and interesting details.
And let’s not even talk about how boring it is to read 25 papers about the same topic.
But I also recognize that there are times when writing prompts are really useful! So, along with these 60 free writing prompts I’m giving you, here are my 5 favorite ways to use them.
Pre- and Post-Assessments
I like to start and end each writing unit with an on-demand writing assessment. The point of the pre-assessment is to see what skills your students already know. This helps you to choose the correct lessons and provide appropriate support throughout the unit. It also gives you a baseline from which to measure growth.
The post-assessment shows you how much your students learned over the course of the unit. It’s nice to have the pre-assessment for comparison, especially when a student’s final writing project isn’t perfect (so, pretty much always).
Prompts are helpful for these assessments because students only have a limited amount of time to complete the writing sample. You don’t want them to waste half the time trying to decide on a topic. Also, in the case of pre-assessments, students may not even understand a genre well enough to generate their own topic.
Substitute Lesson Plans
Another great time to use writing prompts is in substitute plans. Even if your writing curriculum is straightforward (and most traditional writing curriculum is not), there might be a lesson you want to deliver personally. Or your district might be plagued with a sub shortage, and you have no way of knowing who might step in to cover your class when you’re gone.
Writing prompts are a great way to keep things simple while ensuring your students still practice writing. Your kids will likely enjoy the break from working on their masterpiece. And the sub will appreciate an easy lesson. Your students should be able to complete the prompt pretty independently. All the substitute has to do is monitor their work. They might even get a chance to look ahead at the plans for the next lesson.
I always keep a few non-seasonal prompts in my emergency plans folder too, because you just never know.
Bellwork is a great way to help students transition from home to school and keep them occupied at the beginning of the day. In many classrooms, students wander in throughout the morning. Morning work provides a meaningful way for students to stay busy while others are arriving and unpacking. And it gives you time to take care of attendance and other paperwork.
If you’re looking for something simple to add to your morning routine, writing prompts are a great solution. I like to focus on a different activity each day of the week. Try rotating writing prompts into your morning work activities every Friday. With five prompts for each month, you’ll have more than enough to choose from. Students can complete these activities on their own and relatively quickly. Just make sure you don’t let bell work drag on and take time away from reading, writing, or math.
One student always finishes first and asks, “what do I do now?” You know the one I mean. A fast finisher basket is the answer to keeping her occupied. But the key to making this work is to keep the options in the basket super simple. Your students should know exactly what to do and be able to do it on their own.
Writing prompts make a great addition to a fast finisher basket. Kids often choose to write in their free time, and they enjoy the freedom to write about something different than what they are working on in writing workshop. Prompts make it easy for them to choose a different topic. Try rotating four or five prompts each month. You don’t have to grade these pieces, but students still get extra practice writing.
60 FREE Writing Prompts
To make your life easier, I created an entire year’s worth of writing prompts for you to use in your classroom. Click here to download your 60 FREE Writing Prompts. You’ll receive them in two formats: Google Slides and a printable PDF. This will make it even easier to use in your classroom! You can display them on your whiteboard, assign them in Google Classroom, or print and copy them. Easy! I even included an editable template for you to create your own. I hope you enjoy them!
Have a Not So Wimpy day,