I use them this way: I do some sort of five or ten minute writing lesson with my students. They learn some style activities and grammar tricks and things like that. Then we do a writing prompt, in which they attempt to implement the writing lesson. They have a little less than ten minutes, and their goal is to write at least half of a page, depending on the handwriting (mine are freshmen and most have no problem with this). After they’re done writing, they go immediately into a time of reading for twenty minutes. During this reading time, I collect their writing work (both the lesson activity and the prompt are on the sheet), and I read it. When they are done with reading time, I then give feedback to the whole class about what they wrote about, and I read a few of them out loud that I really liked and then explain what I liked about them. I try to connect this to the Six Traits or to our standards. Sometimes if I notice a mistake that is being made by a few them, I’ll do a quick bit of instruction on that. But these are not graded for grammar at all. These are a chance to practice the process of moving thoughts from their heads to the paper. They do get a grade in the gradebook on these, but the grade has to do with the standards that are about matching audience to purpose and writing routinely over time. Basically, if they are in the ballpark and gave it a good attempt, then they get a proficient score on their writing prompts.
I really like this way of doing it because it allows me to read most of them every day and give feedback right away about how it went. Giving feedback, especially timely feedback, is pretty much the best way to help someone’s writing get better. That’s what I’ve discovered anyway. This also creates a culture where they’re trying to write really great things because they want to hear their prompt read to the class — even though I do this anonymously. And for those who struggle… well, every day they get to hear some examples of good writing. Also: I do try to read something from everyone’s out loud every so often.
I used to do more pair sharing and group sharing about them, but I like this method so, so much more.
They have a folder and all their writing goes into that folder. I have the nicest TA in the world who does all this filing. They can then check out their folder to see what I’ve written there. Also, many of them want to keep working on a certain prompt, so I give them a chance to come back to favorite prompts and work on them to turn them into polished, final pieces.
Hopefully that was enough explanation. Please feel free to ask more questions.
These are some of the prompts from what I’ve posted over at Big Universe lately.
I’m putting together a food unit for this upcoming year, based largely on this unit (warning: links to PDF) by Lauren Goldberg. I’ll also supplement it with some writing prompts to get students thinking about the food they eat and how it affects them. This post is my placeholder for collecting those prompts as I get them made. Here’s what I’ve got so far… teachers beware… many of these were made a long time ago and need some major overhaul…
one of the first writing prompts I ever made, which is really terrible because it just lists a whole bunch of questions about food and it should probably be more focused. Note to self: make this prompt better someday.
"books that for one reason or another do not exist, but certainly should…" - Tyler Adam Smith at 100daystyleradamsmith.tumblr.com
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.” – Natalie Goldberg
This is just a quick interruption to your regularly scheduled programming to note a few things of trivial importance. If you’re just here for the prompts, skip right over this, but if you’d like to know a bit more of the behind the scenes stuff, read on.
Thing of note #1:
100,000+ followers on Tumblr. This happened a few weeks ago:
That’s pretty cool. Thanks to all of you who follow.
Thing of note #2:
Have a great idea for a prompt? I’d love to hear about it. Have you seen a great picture that should be a writing prompt? Have you read a great book that has a premise that people would want to try out? Know a great quote? Please let me know. There are a few ways:
I’d also love ideas for how to make this site better. Since the school year is done and summer is here, I actually have some time to fix some things up. What would help you? What kinds of prompts do you prefer? I have some plans and some ideas, but please let me know.
Thing of note #3:
Even though it’s summer, a few really nice people have gotten books for my students from our classroom wish list. Thank you so much. You’re amazing people. I’m sad that a quite a few of these have shown up lately without a slip that tells me who they’re from. I don’t know if that’s an Amazon thing or what, but either way, I’d really like to be able to thank you by name. If you sent one, please let me know. Thanks to the anonymous individual who got us these two books that showed up this last week. I’m stoked that I’ll be able to share these with students in the fall.
Thing of note #4:
There’s now a PayPal Donate button on the side of the site. Honestly, I kind of feel weird about it when blogs have those on their sites. It just doesn’t feel right to me for some reason. But a few different people asked about how to chip in without going through Amazon, which I totally understand, so I gave in and put the PayPal link on there. I don’t know. We’ll see how long it lasts on there.
Thing of note #5
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a bunch of prompts over at the Big Universe blog. So if you’re looking for more, especially prompts for younger folks, you might have some luck over there.
Thanks, and sorry for the interruption to the regularly scheduled programming.