Using Pictures as Writing Prompts–Say Goodbye to Dated and Tired Prompts

I am a writing teacher…my kids HAVE to write, but doesn’t it seem odd that I’m supposed to be super fond of manufactured, outdated, old and crusty writing prompts (here is a short list)? Don’t you hate, hate, hate writing prompts? Ugh! They are so boring and lame, but what can we do? The kids have to learn to write on demand, and they have to be able to write to those bland prompts on tests, right?

Well, yes and no. They do have to be able to produce good writing on demand, but they don’t have to write to those awful prompts. They gain the skills of creativity and innovation when they write about pictures. I love to use pictures of obscure scenes and have kiddos

  • “tell me the story”
  • “convince me that this is/is not okay”
  • “describe the scene”
  • explain what is going on

I borrowed a few images from the web to show you how this works…put the picture up on your Elmo, Document Camera, or display it using your projector. Invite inquiry and creativity from your class, and then move to the writing. Below are a few pictures and the directions I have used in the past…

Now tell me that this isn’t better than a half-sheet of paper asking the kiddos to write on whether having school uniforms is a good idea, or if we should extend the school year next year? (I see you blushing…you were going to use those tired prompts tomorrow weren’t you? 🙂 I hope this gives you some ideas for better ways to get your students motivated to write. It usually works for me.

Look for another post on using videos as writing prompts…Coming Soon!

Happy Teaching!

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5 thoughts on “Using Pictures as Writing Prompts–Say Goodbye to Dated and Tired Prompts

  1. I loved reading this blog post! It is nice to know that other teachers are approaching creative writing in new and innovative ways.

    For fun I, too, decided to take comical pictures from the Internet (there are so many!) and embed into a series of simple online writing tasks into my Collaborize Classroom site. I assigned a focus element to each task. In one story students focused on developing a central theme, while in another they focused on dialogue. This “focus element” allowed for more focused peer review of the stories.

    Directions for students:

    There is a story here…
    How did this scene come about? Use this bizarre photo to inspire your story! The final scene of your short story must conclude with the event portrayed in this image. Your story should be 350-500 words in length. Be creative!

    Your focus element for this task: sensory details.

    After posting your story for feedback, read three other stories and provide peer feedback. Compliment what the writer did well, point out areas where sensory details could be more developed, and ask questions about any aspect of the story.
    These stories were posted to our online discussion forum where their peers could read them and provide feedback, both on the story as well as the focus element. Students had the opportunity to highlight strengths, suggest improvements, and vote for their favorite stories.

    The online forum allowed for immediate peer feedback and validation, which was more gratifying for students than waiting for me to edit, grade and return them. They enjoyed the spontaneity of the writing tasks.

    Do you do any of your creative writing online?

    Catlin Tucker

  2. Wow! I loved reading your take on this…I have a collaborize classroom and haven’t set it up yet. Do you love yours? Is it easier than say, Edmoto? I am currently trying to decide what program, blog, or wiki format to set up for my kiddos next year. What do you think? Thanks so much for reading and, OMG! For your comments and ideas=)


  3. Pingback: Pictures to use as writing prompts

  4. Have you tried The Mysteries of Harris Burdick? I’m doing that book now and my kids LOVE it!! Some of their stories are just phenomenal!

  5. I have not! That sounds AWESOME though…I can’t wait to pick it up. Thanks so much for your comment:)

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