Creative Writing Prompts

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The truth about using creative writing prompts in an elementary classroom - this is what works and these are my best prompts for getting your students to write!

The best ideas come from experience, and students must be able to web their thoughts prior to putting them on paper.

Using story starters is a great way to begin making writing a daily habit. I do not grade their journals unless I am using a specific writing rubric that reviews skills I have already taught. This is meant to be practice - a way to build stamina.

young child doing creative writing

Be aware that it can take a few months for young children to build up a "tolerance" for writing.

Even five minutes of a writing lesson can seem like an eternity to some, while there will be other students who will work for 20 minutes but are simply repeating themselves over and over.

From the first day of school, I begin building my students stamina - my goal is to be able to have each child be able to write independently for 20 minutes almost every day with 5-10 minutes of sharing time (I say almost because let's be real here - there is no way it is going to happen every day, no matter how great that sounds in theory).

  • Always begin with a quick demonstration of brainstorming ideas and using a graphic organizer/web. You want this to become a habit. Keep this to just 2-3 minutes for daily creative writing prompts.

  • Set initial expectations for stamina at 3 minutes with a bit of sharing at the end. Stop the timer immediately if any student is off task. Don't worry if you only made it to a minute and most kids don't even have a full sentence. You are in training mode!

  • Do not sit at the back of the room and watch. Walk around, offer words of encouragement, ask questions and show an interest in their writing. This is also a great time to set expectations that known high-frequency words from the previous year must be spelled correctly. Even in daily journaling we must set high expectations for the quality of writing.

  • When most (all is better) of the students are able to stay focused for 3 minutes, up it to 4, and then 5. Over the next month or two keep increasing the time but don't forget to always allow sharing at the end.

Once you have increased their stamina to at least 10 minutes, I begin presenting focused lessons on the 6 traits of writing. Each child knows that they are expected to apply the lessons in their daily writing. This is when I will also begin to use writing rubrics to guide their practice and for evaluation.

*Note: this is definitely a time where you will have to provide a lot of guidance to students with writing disabilities. Autistic students may need you to write for them or simply tell you their sentence - even getting to one sentence for some may take much longer than the other kids. It's ok - work with where they are developmentally.

Creative Writing Prompts for Descriptive Writing

You can use these descriptive writing prompts in many ways, such as a free write or in their daily journal.

At the beginning of the year, model writing from the organizers, use a lot of oral literacy before writing, and watch carefully for how much students are able to do on their own.

Once they become confident in their skills and understand expectations, then you can provide much more freedom. Try cutting some up and put them at your writing center. The students can then glue the prompt into their journals.

At other times I like to put creative writing prompts in a can, have every student choose one, write, then share. However you choose to use them, have fun with them (and please don't forget to let them share - that's one of the many benefits of journal writing).

Creative Writing Prompts
Web for Creative Writing

Story Starters

These are creative writing prompts for short stories. Keep in mind that our younger students love to write stories, but the reality is most of them are not very good because they just aren't ready yet to write that way, so don't grade them poorly due to developmental stages.

However, if you model what a story should look like using 6 trait writing lessons, you just might get some surprising results!

Story Starters
Summary Chart for Writing a Story

The summary chart is the same one I use for teaching reading lessons. The great thing about this simple graphic organizer is that it gives a visual representation of the difference between a summary and a retelling. I cut the summary apart, tape it to chart paper and then write a retelling around the parts of the summary.

This works for writing because kids need to understand that they have to include certain elements to make a story work. It helps keep them focused. And remember: stories don't have to be long to be great. You can always teach them later how to add details, develop effective endings, etc. after they have mastered the art of creating a simple story.

Be sure to have your students engage in writing lessons every day and reward their efforts through showing your interest and allowing them to share with each other.

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