Jarring Tales
I write down random characters, places, and conflicts on slips of paper and place them in three jars. The kids pick one from each jar and create a story. I keep the prompts light and change them periodically.
Meredith F.

 

Bonus! Create your own prompt jars by cutting out the characters, places, and conflicts on our templates:

Characters

Places

Conflicts

Sensational Stories
“If you had to lose one of your senses, which would it be and why?”
Elizabeth J. Z.

A Powerful Prompt
“If you could have any superpower in the universe, what would you pick and why?” Even my reluctant writers like this one.
Joan B.

Picture Perfect
I send my first graders home with digital cameras to take pictures of things that are important to them. They use the photos to write stories about their lives. It’s a great way to build classroom community while connecting to the CCSS and integrating technology.
—Lisa F.

Sci-Fi Starter
“Imagine if it didn’t get dark tonight. What would people do? What might they imagine had caused it?”
Aaron W.

Clever Captions
Collect interesting photos from newspapers. Remove all the captions and have students write about the photo of her or his choice.
Anita L.

Teacher’s Day Off
“You’ve arrived at school and have found a note on your desk that the teacher will be out and you’re in charge. Describe your day!” I get some of my best stories using this prompt.
Jennifer M. F.

Once Upon a Time…
I like to use “Today in History” (HistoryNet.com) and find a way to make it match our theme. It has been failproof. Students love seeing how historical events are still relevant and are impacting them today.
Leslie A. H.

Mad-Scientist Model
I’m a science teacher and my kiddos’ favorite prompt has been: “If I could create any animal it would be….” They talk about habitat, prey, predators, and more.
—Covey D.

Suspenseful Sentence
“I knew I would regret this for the rest of my life. But when it was my turn, I….”
—Debra R. T.

Write Around the Clock
We love to “write around.” Each student starts a story and writes for three or four minutes. When the timer rings, we roll a dice and students move that many seats and continue a classmate’s story. Save time to share
the results.
—Kathy H. V.

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Photo: Adam Chinitz