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9 Ways to Use Writing Prompts in the Upper Elementary Classroom will help you get the most out of your writing time with simple lesson plan ideas.

The first time my students saw a picture prompt on a standardized test, they froze. We are talkin’ deer in the headlights frozen. The anxiety set in and the sweat started dripping off their sweet little heads.

They had no idea what to do!

Since that day, writing prompts with pictures have appeared in my classroom routinely. How I have used them has changed over the years. At first is was a struggle… now this is one of the easiest things for me to plan!
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One of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is to write routinely throughout the year. This is done in a multitude of  ways throughout the course of our school day. However, research has shown that nothing better prepares a student for the rigors of writing better than purposefully planned writing instruction.

9 Ways to Use Writing Prompts


Bell Work

Start your day by creating a routine of students responding to a writing prompt in a journal or notebook. Be explicit with your instructions in how much or how long they should be writing in response  to the prompt.



Add a variety of writing prompts to your literacy centers. Research has shown that students produce better writing when they have choice over what they are responding to.


Early Finishers

Laminate prompts used before and leave in a place where students who finish early know they have activities to complete. Allowing them to use a dry erase marker makes writing more interesting and exciting. Plus they now have the option of choosing a prompt to respond to.


Sub Tub

Keep 2-3 prompts available with your substitute lesson plans. This is a quick and easy lesson that you can always have planned and ready to go in advance.


Carousel Activities

A carousel activity is writing as a team and as each team moves from table to table throughout the room, they get to practice and focus on writing different parts of the story. Read More… 


Quick Writes

A quick write is a timed writing response. Depending upon the topic I give my students anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to write. This is a great way to spark ideas before moving onto a bigger project or reviewing material.


Partner Writing

Two Students One Prompt. The students become co-authors working together to create the best beginning, middle, and end in response to the prompt.



We have all had those moment when we just need a break to reset. Diaries are a great example of writing to both record what has occurred but also to reflect on the events and reset our tone. This is a great tool to use whole class after recess or if someone is having a bad day.


Test Prep

Writing is an essential component of any standardized test. The more practice our students get the more prepared they will be for the upcoming test.

Join the Quest

Legend has it there is a magical place where children are excited to learn and teacher’s passion overflows. Each month we will send you a key to the quest along with free resources and insider tips.

Supplies Needed

I wanted to share with you my favorite products for writing. These are the things that get my students excited to write. I have found that by having “special writing tools” my students get more excited to write. Some of these are reserved for editing (red pens), revising (blue pens), and final draft (black pens). Some are used for early finishers (pockets, dry erase markers) and others for the top 3 as voted on by the class (gel pens, fancy paper). Find what works best for you and your students.

Where to Get Writing Prompts?

You can find writing prompts by searching Google and Pinterest and will find a ton of ideas. You can also create your own. If you are looking for an easy to use product, I have a monthly series of Picture Prompts available in my store. 

Picture Prompts

Each month get 30 picture prompts aligned to CCSS standards. Each set covers  the full spectrum of required writing for the year plus seasonal and holiday  prompts.

3 Options Available: Print (Print and go), Digital (use with Google Slides or Power Point), or a Bundle with both formats.

Students need to be able not just to respond to writing prompts but to complete writing prompts that have been started for them. When planning your lessons, take this into consideration by using multiple strategies to prepare your students for the tasks they will face in the future.