Write Effective Prompts


Write Effective Prompts

Posted on May 16, 2008

Write Effective Prompts

Create Purposeful Writing PromptsBalancing "free choice" writing with prompted writing in the classroom is important. Students need to develop the skill of on-demand writing. However, teachers sometimes draft assignments that sound more like a test question than a prompt. Here are a couple tips:

1. Strong prompts elicit a variety of responses. All the students' writings should NOT sound the same. You are not looking for students to simply retell information and demonstrate knowledge. You want them to apply their knowledge in a response.

2. Create a scenario for the writing. Make the reason for writing seem real. This will increase student motivation.

3. When drafting a prompt, first plan the key ingredients: Establish a purpose or reason for writing. Identify an intended audience for the writing. Narrow down to a specific topic or subject matter for the writing. Identify the specific format the writing should be communicated within.

Here are some examples:

Anna Parks, language arts teacher at Norwell High School drafted this prompt after her students read To Kill a Mockingbird.

PURPOSE: to inform

AUDIENCE: Harper Lee

TOPIC: status of manuscript submission (acceptance or rejection)

FORMAT: business letter

PROMPT: You are the editor of Glencoe/McGraw-Hill. In the mail you received the manuscript for To Kill A Mockingbird from Harper Lee. You've read it and now need to write a letter of acceptance or rejection to the author regarding the publication. Your letter should follow the guidelines for formal business letters with all the appropriate parts.

Pam Baker, family & consumer sciences teacher at DeKalb Middle School drafted this prompt for her students. She passed it out along with a piece of pie to each student.

PURPOSE: to influence/to inform

AUDIENCE: restaurant customers

TOPIC: new item added to dessert menu

FORMAT: promotional text (placemat, poster, television advertisement, etc.)

PROMPT: You are a culinary foods expert. You are in the business of helping restaurants write their promotional materials for their new desserts. This is a dessert one of your clients has created, and they have asked you to write a lengthy description that could be used on a placemat, poster, or even a television advertisement. Remember, you are trying to entice the audience, so be descriptive in taste, texture, flavor, ingredients, etc.

And finally, here is a prompt a group of science teachers developed at Huntington North High School.

PURPOSE: to inform

AUDIENCE: (implied) classmates & teacher

TOPIC: how the digestive system works

FORMAT: descriptive essay/story

PROMPT: You are a piece of food about to be eaten. Describe your journey through the body's digestive system from start to finish.