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25 Prompts for Classroom Freewriting

When most people think of writing, they imagine someone happily tapping away at the keyboard as they fill page after page with brilliant prose. However, anyone who’s stared down a blank page knows there’s a long process between coming up with ideas and turning those ideas into coherent sentences.

That’s where freewriting comes in. Freewriting pushes students to get words down on paper in order to come up with ideas and practice writing sentences (even if they’re not perfect yet). Freewriting prompts can be a great exercise either for writing journals or as a warm-up for other writing assignments.

Why Freewriting?

Dr. Peter Elbow developed freewriting in the 1970s as a brain exercise to get the creative and critical thinking synapses firing. Unlike in brainstorming, the goal of freewriting is to practice writing in complete sentences and paragraphs—and to keep writing no matter what, even when you don’t know where your thoughts might lead. According to Eric Grunwald, this exercise increases the flow of ideas and also helps develop fluency in ELL students.

Here are some of the benefits of freewriting, from The Writer’s Cookbook and The Writing Cooperative:

  • Relaxes the mind: We’ve all heard of the “inner critic”: that voice in your head that tells you your ideas and abilities just aren’t up to snuff. Freewriting helps you break past the critic because your goal isn’t perfection; it’s exploration.
  • Exercises creativity: Once students get past the inner critic, they may be surprised by the depth and breadth of ideas they come up with. We don’t often think of creativity as a muscle we can exercise, but it is. Freewriting lets students practice trying out different ideas, seeing what works, and running with their gut.
  • Builds confidence: How many times have you heard students say “But I don’t know what to write about” or “But I suck at writing”? Freewriting helps to dispel these myths students build up in their heads. When they practice writing sentences and coming up with ideas over and over, they’ll be ready to do the same when they take on bigger writing projects.

25 Freewriting Prompts

Note: Some of these prompts are written with younger learners in mind, but you can easily adapt them for middle or high school students, or to match what you’re reading in class.

  1. Write a story about a painting. For example, what’s going on in that town depicted in Starry Night?
  1. Pretend a robot lives at your house. What’s that like?
  1. Which planet is your favorite? Why?
  1. A dog will answer three questions. What do you ask?
  1. What would life be like without the Internet?
  1. Rewrite Maurice Sendak’s most famous book from the perspective of the Wild Things.
  1. Describe a dream you never had.
  1. A cat offers you advice. What does he or she say?
  1. Write a letter to your future self 20 years from today.
  1. You walk into a room without light. Describe what you can touch, hear, and smell.
  1. You can have dinner with one cartoon character. Who would you choose?
  1. The dinosaurs never went extinct. What’s life like today?
  1. What kind of music would a dog like? Why?
  1. What’s the strangest flavor of ice cream you can imagine?
  1. Squirrels grow ten sizes overnight. What ruckus happens then?
  1. You wake up president of the United States. What’s your first act?
  1. You’re the teacher for the day. What are we going to learn in class?
  1. Which Ninja Turtle would win a game of Monopoly?
  1. Write a Winnie the Pooh story in Tigger’s/Piglet’s/Eeyore’s voice.
  1. Write a paragraph using as many adjectives as you can.
  1. Write a sequel to “The Three Little Pigs.” How do they rebuild? Does the wolf stand trial?
  1. The school’s floor turns to butterscotch pudding. What happens?
  1. You find out your classmate is a friendly werewolf. How do you react?
  1. Someone replaces the shampoo with quick-drying cement. Describe your day after.
  1. The Big and Little Dippers are now water slides. Describe your trip to the celestial water park.

More Writing Tips for Teachers

Teaching students to write is complex. They need to understand nitty-gritty issues like grammar and sentence structure as well as big-picture techniques such as structure, audience awareness, and proper use of sources. For more strategies to address these topics with all types of learners, check out these professional development courses from Advancement Courses:

  • Writing Workshop Model in the Classroom: Writing workshops help students take ownership of their writing by giving them the time and direction they need to reflect and grow in their craft. Develop strategies for helping students succeed during every phase of writing, including prewriting, actual writing time, and sharing and feedback.
  • Teaching Writing to English Language Learners: Examine classroom conditions and best practices for teaching writing to ELLs. You’ll learn how to teach students at all levels of language acquisition how to make connections, ask questions, synthesize, and continue learning independently through mentor texts and authors.
  • Teaching Research Writing in the Digital Age: With an emphasis on writing for college and the workplace, learn how to guide students through the entire process of writing a research paper, including developing ideas, researching, analyzing information, writing, and fine-tuning a presentation.
  • Helping Kids Write: Writing is a complex activity. Ideas about why and how to teach writing have progressed dramatically in recent years, and this course exposes you to effective approaches and best practices for helping students learn to write.

Advancement Courses offers more than 280 online, self-paced PD courses covering both foundational topics and emerging trends in K–12 education. Courses are available for both graduate and continuing education credit for your salary advancement or recertification needs.

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