Do you use elementary writing prompts? Prompts can be a fun way to get your kids comfortable with writing on a regular basis and improve their overall writing skills. Read on for why writing prompts are essential for elementary aged kiddos and links to writing prompts for the whole year!
Let me put it right out there – Writing prompts are NOT busy work!
Yes, you can give your child a writing prompt to keep them busy – hey, we all need to drink our coffee warm once in a while, but elementary writing prompts are essential for your homeschool or classroom. Prompts are a fantastic tool that will both inspire new writers and help you measure progress.
Using engaging, fun, and downright silly writing prompts regularly will improve writing over time and build a solid foundation for the writing process.
How can using elementary writing prompts help my child be a better writer?
Let’s discuss the four major ways that prompts will help your child. Using elementary writing prompts will:
- Reduce the stress around writing
- Help your child think creatively
- Focus on a single topic
- Provide authentic skill practice
Then I’ll provide a short list of resources available to homeschoolers and classroom teachers that will make incorporating writing prompts into your routine easy and enjoyable.
Elementary Writing Prompts Relieve the Pressure
Writing is an area that can create unnecessary stress in our learning. I don’t know about your kids, but mine really struggle with having to write using a formal, step-by -step, traditional, approach. It can be stressful to think about all that comes with creating an outline, editing, revising and creating a final draft.
Beginning a draft, knowing the steps they’ll have to take to make a perfect, final copy can be overwhelming for a child. Especially kids struggling with handwriting or spelling and our little perfectionists who tend to freeze instead of making a mistake.
Writing prompts are great for relieving that pressure!
Your child can simply enjoy responding to the prompt without worrying about any formality. This more organic approach to writing allows their creativity to shine through!
“Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be spelled correctly. I’m not going to stand over you and correct every backwards letter. You won’t have to rewrite it with correct grammar. There will be no red pens involved! Just do your best.”
How does relieving the pressure improve writing?
Writing prompts allow a child to express themselves without the intimidation of using the writing process to achieve a perfect final draft. The result is that your child will begin producing better rough drafts. Rough drafts are the basis of the writing process.
Writing an excellent draft is a skill. Your children will learn to more freely express themselves. With practice they can more openly write down their thoughts. They will courageously put down what’s in their mind onto a page without fear of imperfection. This is what it takes to be a great writer.
Practicing rough drafts is especially important for elementary aged writers.
A writing prompt is simply inspiration for a rough draft. A draft that won’t need to be nitpicked or rearranged, revised or edited. As your child’s ability to write a draft improves, it will build the foundation for the writing process.
Think Creatively about a Variety of Topics
I find writing prompts to be an excellent option for introducing ideas and topics that my children might otherwise not consider. Writing prompts can be connected to your current learning materials or stand-alone ideas. This give you a great deal of flexibility when it comes to getting creative with writing.
Creative areas to explore:
- Recalling past experiences – If they talk about it, they can write about it!
- Responding to or expanding on imaginary scenarios
- Giving directions or instructions
- Communication – through letters, notes, and speech writing
- Retelling favorite stories or even the story line from their favorite shows
- Solving (or creating) problems
- Writing down facts or lists without using outside resources
- Making an opinionated argument
How does thinking creatively improve writing?
Not only does using a variety of creative topics keep writing interesting, it will help your child grow as a writer in two ways:
Organic Practice in a Variety of Writing Styles
By using writing prompts, you deliver implicit instruction to guide your child through a variety of writing styles (descriptive, narrative, expository, and persuasive) over time. In other words, instead of saying, “Son, today we are learning about narrative storytelling and we will work together to write a fiction story,” you will introduce a prompt that will inspire your child to write from their imaginations freely.
The prompt: “Tell about a time you met a sick unicorn,” will inspire your child to use their imaginations to create a fictional narrative – which will result in a more organic writing experience.
Supporting Creative Thinking Builds a Writer’s Confidence
Supporting your child when they create a fantastic imaginary narrative about if penguins could fly, give instructions on how to use proper manners to a messy alien, or give a well-reasoned opinion why showers are better than baths will build confidence in your budding writer.
You can’t be too silly, too wild, or too wrong with writing prompts. Simple, positive support (including encouraging a child to use their wildest imagination and reading their finished prompt aloud) will build confidence moving forward. Confident writers produce better rough drafts. Later, a confident writer will be more open to revisions and rewrites as they move through the writing process.
Practice Sticking to a Single Topic
Because a writing prompt is necessarily focused on one topic or question, it helps beginning writers stay focused. This is especially important for the child that tends to overshare and wander from the initial concept.
Do you have a child that will write sentence after sentence about whatever thought pops into their head, without tying them together or even back to the original topic? (Please tell me I am not the only one!)
Giving a single, short writing prompt, rather than a general subject helps direct your child’s energy and ideas. It also greatly improves the end result. Using a writing prompt is like giving guide rails in writing.
How does focusing on a single, short topic improve writing?
As your children grow, it will become more and more important to stay focused and on-topic in their writing. Consider an older child writing a research paper or longer narrative. Unfocused writing can be confusing and require many revisions, which can make them feel defeated when moving through the writing process.
Practicing with elementary writing prompts helps children start small and stick to a topic. Examples: making a list of only things that are blue, writing about one favorite place, or making a list of facts or reasons about a single topic. Learning how to stick to a single topic early on will help your child stay clear and focused as they begin producing longer stories and papers later.
Authentic Grammar, Spelling and Handwriting Practice
This is one of the most immediate benefits you will experience from incorporating writing prompts into your routine. If the boredom of sterile handwriting and grammar worksheets sends your kids off track, you will appreciate the mix of creativity and fundamental skills practice that comes with using elementary writing prompts.
Using a writing prompt is natural and so much more fun. Your children will be practicing their handwriting and spelling, and incorporating in all they’ve learned about grammar – without even realizing it.
Even more importantly, they are using these skills in ways that are much more organic and appropriate for how they will use them throughout their lives.
How does authentic skill practice improve writing?
If I’m not correcting handwriting, spelling, and grammar, how in the world is a writing prompt going to help improve these skils?!?
Keep Your Eye on Progress in Practice
The problem with grammar, spelling, and handwriting worksheets is that your child practices these skills in isolation. It appears that they’ve mastered a skill, say putting a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence, because they can correctly re-write an incorrect sentence.
However, have you noticed that not all of these “mastered” skills transfer over when your child is writing a paragraph?
Or that your child suddenly doesn’t know what a paragraph is when it comes down to writing their own?
Or have you noticed that while your child can ace a spelling bee once a week, they can’t correctly spell words when they are writing a sentence?
Or perhaps your child has neat and controlled letter formation during handwriting practice, but when it comes to writing a paper it’s literally all over the page.
This is perfectly normal. It takes time and authentic practice to master these foundation skills of grammar, spelling, and handwriting. It takes practice to transfer these skills over from isolated skill worksheets to original writing.
Writing prompts provide you, the teacher, with a tool to keep an eye on your child’s progress.
Using elementary writing prompts regularly can help you understand what skills have been truly mastered and where your child needs extra help. Don’t correct these prompts. This is not the time to drill skills. Just make a note of it.
Where to Find Elementary Writing Prompts & Other Writing Recommendations
Getting started with elementary writing prompts is easy. Grab a pencil and paper and ask your child a question: Write down all your favorite breakfast foods. Make a list of field trips you want to take this year. What is better pizza or tacos and why? What happened in the last episode of Shimmer and Shine?
Start with familiar topics that you child knows and enjoys. You can use a timer or not. You can sit next to them or not. Let the child write. Don’t make them stop to correct it. Just allow them the freedom to get their thoughts down on paper.
But thinking up 3-5 prompts a week can be draining. Or maybe you’re short on time or just want the convenience of having many prompts to refer to on hand.
Monthly Writing Prompts for Elementary Ages
You can pick up a free monthly writing prompt calendar from the following links (updated monthly as new calendars arrive). I’ve developed these prompts with elementary kiddos in mind. You will find fun active prompts, silly holidays, wacky questions, and exercises in writing letters, gratefulness, giving directions and more. Just click on the month and download your printable calendar from the post:
You can also find daily printable prompts with a fun and funky doodle design in our growing writing prompt bundle. This bundle will include 12 months of calendars with 20 coordinating printable prompts for each month. Make it easy to print and go!
Looking for a fuller curriculum? Brave Writer is our go-to writing program for everything writing. Julie has a gentle but full approach to encouraging young writers as they move through the writing stages.
Brave Writer encourages us to include freewriting prompts as a part of our regular homeschool rhythm. Read more about Freewriting Fridays.
We are currently using the Jot it Down writing guide as our language arts and writing curriculum along with a few fun writing prompts each week. Check out a comprehensive review of Jot it Down (ages 5-8) or download a curriculum sample.
Brave Writer offers a range of options for homeschoolers from writing guides to full language arts curriculum to online courses for students. I highly recommend checking out this program if you’re looking for an engaging and enlightening writing program that meets students where they are and challenges them to grow from there. Browse the full Brave Writer catalog.
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