A few years ago, I tried to show a documentary about the Titanic sinking to a classroom full of 7th graders on the last day before a holiday. Big mistake! While the students are fascinated by the Titanic, they found the documentary incredibly boring. My team leader and I ended up having to show them a movie instead. A few days later, we started reading a story about the Titanic and the students loved it. They also told me that they loved the three-hour-long Titanic movie staring Kate Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio. I found the juxtaposition of their responses to the documenary verses the movie fascinating — and telling. so I asked them what the difference was between the two. Why was the documentary so boring, but the movie would hold their interest for three hours.
One student responded with gusto: “Because it’s a loooove story!”
What she didn’t know is that her response to the story has a basis in science: We are wired to enjoy stories.
Since most people have a built-in. scientifically-proven predilection for stories for dry facts, it’s very important that students learn to tell a good yarn. The best way to learn how to tell good stories, much like learning how to ice skate without falling on your backside, is to practice.
So I am sharing below a few writing prompts you can give to your students, so they’ll have plenty of opportunity to exercise their writing muscles.
Narrative writing prompts
- Think about something that happened to you that you’ll never forget. Write about what happened, who was involved and where it happened. Make sure you capture what makes that event hard to forget.
- Think about a memorable event that happened when you were in elementary school. Write a story describing what happened, who was involved, and where it took place. Be sure to capture the importance of the event.
- You are on your way home when zombies begin to take over your town. You’ve never believed in zombies, but now you see them with your own eyes. Write a science fiction story telling what the zombies do, what happens to everyone you know, and what you do about it. Make sure you create and describe characters, conflict, and the setting.
- Pretend that your favorite character has stepped out of the pages of a book, or out of your television, and into real life. Write a story about what happens that day.
- Weather affects people in different ways around the globe. Think about a time when the weather has had a significant impact on your life. Write a story sharing your experience.
- Write about a time that you surprised someone. Write a story sharing how you planned the surprise, and what happened, being careful to build suspense so that the reader is surprised, too.
- Think about a time when you embarked on a journey to reach a personal goal. Tell your story, being sure to include the challenges you faced, what might have prevented you from reaching your goal, and how you were transformed by the journey.
- Think about a time when you stood up for what you believed in. Be sure to set share with your reader what the situation was like, what happened when you stood your ground, and what happened as a result.
- Imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and discover that you’ve been transported into your favorite novel or movie. Write a story telling what happens during the one day you live with those characters.
- Imagine that you are the last person left on the earth. There is a knock at the door…
- Choose a super power and then write a story about how you would change the world.
- Think about a time when you didn’t know what to say — until it was too late. Retell your story the way you wish it had happened.
- Tell a story about your favorite person. Make sure you describe that person’s character traits, and tell a story that illustrates why they are your favorite.
I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma graduate student, and a NBPTS candidate. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify my students’ voices and choices.