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Using Prompts to Teach Essay Writing

written by: Lady Lit•edited by: Trent Lorcher•updated: 2/1/2013

Use prompts to teach students to stay on topic when writing an essay.

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    Benefits of Using Writing Prompts

    Before students prewrite their essays or other start other types of writing, teachers may decide to give students a prompt with which to work. A prompt usually establishes a topic, a very general topic, which is all a student really needs.

    A prompt allows for individuality and creativity as students are required to write on an assigned topic, but they are not required to write on someone else’s ideas. Students are free to support the topic with their own ideas, interests, suggestions, reasons, etc. In other words, students can write about themselves, so it is easier for students to develop ideas that they are interested in and come up with relevant details to support those ideas.

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    Getting Started Using Writing Prompts

    1. Teachers should come up with a list of ten topics. If you wish, have students help you.

    Sample Prompt: Write about a class you think your high school should offer. Write reasons you think this class should be offered at your high school. Use relevant information and supporting details.

    Hint: Because the prompt says class and considering that the word “class" is singular, have students write about one class in particular and develop multiple reasons as to why their school should add that particular class.

    2. After I type up my ten prompts, I have students write a thesis statement for each topic that I have developed.

    Hint: I instruct my students to use as much of the prompt as they want when they formulate their thesis statements as this method tends to keep students on topic.

    Acceptable Thesis: A class that should be offered at my high school is graphic design.

    After students complete their ten thesis statements, I grade their thesis statements and hand them back to the students. I then pick one of the ten topics and have students begin planning their essays and developing their ideas.

    Has this worked for you in your class? What writing prompts have you come up with?