Sample Writing-to-Learn Prompts

Admit Slips: Upon entering the classroom, students write on an assigned topic: Examples: “Who was Gandhi and why should we care?” “Pick one word to describe the TONE of your evening last night and explain.” “Did you agree with Ellen’s actions in the chapters last night. Why or why not?”

Crystal Ball: Students describe what they think class might be about, what direction a discussion might take, or what might happen next in the novel.

Found Poems: Students reread a piece of text, either something they have written or something published, and find key phrases. They arrange these into poem structure without adding any new words.

Awards: Students recommend someone or something for an award the teacher has created, such as “Most helpful molecule” or “Most insidious leader.”

Yesterday’s News: Students summarize the information presented the day before in a film, lecture, discussion or reading

Exit Slips: As a closing activity, students write on an assigned prompt. Example: “The three best things I learned today were…” “Three aspects of my essay that I need to look at are…”

Adapted from Improving Adolescent Literacy by Fisher and Frey, p. 142-148


Ideas for Hooks

Ideas for Hooks

  • Art activity
  • Artifact or model
  • Artwork
  • Photograph, illustration
  • Excerpt from a book or article
  • Case study
  • Chart, graph, or diagram
  • Comic strip or cartoon
  • Brainteaser or mind buster
  • Print ad or video commercial
  • Dramatic performance or reading
  • Demonstration
  • Display of related or unrelated items
  • Editorial
  • Editorial cartoon
  • Letter to the editor
  • Live or recorded interview
  • Moral or ethical dilemma
  • Video clip
  • Song or piece of music
  • Model
  • Magazine or newspaper article
  • Open-ended question
  • Provocative question
  • Problem statement
  • Scenario
  • Simulation
  • Timeline
  • Survey or research results
  • Riddle




Bellringers for Language Arts Classrooms


Creative Writing Prompts

  • Write about the time you were the most scared in your whole life.
  • Respond to an interesting or provocative quotation: “I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter.  ~James Michener.  “The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer. “Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong.”  ~Jeb Dickerson,
  • Write a Top Ten list of best ways to spend a snow day.
  • Write a Top Ten list of classes you would like to be able to take at school.
  • Write a Top Ten list of how [insert school name] would be different if you were the principal.
  • Write a Top Ten list of things you learned last year in school.
  • Display a piece of art/painting/photograph. Have students describe it, write a poem inspired it, describe what might be happening, or write from the perspective of a person or thing in the piece.


  • Create the longest alliteration with the letter X. Example: Brad buys blue books with borrowed bills bimonthly.
  • List as many words as you can that start with the prefix re-. Make a guess as to what re- means.
  • List as many words as you can that start with the prefix pre-. Make a guess as to what pre- means.
  • List as many words as you can that start with the prefix de-. Make a guess as to what de- means.
  • List as many words as you can that start with the prefix con-. Make a guess as to what con- means.

Word Games

  • Boggle: Set up a 4×4 grid and have kids make as many words as possible.
  • Scrabble: Pick 7 random letters and have kids make as many words as possible.
  • Hinky Pinkies: Put up 4-5 hinky pinkies on the board. Ask students to write one of their own. Example: an overweight feline: a fat cat
a nice number ? fine nine a colorful mattress? red bed
a tidy road ? neat street a politician who has died ? dead fed
a nice law ? cool rule a huge truck ? big rig
a meat burglar ? beef thief a fast mop ? zoom broom
 a spicy place ? hot spot a fat sandwich? Chub sub
a rodent’s cap ? Rat hat a tiny sphere ? Small ball
a cooked reptile ? Baked snake a naked rabbit ? Bare hare
a hard to find trap ? Rare snare a mysterious mustache? Weird beard
a plastic pond ? Fake lake a naughty boy ? Bad lad
a drenched dog ? Wet pet a evil spell bag ? Curse purse
an angry boy ? Mad lad a bad attitude ? Rude mood
a cloudy time ? Gray day a sweet potato preserve ? yam jam