Writing Prompts for 1st Graders
If you're looking for some good, age-appropriate writing prompts for first graders, you probably already know how tough it can be.
These should be easy enough for young children to grasp while still providing some challenge. Most first graders are just beginning to master spelling and grammar, except for that one extraordinarily bright whiz kid who could probably write a one-page essay on why it rains.
Here are a few prompts that first graders can use and some tips on how to best use them in your classroom.
What is something that makes you laugh? Why is it funny?
My favorite sport is ___, because ____.
I had a bad day when ______.
Make a list of the 5 best things about you.
I like learning about _____, because _____.
My favorite animal is a _____, because ______.
My five favorite foods are _____.
Tips for Using Writing Prompts
- Give kids a choice on what prompt they want to use. Assigning a three-paragraph essay on your students' favorite athletes won't be much fun for children who aren't really interested in sports. Maybe they would like to write about a museum they visited over the weekend or that pet hamster they have.
- Keep an eye on the kids who seem to be struggling. Sometimes kids who otherwise seem okay in school have trouble with writing. They know what they want to say but they have trouble saying it. Maybe they just need an extra lesson on how to form a paragraph or construct a sentence.
- Ditto for the kids who are gifted writers. You can sort of tell when a child is so good at writing that she is just bored with the writing assignment. Maybe she would like to work on a more challenging writing project for extra credit or prepare a submission for that writing contest you heard about.
- Use prompts to track progress. Writing prompts can be used to track progress on points like handwriting, spelling, grammar, and creativity. If a child's handwriting is so bad that you can't read it or he hasn't mastered spelling and grammar lessons you've already covered, you might consider extra exercises to help him improve.
- Give rewards for a good effort or exceptional spelling and grammar. Maybe one student's handwriting isn't the best, but he really worked hard on that writing prompt assignment. A shiny sticker on his progress chart makes for a good reward.
- Don't shoot down opinions you don't agree with. Pay attention if they seem to blatantly dislike another student or threatens violence if something isn't done, but don't dock students for expressing an innocent and honest opinion. First graders are starting to develop the ability to think for themselves and it won't help to squelch their reasoning or opinions.
- Introduce children to journaling. This can make a good option for teaching both writing and computer skills. Young children like to show off their good work and gifted students might enjoy getting into the world of journaling. They can choose topics and write short journal entries exploring their favorite subjects.
- Consider using writing prompts for topics other than Language Arts. Writing prompts can demonstrate your students' understanding of topics related to science, math and social studies.
Do you like using writing prompts?
Downsides To Using Writing Prompts
You might not think so, but writing prompts can have some cons if not used carefully. You will have to be clever when using them so your students can get the maximum benefit out of the prompts. Some downsides might include:
- It feels like busy work for the kids. If assigned too often, writing prompts may start to feel like something you give to kids just to give yourself a break from having to lecture children who can get a bit hyper sometimes. Children may also resent being "forced" to write so frequently.
- The topics might be boring them. How many times can you assign "Creative Uses for Item-of-the-Week?" That trap can be avoided by offering choices and variety.
- Some topics might be over the children's heads. An essay on the importance of protecting the environment might be a bit much for first graders. An essay on "What is your favorite animal and why?" might work better.
- Some kids might be uncomfortable with expressing their thoughts. There are children who just don't like to explore their innermost thoughts and feelings for a writing assignment. Those children might clam up about doing it in public, even if it's just on a piece of paper.
- It might end up feeling like a popularity contest. If you have your students vote on topics, the children whose ideas are often rejected will probably resent it. You should also consider how often you can stand reading about favorite video games.
- It might stifle the creativity of your brightest students. You know the ones who roll their eyes at yet another stupid writing prompt. Maybe they're not the ones who struggle with writing. They might just be the students who want to write about something they're actually interested in. They will probably enjoy the chance to go over to a computer and create another blog entry while the rest of the class works on the writing prompt.
Writing prompts should be age-appropriate first, but can also be fun and useful for both yourself and the children. They can be something fun like, "What are some creative uses for a rubber band?"
They can also be used to get students' thoughts on "Imagine you were the teacher of this class. What changes would you make?" With some fun writing prompts, essay assignments can feel like less of a chore for both yourself and the class and be a good way for children to show off their writing skills.
© 2012 Julia Shebel