Improving writing skills, unsurprisingly, requires sustained practice. A strategy used in many classrooms is to ask student to write about their weekend or their holidays. However, there are many more interesting topics you could use for inspiration.
It is also important to keep in mind that if you just provide students with a prompt and expect them to start writing, then you are just testing their writing skills, not teaching them the process of writing.
To really develop your students’ writing skills you need to not only brainstorm the topic and help them create a plan, but also explicitly teach strategies associated with writing. For example for each topic, you could have students focus on developing a specific skill such as using dialogue, or including adjectives or adverbs, or including similes, or using powerful verbs…..
The Writing Creatively and Writing Persuasively books are useful resources.
Below is a list of topics. Each week students could write on a topic. Make the focus on quality rather than quantity. It is better to have one really well constructed paragraph than a page of poor writing. Have your students write in the same book all year as this will provide not only some great memories for your students and discussion points for their families, but will also provide a record of the development of their writing skills.
- What are three things you’re grateful for? It could be something as simple as having a bed to sleep in or a friend.
- Describe your favourite pet (it could be real or imaginary – even a dragon or unicorn). What would you do together?
- Who is one person that you admire? Describe the characteristics of this person that makes them inspirational.
- Describe your favourite hobby or activity in detail and why you love it.
- Think of a wonderful time in your life. Write down as many details as you can remember.
- Think of something that you have learned that surprised you. It could be something current or something that happened when you were younger.
- Describe a mistake you made? What did you learn and what would you do differently next time?
- Describe a situation that made you laugh. It could be something that happened or something you were told.
- What would be your favourite way to spend a day if there were no restrictions?
- Describe something you can do if you are worried or upset.
- Write a goal or challenge that you don’t currently do but would like to (or someone else would like you to) accomplish. It could be reading every day, keeping your bedroom tidy, picking up some rubbish every day, etc.) Provide lots of detail including why it would be good to achieve and how you will accomplish it.
- Close your eyes for one minute and listen to the world around you. Write down everything you could hear and smell.
- Look outside the window for one minute. Describe in detail everything you could see.
- Write as many jokes that you can think of.
- What is the strangest thing you’ve ever seen? It could have been something on the media or in real life. What made it strange? If students can’t think of something strange they have seen they can write about something that would be strange (e.g., a cat playing a piano).
- Describe a time when you helped someone. Finish by explaining how it made you feel.
- What is your favourite book? Why did you like it? This should be more than just rewriting the storyline but really trying to connect on an emotional level.
- Write about a holiday that you’ve been on. What did you enjoy or what didn’t you enjoy? Just focus on one aspect.
- Which is your favourite season? Describe the season and the activities that you do.
- Describe someone in your family and all the things that you appreciate about them
- What would you like to ask your pet (or any animal if you don’t have a pet)? This would be a great topic for practising constructing questions and using question marks. The next week, students could imagine and write the answers the pet might provide.
- What’s your favourite outside activity? Describe the activity in detail and how it makes you feel.
- Think about one person you really like. What does that person do that makes you like them or what do you have in common.
- Describe in detail a good activity to do on a rainy day.
- Think of a time when you were a lot younger. Describe your young self. It could focus on physical appearance, behaviour or beliefs.
- What is something that you have mastered? Describe how you learnt that skill.
- Think of everything you have been taught this week (or last week). Write down as much as you can remember about that topic. The research shows that this is a great revision activity.
- How could you earn some money? Provide as much detail as possible.
- Imagine you are an adult. Describe a day in your life.
- What is something you really like about yourself? Describe in detail.
- Choose a colour. Describe some objects that are that colour in detail, including how different objects will be different shades of the same colour. How will you describe those different shades?
- If you were chosen to live on Mars, would you? Why or why not?
- Describe your first ever day of school. How did you feel? What did you do?
- What superpower would you like to have and what would you do with that power?
- Imagine you have shrunk to the size of a snail. Describe a scene (a garden, your bedroom, your school room) from this perspective. This would be a great exercise to encourage the use of similes. The Ant Explorer by C.J. Dennis would be a good introduction.