“I don’t know what to write…” Surely every junior high English teacher has heard the whine, often just after having delivered a detailed prompt of some sort or other. I have struggled hard in my 12 years of teaching to know how to prime the pump for my students–how to start the words flowing from the well of their souls. One of my goals on my current sabbatical is to collect some interesting “primers.”

  • Take a walk outside with the writer’s notebooks. Have the students observe and write using one of their five senses at a time.
  • Find two random stranger’s Facebook pages and write a fictitious story in which the two of them meet.
  • Use old black and white  photos as prompts.
  • Give students a sketch of an empty head and these instructions: “Write words and phrases outside the head that tell what other people see when they look at you. Write words and phrases inside the head about things other people don’t know about you.”
  • Have students write entries for a contest called The Worst Piece of Writing in the World. Discuss the marks of a bad composition.
  • Write about a scar.
  • Give every student a shell or a coin from a collection and have them write about it.

More to be added throughout the next year!