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Note to Teachers: Bellwork, or iOpeners, are invaluable for productively managing the very first seconds of class. Each of these offers an extensive, and organized, set of writing prompts to start class. Nonetheless, some can also be used for more extensive journals, discussion topics, and homework writing.

  • new Attendance Questions: Instead of calling roll and having students say “here,” have them share their answer to a question. The question should usually lead to a SHORT answer.  The questions can be serious or funny, asked aloud or projected on an image slide. From the oh-so-practical-and-inspiring Betsy at Spark Creativity.
  • Writing Prompt Sheets: Useful handouts ask students to write something every day; then turn in for a weekly grade.
    • The Vocabulary Development Sheet requires the word, a definition, and an original student sentence using the word in such a way that its meaning is clarified. Obviously, you can prescribe a vocabulary list or have students select words on their own from their reading.
    • The Term Application Sheet includes a space for a literary term, its definition, and an original student example. Talk the Talk is a one-page handout with the most used and useful terms for AP Language and for AP Literature.
    • The Writing Skills Development Sheet has a place for a label, an original sentence, and a revision. Use it to ask students to write a particular sentence type, to use a sentence as a model to imitate, or to write a basic thesis sentence, then revise for a more sophisticated style.
  • Prompts from the Advanced Placement Literature Prompts could be used for a pop quiz on last night’s reading, or even the final exam on a text. You can assign groups to develop a thesis and evidence citations for different prompts. As a review heading toward the AP exam, students can discuss which works they have studied fit which prompts.
  • Prompts from the Timed Essays, while for 20-minute essays, work wonderfully for Socratic seminar discussions.
  • Prompts from the Autobiography Portfolio work as in-class personal writing assignments, but work even better as literary responses. What better reading check than a Personal Alphabet to describe Scout Finch?
  • new Quick Write Rubric: a simple generic grading guide for short in-class writing activities.

PowerPoints & Online Visuals

Advanced Placement Literature PromptsPowerPoint with each open question prompt, from 1970 to 2023, on a separate slide. Students can apply a prompt to their current reading, explore titles that might work with the prompt, or write a thesis for the prompt. Handout. Autobiography PortfolioEach PowerPoint slide covers one assignment in the Portfolio Project. Although developed for personal writing, you can assign appropriate ones to be written for literary characters as a reading check or exam. A Personal Alphabet for Scout Finch! Handout.

Analyzing Political CartoonsDirections for analysis of political cartoons, with a different cartoon on each PowerPoint slide. Handout includes several worksheets. Fillable pdf.

Art PromptsArtwork PowerPoint that lends itself to writing. Handout on Writing about Art. Check out Annie Barrett’s “Seeing Matisse’s The Red Studio.”
Timed EssaysPowerPoint of SAT style 20-minute essay agreeing or disagreeing with the statement on each slide. Handout with grading guide & sample essay. Picture PromptsNearly 100 photographic images that lend themselves to writing and suggested writing topics in a PowerPoint. Handout.
Quote PromptsEach PowerPoint slide has a quote which can be explained, discussed, analyzed, supported, contradicted, and/or used as a sentence model. Visual Writing Prompts are gorgeous, and inspirational. I have selected 60 from the website for a PowerPoint—just in case they disappear.
Writing QuotesThe quote on each PowerPoint slide relates to writing, reading, or a specific form of literature. You can use these for paraphrases, or even ask students to develop evidence to support the quote. Keenan Hart’s free Daily Writing Prompts—eclectic mix of daily prompts for Middle School, Intermediate, and English Language learners. All about Me, Story Starters, This Day in History , TED Radio Topics, etc.
Creative Argument Writing Prompts—25 fun, but challenging, imaginative illustrated prompts from The Rhetor's Toolbox. These would work with any secondary level class.  PowerPoint. 100 High School Debate Topics to Engage Every Student—Engaging high school debate topics from We Are Teachers. Each topic includes a link to an article from a reliable source that provides pros and/or cons to help kids make their arguments. PDF of Topics (with active links).
Paraphrasing -- 40 quotations that lend themselves especially to paraphrasing. Handout (includes Paraphrasing a Poem).

List Love -- 101 List Prompts for Art Journals. These probably work best if students do embellish these with doodles and drawings and stickers.

Writer’s Digest presents a Year of Writing Prompts— literally, 365 prompts, one for each day of the year. 82 Writing Experiments by Bernadette Mayer intrigue and stimulate. Journal topics and prompts also on offer.


I love the free resources offered by the New York Times. Much more than any teacher could ever use. The extensive program is called The Learening Network, described as “resources for bringing the world into your classroom.” The home page includes links to lessons, teaching ideas, writing prompts, quizzes, voculary, photos, graphs, videos, contests, and contest winners.
|spacerRealistically, a teacher using their resources will need a subscription for about $1.00 per week (double that if you want the New York Times Cooking as well). Institutional and student discounts (or free accounts) are available. Unless you want your students to compete in the contests and online discussions, your subscription will allow you to present or print most of the materials available.
spacerA good place to start is How to Use the Learning Network. Next stop should be their Learning Network Tutorials, one of which shows how students can get a free account. Sign up for their Weekly Newsletter for teachers, listing upcoming lessons and materials to help you plan. Original daily/weekly postings from September through May, with highlights or selected materials gathered and shared at the end of each school year.


  • What’s Going on in This Picture? presents an intriguing image every Sunday night, stripped of captions, and then hosts a live-moderated discussion on Mondays. Introductory Video.
  • Film Club offers short documentary videos and related discussion questions on Tuesdays. Introductory Video.
  • What’s Going on in this Graph? on Wednesdays. Each graph offers suggestions for discussion and/or writing and follows up with an explanation. “Stat Nuggets” cover graph reading skills. Selected graphs on contemporarey topics would be great training for the synthesis question. Introductory Video.
  • Poem. A new poem every Thursday. Each with a one-paragraph introduction. Some with illustrations. No questions, no assignments. Just poems.


500 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing from The New York Times -- Each entry on this categorized list links to a related Times article and includes a series of follow-up questions.

Voice Lessons

Voice Lessons by Nancy Dean

PowerPoints: Each slide is a quote from Nancy Dean’s Voice Lessons. You will need a copy of the book for exercises using the quote.

Voice Lessons by Nancy Dean Extended

PowerPoints: Each slide has activities to accompany the quotes.

Voice Lessons from Nancy DeanText

PowerPoint: A massive 176-slide show with ten new quotes, questions, and model responses for Tone, Diction, Detail, Imagery, and Syntax. Each quote is followed by two discussion questions and two sample responses. Created by Dina Cooper and shared on

If you find special ways to use these, please let me know. Email.

Please feel free to use any materials you find helpful.
If you download or print anything from this site, please consider making at least a $10.00 donation.
I can maintain and expand this website only with your help. Thank you for your support.


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Updated 22 February 2024.