Inside: Use this writing teaching strategy to get kids thinking of topics quickly and easily so they can get on with their work. This post contains affiliate links.


ou give your writing lesson. Everyone has their materials. The hard work on your part is done and now it’s time for the kids to give it a try.

You take a breath, but…

the moment you turn around, someone’s waving a hand and saying that dreaded line:

I don’t have anything to write about.”

You give them a few ideas and get ready to move on, but… someone else has the same problem. You workshop it out, pull ideas from them, pull ideas from yourself.

You go from desk to desk repeating this same procedure.

Pretty soon you’re exhausted, and here’s why:

You’ve just come up with 15 different writing ideas!

Wasn’t your “heavy-lifting” part of the lesson supposed to be over?


Use this writing teaching strategy when students can't think of anything to write about


This is the kind of thing that made me dread teaching writing!

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution that passes the content generation off of your shoulders and on to students.


Picture Prompts as a Writing Teaching Strategy

If you want kids to spend time writing instead of asking YOU for ideas, give them a picture prompt.

For example, if you want kids to write an informational piece about ways to get exercise, show them a few pictures first (maybe a playground, some sports equipment, and a dance class).

You might be thinking, Isn’t that cheating? It’s like you’re giving kids the answers.

The thing about writing is that it involves SO many skills: topic generation, thinking of a complete sentence, pulling up the necessary spelling, and getting your pencil to do the right thing.

It’s ok if we give kids some support with topic generation.

Kids who need a lot of support will probably use an idea exactly as it is shown in the picture. Other kids will have additional ideas sparked from the picture (ex: I don’t take dance class, but that makes me think of my karate class. I’ll write about that!)

You can project picture prompts in front of a classroom, share them on Zoom or another online platform, or print them at the top of a page.

Here’s an example of a picture prompt activity from my The Big Book of Writing Skills Activities, Grade 1:



Use picture prompts as a strategy for teaching writing


In this activity, kids use a picture to think of some ideas for a very simple narrative.

Activities like this help build writing skills because they are open-ended so kids can incorporate their own ideas, but they’re supportive. The picture makes sure that kids don’t get stuck before they even get started.

Stop wearing yourself out by coming up with EVERYBODY’S writing ideas and use picture prompts instead!

For more picture prompt activities and lots of other ways to get kids writing, check out The Big Book of Writing Skills Activities, Grade 1.




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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.