Stories of Life

Another successful set of writing prompts to use in the classroom focuses on the students themselves.

What better topic do we know in-depth information about  than our own experiences?

Providing students with prompts that connect to their lives can help to eliminate that feeling of not having anything to write about and instead help students focus on the abundance of life experiences they face each day.

The following autobiographies and biographies provide rich examples of life stories for students and can serve as mentor texts as students take on the task of writing about their own lives:

Bill Peet: An Autobiography, by Bill Peet


Flora and Tiger: 19 very short stories from my life, by Eric Carle

When I Was Young in the Mountains, by Cynthia Rylant


A Picture Book of Helen Keller, by David Adler

My Name is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter, by Jeanette Winter


Rocks in His Head, by Carol Hurst


Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin


Cleopatra, by Peter Vennema and Diane Stanley


Additional Resources:

Scholastic: Writing an Autobiography

Telling a Story About Me: Young Children Write Autobiographies

How Do Kids Write an Autobiography About Themselves?

Wordless Books and Writers

As I mentioned in a previous post, wordless books are a writing prompt I like to use with my students.

The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney is a beautifully illustrated text. The few “words” it uses to add additional meaning to the pictures are animal sounds. This version of one of Aesop’s fables provides a creative backdrop for students to build upon as they write the story they see.

Writing Activities:

  • Provide pairs of students with a copy of the text and a stack of sticky notes. Direct them to write dialogue for the characters, placing the sticky notes at appropriate spots on the pages of the story.
  • Scan and shrink each page of the book to create a story-board. Assign a page to each pair/group of students. Direct them to add a descriptive text block. (A discussion and/or exploration of picture book texts prior to this activity would provide students with some models to work from.)
  • After sharing this and other versions of this fable, encourage students to write their own versions of the story. (Can they think of another pair of animals who would make good main characters – typically are enemies but would also have skills useful to each other? What other settings could this story work in?)


Additional Activity Ideas:

  • Create a Venn diagram detailing the characteristics of the lion and the mouse.
  • Identify the various cause-and-effect scenarios included in this story.


More Resources:

The Lion and the Mouse – philanthropy lesson plan

The Lion and the Mouse – spelling and grammar lesson plan

The Lion and the Mouse Printable Crafts – preschool activities

The Lion and the Mouse – activities and worksheets

Happy Fall!

It’s time to celebrate the season of colorful leaves, ripened pumpkins, hot spiced cider, bonfires, rain puddles, and so much more…

Here are a few resources to help bring the magic of autumn into your classroom:

A is for Autumn, by Robert Maass


Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, by Steven Schnur

Look What I Did with a Leaf! by Morteza E. Sohi     (I love this book!)


Every Autumn Comes the Bear, by Jim Arnosky


Time to Sleep, by Denise Fleming


Education World: Autumn Lesson Ideas

The Teachers Corner: Fall Activities and Lesson Plans

The Teacher’s Guide: Fall Lesson Plans and Ideas

Once upon a time…

When I was young, I hated writing. The process of putting my thoughts into words to fill page after page of blank paper with creatively worded prose that flowed and was error-free was laborious and headache-inducing for me. Looking back I can see that some of my troubles came from being a perfectionist. I did not like to put pencil to paper until I had created the perfect sentence in my mind. For whatever reason, the whole revision and editing process was not a part of my view of what writing was. This combined with the frightful “What am I going to write about?!” thoughts made me greatly dislike each and every writing activity that came along.

Thankfully, over the years, my views of writing have changed. I still tend to spend more time thinking than writing (or typing), but I have come to value the revision process and the creativity that comes with putting words together to paint a picture and convey just the right meaning. And although I do not call myself a writer, writing is no longer on my “hate” list, and I have come to find that I really enjoy teaching writing and helping my students learn about the process and explore their talents in this area.

Some of my favorite writing lessons come from children’s books. The illustrations provide great visuals for story starters, and the shorter plot lines and creative characters can be used to teach about various writing styles and story parts.

The following books are ones I have enjoyed using in my classroom:

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg

Each spread contains a detailed drawing and a short caption – great for sparking young writers’ imaginations. See more about Van Allsburg’s books here.


Tuesday, by David Weisner

Story line is “written” in words and pictures and provides young writers with an opportunity to write the next “chapter.” See more about David Wiesner’s books here.

Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street, by Roni Schotter

Provides young writers with story ideas and a good reminder to pay attention to the small details.


Voices in the Park, by Anthony Browne

Creative look at perspectives in writing


Resources for visual writing prompts:

Picture Prompt Story Starters

Writing Prompts: For the Right Brain

Visual Writing Prompts

Inviting Creativity: Some Assembly Required

Looking for a visual way to guide your students through the writing process? Check out this link: Play-Doh and the Writing Process. It details the similarities between writing and creating a sculpture and provides a unique way to help writers get their creative juices flowing.

If this sparks your interest, you may want to check out these links, too:

The Writing Process Visual

Hasbro PK-K Lesson Plans


New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne was written to honor the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11. This story of the 19th century legendary New York firefighter Mose Humphreys explores the themes of bravery, courage, hope, and honor.


See the following links for lesson plan ideas:

Random House Teacher’s Guide

Learning from the Challenges of Our Times (see pages 15-16)

Looking for more lesson plans? See my post from last week.


And for a different perspective, you may want to check out I Was Born on 9/11, by Cindy L. Rodriguez.

How do you teach about September 11th in your class? Do you have a book or activity that you find especially helpful?

In Remembrance

As I turned the calendar today, the date jumped out at me.

September 11, 2011

It is hard for me to believe that ten years have passed. Life is so different than it used to be, but our younger students haven’t known it any other way.

The following is a collection of resources that can be used to teach about the location and/or events of that fateful day:

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordicai Gerstein

“Man on Wire” Remembers Twin Towers  – pictures and videos

The Little Chapel that Stood, by A. B. Curtiss  [click here and here for lesson plans based on this story]

Lesson Plans

9/11/2001: The Day that Changed America

9/11 Education Materials

Remembering September 11

September 11: Bearing Witness to History

September 11th Theme Lesson Plans

Teaching 9/11: Lessons to Inspire Your Students

Another text I like to use as a tie-in to Patriot Day and the President’s call to Americans to commit to serving our communities and nation is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.

Miss Rumphius’ mission to make the world more beautiful is a great way to inspire students to create their own plans for how they will positively impact our world.

Moments of silence, increased vigilance, and a focus on service to others… what better way to honor and remember those who our nation has lost.