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A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

How to Inspire Strong Writing Using Video Writing Prompts

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.

~Ignacio Estrada

Have you ever seen a beautiful sunset that initiated a flood of emotions—and adjectives? If so, you experienced a prompt from nature that sent signals to your brain to engage you in thought and provoke actions. It may surprise you to learn that the color purple sparks creative thought. Next time your students have writer’s block, pass out the purple pens. An article in the ThinkQuest library provides a list of how other colors impact brain function and emotion. Understanding how visuals impact our thoughts has led to new teaching strategies in classrooms around the world.

Engaging students has been a challenge for teachers since structured teaching began. Finding innovative ways to keep students interested and improve writing skills, continues to be a challenge today. Enter video writing prompts. Teaching—and developing—writing skills from kindergarten through college incorporates prompts in some form. Teachers can use videos to break through learning barriers for more students.

Some students are profoundly affected by the addition of video to lessons in the classroom. Autistic children and learners with special needs often response well to video prompts along with standard written ideas. Heidi McDonald, an educator with 22 years of experience teaching around the globe, created and manages Unique Teaching Resources. Her online resources include writing prompts to encourage learning—learning about holidays, heroes, history and more. She encourages teachers to create a stimulating and engaging environment for students. Video prompts are engaging, colorful, and often inspire students to explore new ways to thinking and writing about the world. has dozens of videos that are suitable for use as video writing prompts. Below are five examples that show the diverse material available for download.

Video 1 VW Commercial

K-2 This video has a child dressed like Darth Vader roaming through the house trying mind control on the dog, a doll, and the washing machine. The clip is a commercial with a surprise ending. The writing prompt is to think of other villains in movies.

For Grade 3-5: The challenge would be to write about moving objects with your mind and how it would make life easier.

Video 2 Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream Speech”

For Grade 3-5: Students are prompt to list examples of figures of speech including similes, analogies, metaphors and allusions from the speech clip they hear.

For 9-12 graders: The challenge is to list dreams and injustices present today and at least 5 images of the ideal American society.

Video 3 Derby Day

K-2 This video shows a Kentucky Derby race featuring Animal Kingdom and Comma to the Top. The assignment is to choose a name for your own race horse and draw a picture of him to share with the class.

Video 4 Colbert Go To Congress

Grade 6-8: This video is intended to spark critical thinking about to improve schools, making them better learning environments. Students are asked to write a persuasive argument in two paragraphs.

Video 5 Paul’s Future Forecasts

Grade 6-8: Students view a video about an octopus that is an oracle-predicting sports games. They are asked to write about future ways the octopus makes predictions.

Monda Fason believes in writing prompts. Her website, Easy Street Prompts was started as part of the Great Bear Writing Project. Art Peterson, writer for the National Writing Project, reports Fason thinks “[M]ore open-ended prompts inspire the strongest student writing. . . give writers enough to begin with and then let them create.”

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