Designing Effective Writing Prompts for Boys — Christopher Zamore, Belmont Hill School, United States

  • Writing (2009-10)

In this action research project, I began with the question: “What elements of a writing prompt might help boys set out confidently at the beginning of the writing process?” To explore this question, I wrote a series of thirty-five writing prompts that describe topics for an intensive writing course spanning a fifteen-week American semester. The prompts included questions to help students approach a topic and examples from professional writing and past student work to serve as models or solutions to a topic and its challenges. The course and the prompts I designed for it both work from the premise that intensive practice will help boys become powerful and prolific writers. With the prompts, I wanted to help boys in that initial moment of uncertainty that all writers feel when they face a blank page at the beginning of creation. The questions and considerations on the prompt offer an attempt to help them delimit a topic with speed and clarity, and the examples of past writing serve as points of inspiration, giving them confidence as they begin to write. Students in two sections of the class evaluated the prompts in surveys, sharing their thoughts about what which parts of the prompts were most effective in helping them get started and what role the prompt played in helping to initiate an essay. I followed up the surveys by interviewing students about their experience with the prompts. 

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