When most people think of writing, they imagine someone happily tapping away at the keyboard as they fill page after page with brilliant prose. However, anyone who’s stared down a blank page knows there’s a long process between coming up with ideas and turning those ideas into coherent sentences.
That’s where freewriting comes in. Freewriting pushes students to get words down on paper in order to come up with ideas and practice writing sentences (even if they’re not perfect yet). Freewriting prompts can be a great exercise either for writing journals or as a warm-up for other writing assignments.
Dr. Peter Elbow developed freewriting in the 1970s as a brain exercise to get the creative and critical thinking synapses firing. Unlike in brainstorming, the goal of freewriting is to practice writing in complete sentences and paragraphs—and to keep writing no matter what, even when you don’t know where your thoughts might lead. According to Eric Grunwald, this exercise increases the flow of ideas and also helps develop fluency in ELL students.
- Relaxes the mind: We’ve all heard of the “inner critic”: that voice in your head that tells you your ideas and abilities just aren’t up to snuff. Freewriting helps you break past the critic because your goal isn’t perfection; it’s exploration.
- Exercises creativity: Once students get past the inner critic, they may be surprised by the depth and breadth of ideas they come up with. We don’t often think of creativity as a muscle we can exercise, but it is. Freewriting lets students practice trying out different ideas, seeing what works, and running with their gut.
- Builds confidence: How many times have you heard students say “But I don’t know what to write about” or “But I suck at writing”? Freewriting helps to dispel these myths students build up in their heads. When they practice writing sentences and coming up with ideas over and over, they’ll be ready to do the same when they take on bigger writing projects.
25 Freewriting Prompts
Note: Some of these prompts are written with younger learners in mind, but you can easily adapt them for middle or high school students, or to match what you’re reading in class.
- Write a story about a painting. For example, what’s going on in that town depicted in Starry Night?
- Pretend a robot lives at your house. What’s that like?
- Which planet is your favorite? Why?
- A dog will answer three questions. What do you ask?
- What would life be like without the Internet?
- Rewrite Maurice Sendak’s most famous book from the perspective of the Wild Things.
- Describe a dream you never had.
- A cat offers you advice. What does he or she say?
- Write a letter to your future self 20 years from today.
- You walk into a room without light. Describe what you can touch, hear, and smell.
- You can have dinner with one cartoon character. Who would you choose?
- The dinosaurs never went extinct. What’s life like today?
- What kind of music would a dog like? Why?
- What’s the strangest flavor of ice cream you can imagine?
- Squirrels grow ten sizes overnight. What ruckus happens then?
- You wake up president of the United States. What’s your first act?
- You’re the teacher for the day. What are we going to learn in class?
- Which Ninja Turtle would win a game of Monopoly?
- Write a Winnie the Pooh story in Tigger’s/Piglet’s/Eeyore’s voice.
- Write a paragraph using as many adjectives as you can.
- Write a sequel to “The Three Little Pigs.” How do they rebuild? Does the wolf stand trial?
- The school’s floor turns to butterscotch pudding. What happens?
- You find out your classmate is a friendly werewolf. How do you react?
- Someone replaces the shampoo with quick-drying cement. Describe your day after.
- The Big and Little Dippers are now water slides. Describe your trip to the celestial water park.