Most educators would agree that trying to wrangle a class of third graders long enough to get them to sit down and write about something is difficult in and of itself. Having them write about something that’s boring or lame only makes the problem worse. In reality, some individuals (even educators) can sometimes have a difficult time remembering that third graders are young, but they have an ability to see things in a way that most adults forgot a long time ago. By giving them writing prompts that are engaging, the work that they’re capable of doing is nothing short of amazing. It really comes down to giving them something that will hold their attention long enough to let them shine.
Below are a number of writing prompts that will keep kids of this age engaged. Remember, it’s also important not to assign essays that feel like they go on forever, especially for kids in this age bracket. There are countless numbers of writing prompts that can be used but in this particular case, here are 20 of them that should keep your class interested for some time. In fact, they might soon discover that they really enjoy writing essays when they have a chance to write about something that actually resonates with them.
20. Write about something that makes you feel happy.
Everyone has that special something that makes them feel happy almost instantly. The thing is, not everyone is willing to share that information out loud with all of their classmates. As a teacher, you can remedy that situation by having your students write about something that makes them happy. If you’re worried that some of them might not be willing to share that information, reassure them that their essays don’t need to be read out loud. This is a great way to get quieter individuals to open up about things that are truly meaningful to them.
19. Tell a story about your pet.
Virtually any third grader who has a pet will be more than happy to write about it. Of course, this is not a topic that will work well for every kid in the class, as not everyone has a pet. However, it does work well if you give them the option along with a few others. That way, those who do have pets and choose to write about them can become more invested in doing so.
18. Think of a challenge you’ve had to overcome and discuss how you did it.
Every person has challenges that they must overcome. It would be a mistake to assume that third graders have never found themselves in a similar situation just because they are young. The reality is that children even younger than them have challenges that must be faced. Asking them how they got things sorted is a great way to open up a discussion that reminds them that they can indeed overcome obstacles when life hands them something unexpected.
17. Talk about something you would like to learn how to do.
There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t have a desire to learn how to do something new. When one of your students writes about this topic, they are giving you a glimpse into the very heart of their soul. In essence, they are telling you what they are interested in and in some cases, what they think they are good at doing. This in turn gives you the opportunity to incorporate some of these things into your curriculum. For example, if a student really wants to learn a musical instrument or another language, you might be able to help enrich their life by pointing them in the right direction.
16. Describe a time when someone was kind to you. How did it affect you?
We all remember those moments when we’re having a bad day and someone shows a little extra kindness. No one would argue the fact that there are times when that extra bit of kindness is the only thing a person needs to brighten their day. Sometimes, it means so much to the individual in question that they remember it for the rest of their life. Give your students a chance to write about a time when someone was kind to them. Be sure to ask them how it affected them by asking them to write in detail about how it made them feel and even whether or not it changed their outlook on something, either for the day or on a more permanent basis.
15. Write a story, but in only five sentences.
This just might be one of the more fun assignments your students have all year long. Have them think of a story that has a distinct beginning, middle and end. The kicker is that they have to be able to tell that story in no more than five sentences. Do your best to get them to try and create something that actually makes sense, but don’t be afraid to have fun with it. You’ll likely be quite surprised with the things some of them come up with.
14. Describe how you’ve been feeling this week.
Everyone has weeks when it seems like everything is coming together for them. Unfortunately, we all also have weeks when it seems like nothing goes quite right. The same thing is true for kids, even as young as third grade. Ask them to write about how they’ve been feeling throughout the week. Make sure they know that it’s okay to talk about their feelings openly and honestly.
13. Talk about something that scares you.
There are people in this world who try to act like nothing ever scares them. The truth is, they’re not being honest with themselves or anyone else. That’s because everyone is scared of something. The earlier kids realize that it’s okay to talk about the things that scare them, the easier it will ultimately be for them to deal with those subjects. Let them know that it doesn’t matter if they’re afraid of monsters under their bed or something entirely different, it’s okay. By writing about it, they can often figure out a way to handle the situation that empowers them.
12. What do you do when someone upsets you?
It would be nice if no one ever upset us, but that is unfortunately not how the world works. There are times when someone might say something unkind or play a prank that shows little regard for the victim. The important thing is to help your students realize that they are only victims if they choose to be. One of the first steps in realizing that is to have them right everything down so they can sort through their own feelings.
11. Talk about something that makes you sad.
On the surface, it seems like it would be nice if no one ever had to feel sad. However, it wouldn’t be possible to truly appreciate the joyous moments in life without also experiencing the ones that cause sadness. Have a short lecture about the necessity of experiencing both emotions and then give your students the chance to write an essay about it.
10. What do you do to cheer yourself up when you feel unhappy?
When a person feels unhappy, they basically have two options available to them. They can give in to those negative emotions or they can do something that is likely to help them feel better. Since being unhappy is unpleasant, most people would far prefer the latter. Ask your students what they do to help themselves cheer up when they’re feeling down. You might even start by giving some examples of things you do when you need to cheer up. Part of this assignment is to get them to open up about their feelings. However, it is just as much about helping them find healthy ways of coping with negative emotions.
9. Talk about something you did this week that made you feel proud.
Students should learn early on that it’s okay to feel happy about their accomplishments. It’s always a good idea to be humble, but it’s equally important to have a healthy amount of self-confidence and belief in oneself. That comes from learning how to have pride in accomplishing something without letting it go to your head. This assignment is a great way to practice that skill that centers around something specific the student has done.
8. Discuss your favorite animal.
Most of your students are likely to have a favorite animal. This may or may not be a pet, so it’s imperative to distinguish between the two. Give your students a chance to write about their favorite animal in detail. If they want to dive a little deeper, you can even make it a short research paper. Perhaps you can even use some of their papers as a springboard to start classroom conservation efforts that get kids involved.
7. Discuss something you feel like you can’t live without.
Most people have something they can’t live without. For some, it’s a certain person. For others, it’s a passion. Give each child a chance to write about someone or something that makes their life feel more complete. Ask them to talk about why that certain individual or passion is so important to them.
6. Do you think you should have to do homework in the third grade?
You probably think that most of your students will tell you no, and you might even be correct. That said, you may also be surprised at some of the answers you will get, especially when the students know that they don’t have to read their essays out loud in front of the class. At the very least, you’re likely to be entertained by some of the answers.
5. What kind of movies do you like to watch?
For some kids, movies provide an escape for daily life. Even in healthier home situations, they can still serve as important reminders that imagination and art are absolutely necessary to fulfill the soul. Ask your students which types of movies they like to watch best. You might even ask them if they have a favorite movie that they watch again and again. If you’re lucky, a select few of them will choose to take things a step further and tell why a particular movie is so important.
4. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Don’t we all have that special place we wish we could travel to at a moment’s notice? See what happens in the minds of your students when you ask them to write about this prompt. You might get some that have real destinations as their favorite places. Others might decide to invent their own “perfect” place that exists in their mind. Either way, you have the gift of reading about all of them.
3. What would you do if you could travel back in time?
Most kids really love this one. It gives them the chance to talk about things they might wish they could have witnessed first-hand. In other cases, it’s an opportunity to discuss the fun involved with the idea that one could travel back and forth through time. It might resonate better with some students than with others, but the whole class is likely to have a good time.
2. What types of things scare you?
It’s always important to learn how to face your fears head-on. Unfortunately, anyone who doesn’t learn to come to terms with their fears will eventually be controlled by them. This gives kids an opportunity to learn how to identify such things at an early age.
1. Talk about why it’s important to ask for help when you need it.
Just as it is crucial that everyone learns how to face their fears, so too must they learn to ask for help from time to time. There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t need help sometimes. Learning how to ask for it is often one of the more difficult things a person must do. The earlier they learn to do this, the easier it is likely to be for them.