Friday, January 16, 2015

Writing Prompts Made Fun Again: Brown Paper PackagesTied Up With String!

I'm Gina, of PerfettoWritingRoom. I love writing, I love to teach writing, and there is nothing I love more that to see students' faces get that "aha!" moment when they're inspired with a unique idea that is all their own. And if you've ever felt the crushing agony of defeat that follows a failed writing prompt, you might just be tempted to read on a little further. Here's a picture of me:

Happy in a Bookstore, Of course!
Special thanks today to Minds In Bloom for co-hosting this article! One of the very best blogs on the block if I do say so myself. I am linking here - Please click to see all of their fascinating and educational guest posts and posts by Rachel Lynette. Here is her logo:

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Get Ready - Get Set - GO!

My most inspired writing project is a freebie I'm sharing with you today. Calling it a prompt isn't fair. Truly it is an EXPERIENCE that is mysterious, delightful, sometimes frightening and at last enlightening. For this reason, it challenges each student on their own personal level. Whether a student is in 5th grade or 50 years old, this can be a critical writing and also a creative writing experience for all. 


Minimum of one item for each student
One Brown paper bag per item so that item are not visible. 
Instructions, step by step
Plenty of paper
One class period for this portion. 

TIPS: students can each bring in an item. Or you can bring in an item. The more these plane, shapes, weights, and dimensions these items have, the better. Small boxes with other items inside, natural elements, fascinating and differing textures open up a new level for writing.

EXAMPLES of great items used in the past: 

old plastic film cases (remember those?) with something else inside

beaded or charm bracelets

natural items - pine cones, rocks that have odd crevices or stripes, a knot of wood, a shell, etc.

magnifying glass 


perfume vial or test tub with a cork

a fishing fly or lure

small camera (old, not a modern one)

wooden 3-dimensional puzzle from the dollar store

Embroidered or high-texture items (again, whenever you can place one item inside of another, that's the best).

Here's just a FEW ITEMS  I have in my MYSTERY BAGS RIGHT NOW!! Along with some Simple Directions: 

Are you ready to get started?

*WE All Like a Little Drama! *

When students enter, they must NOT sit. Rather, they will all walk around their desks, placing their hands inside each bag, quietly feeling the contents of each bag. No talking or peeking inside! Each student must choose the item they think would be the most interesting to write about. The mystery of the entire endeavor is what piques students' interest. Once each student has chosen, they will sit down with the bag and the item STILL safely inside. 

Step One

While the students have one hand inside the bag: "Write a tactile description using your hand and all of your faculties, oh, but not your eyes!" This means they can weigh it, feel for texture, knock it on the desk, roll it around, etc. It does in fact require a new way of thinking, especially NOW that they cannot use their eyes. This is descriptive writing and critical thinking. 

Step Two

NOW students may take the item out of the bag. Tell them: "REALLY Look at it. Skip a line on your paper for Step Two. For sentence one, please state what the item it. Now, use your language skills to describe this item. Consider, color, length, weight, height or more. Where might it have come from?"

Step Three

Now students will use figurative language. Tell them that they are allowed to begin with silly or obvious similes or metaphors, but as a few minutes tick by, they should try to stretch their abilities. "Really push yourself. You may use simile, metaphor, personification, more, to describe the items color, shape, texture, or other features."

Step Four

Here is the surprise. The item you are looking at - well, I HATE TO TELL you this -  isn't what you think it is AT ALL. It is... 

A. a KEY to unlock something of great potential/power 
B. an object with a secret history, held by someone who is only able to tell 
     its story to one person on his or her deathbed 
C. a super-spy device of use in an important mission 
D. an object that will bring peace to a planet 
E. essential for some civilization's utter survival . . .

Our FREEBIE has options that go up to the letter "N." Or come up with your own!

 The Student GOAL IS TO WRITE A STORY USING ONE OF THESE OPTIONS.  Have characters, a goal, plot, dialogue, etc.


Students will get at least to the beginning of Step Four by the End of the Period. For homework or Day Two, have students write a story, and share! I hope you enjoy this free resource. I know your students will. Feel free to stop by, pick it up, and like it or rate it!

Yours in Teaching and Writing