Picture Book Prompts
Picture book prompts
are a great way to introduce fun writing activities for students of all ages. After all, who doesn't enjoy a good picture book? They develop background knowledge, build vocabulary and get students excited about sharing their own personal experiences. Try one as a springboard into your next daily writing activity. Teacher's Guide
Older elementary students, particularly boys, will enjoy this approach on the ABC book. This book
shares with its reader’s twenty-six, one-of-a-kind defenders, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet. Not only does the Superhero start with a letter of the alphabet but their unusual skills do as well. For example, Bad boys beware, Bubble-man to the rescue, he’s bald and blows big bubbles at bullies. The illustrations in this book draw real appeal as well in their colorful comic-book style. Sharing this read-aloud will get the attention of even your most reluctant writers. You’ll be a hero as you excite your young writers to soar to new heights in their creativity. See more ABC books with prompts
Have your students create their own superhero and tell of their adventures.
Post a paper for each letter and have students add descriptive super-hero words that start with that letter.
Have your students try their hand at a comic book.
The Black Book of Colors
approaches the challenge of color descriptions in a whole new way. Instead of answering the question what does red, yellow or green look like? This book answers the question by how does red feel, or taste, or smell.
At first glance, every page in this book appears black except for the text written in white. Upon closer inspection the eye and more important the finger can detect raised black line drawings done in glossy black on the black paper. The area above the text contains the Braille translation. Students love feeling the Braille and the Braille alphabet is included at the back of this book.
What a great springboard in getting students to develop their written imagery.
Students of all ages could describe a color using their sense of smell, taste and feel. Included with your students written description could be a simple illustration done with Elmer’s glue on black paper.
In The Empty Pot, Demi creates a wonderful story about a little Chinese boy named Ping who lived in a land of beautiful and fragrant flowers. Ping loves flowers and he grows beautiful ones. The elderly Emperor, unable to choose his successor himself decides to let the flowers choose.
All the children come to the palace where they were each given a seed and a challenge that whoever could show the emperor their ‘best’ in a year would inherit his throne.
In the year that follows Ping tries hard but in spite of his best efforts Ping’s seed produces nothing. On the day set aside to return to the palace Ping is ashamed as he sees child after child carrying their beautiful and varied blossoms. Upon the advice of his father Ping presents his empty pot ‘as his best’.
After surveying the multitude of beautiful flowers the Emperor spies Ping's offering and reveals that the seed given each child the year earlier had been cooked and would have never produced the fragrant blooms they displayed. Ping’s honesty and hard work qualified him as the one worthy to be the Emperor.
Sometimes being honest is hard. Tell about a time you were honest.
Have you ever tried your best and felt like you failed?
, written by Peter Golenbock and illustrated by Paul Bacon recounts a moving event in the history of sport. It happened during a 1947 baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play on a major league baseball team, after enduring the hostility that came with that change, was publicly welcomed by his teammate, Pee Wee Reese in front of a stadium full of baseball fans near Pee Wee’s hometown.
This account captures the courage, strength and talent of Jackie Robinson and the sense of fairness of Pee Wee Reese. This book makes one want to cheer its heroes for their bravery and most important for their friendship despite the racial climate in which they lived.
Students will learn much as they hear this story and realize its reality in the photos mixed in with the paintings that illustrate this lovely book, a nice addition to any library.
Have you ever misjudged someone?
Have you ever been misjudged?
Have you taken a stand for someone, or has someone taken a stand for you. Tell about it.
What makes a real friend?
Tell either a real story or fictionalized story of a friend.
In My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza. It appears to be piglet’s unlucky day as he ‘stumbles’ onto the doorstep of fox.
Piglet takes an unfortunate situation, and by carefully tricking Fox finishes the day with a hot bath, a big meal and a nice massage.
After thoroughly wearing out Fox, Piglet makes a hasty escape and plans his next day while sitting in front of his warm fire eating cookies.
What is the luckiest thing that has ever happened to you?
Sometimes it takes a lot of hard work to have something look ‘lucky’. Tell about a time when you worked really hard to accomplish something.
Tell about a time that you played a trick on someone.
Tell about a time someone played a trick on you.
A tall tale gets even taller in The Bunyans, written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by David Shannon. What happened to Paul Bunyan and his great blue ox Babe after clearing land for the early settlers? This story answers that question.
Paul meets the love of his life, Carrie McIntie. They settle down and have a jumbo boy named Little Jean and a gigantic girl named Teeny.
Family life for the Bunyans is anything but routine. The Bunyans carve their niche across the country as they create, Niagara Falls, Bryce Canyon, Big Sur, the continental divide and other American landmarks.
This book asks the question, where is Little Jean now? A fun tall tale that will get your students thinking about what could be the rest of the story.
Write a tall tale explaining how something came to be.
Tell about Little Jeans adventures in a new frontier.
Write a new chapter from the life of the Bunyans.
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
is another delightful book from the author Mo Willems. In this story, little Trixie goes with her father to the laundromat. In a format that mixes real photographs with cartoon like drawings, one becomes acquainted with setting and sequence.
Of course, after loading the washing machine, Knuffle, the constant companion of Trixie, comes up missing unbeknownst to Trixie’s father.
Trixie, who is too young to verbalize her distress, causes a scene. After arriving at home mom notices the prized possession is missing and so their steps are retraced. Fortunately life is set back in balance after a search in the washing machine results in the retrieval of the beloved companion.
For students unfamiliar with city life, the photographs provide great background knowledge.
Students could tell about a favorite stuffed animal, security blanket, or object that is very important to them.
Have you ever lost something very dear to you?
This award winning book by Mem Fox tells about the pirate, Tough Boris. He’s tough, scary, scruffy and greedy but when his pirates steal a young boy’s violin he meets his match.
The boy learns that even the roughest, toughest pirate mourns the loss of a friend, his parrot. The boy’s talent and compassion touch the pirate and the boy and the violin are returned home. The boy learns a valuable lesson. Even pirates cry and sometimes little boys.
What a great springboard for a discussion about things that makes one sad. Have your students write about just such a time. What did they learn through this experience?
Maybe they want to try their pen and imagination and write about what they think a pirate’s life is all about.
This story, written by Barbara Shook Hazen and illustrated by Janet Stevens, is about Wally, the Worry-Warthog. Wally worries about a lot of things, like what might live under the suspension bridge on the way to school. He carries rocks in his pocket just in case the saber-toothed trolls he assumes live under the bridge give him any trouble. However, he mostly worries about Wilberforce Warthog.
Wally’s misconceptions about Wilberforce are dissolved when they run into each other in the middle of the suspension bridge and they discover a budding friendship and how to confront their worries.
What worries do we have that are worries and what worries might just be misconceptions.
Have you ever misjudged someone and they turned out to be a good friend.
What worries you the most?
You might have your students illustrate and define well-known idioms before reading Monkey Business, written and illustrate by Wallace Edwards. A list of Idioms is easy enough to find on-line.
Reading this book before their writing experience should give your students a good base of understanding in what idioms are. The idioms used in the book are defined and explained at the back of the book.
Monkey Business is a feast for the eyes while teaching your students about idioms. The text is humorous and the illustrations are wonderfully rich in color and character. Each page highlights a different idiom. In addition to learning about idioms your students will enjoy searching for the hidden monkey in each illustration.
If I Built a Car
tells the story, in rhyming form, about a boy named Jack and his plans to improve a car design by incorporating all things his imagination and interests will allow: a pool, a snack bar, a fish tank and more. It’s safe, it’s sleek.
The car comes complete with a robot that can drive. It can fly, float or even ‘submerge’.
So the question is, if you built a car, what would it do? What would it look like?
Tell about a new invention?
Take a machine or object that you use every day and make a new and improved model.
Encourage your students to write something in rhyming form.
What do you like to do when you travel in the car?
Tell about a place you visited on a road trip.
Listen to the Rain
, a beautifully written book about the sound of rain.
The artistry of language, with words by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault compliment the illustrations by James Endicott in this soothing book.
The detailed descriptions of rain sounds that begin softly, build as the storm intensifies, and finally grow silent will amaze you. So powerfully written, each word is drenched with meaning.
Challenge your students to describe the wind, a lake in summer, a sunrise, a sunny day, or a blizzard using the same descriptive tone as this book.
Talk about onomatopoeia, the melody of text, rhyme, alliterations. Note how these literary techniques are used in this book.
Have students try simple sentences using these techniques.
is a quick read.
Much of the story, authored by Marla Frazee, is captured in its illustrations. It is a great example however of the recounting of a simple experience in ones life.
If you’ve experienced one of these rides, you can certainly relate to this story, a great springboard for student writing.
Who doesn’t love an amusement park? Students will have plenty to tell about their trip to an amusement park.
What were your feelings the first time you rode on a particular ride?
Your students can probably identify with one of the riders in this book. Are they confident, unafraid? Or does the thought of certain rides scare them to death?
Maybe they would like to tell about an amusement park that they design.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
Have you ever had a conversation with a pigeon? Mo Willems creates a fun story line for you to do so.
On the title page the bus driver instructs you to watch the bus until he gets back and make sure that you “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”.
The pigeon starts right up with the pleading, reasoning, and defense of why he should drive the bus. The pigeon is fairly passionate.
This book is a great illustration of using conversation in writing. For the younger writer it is a fun tool in the reviewing and teaching contractions and also the use of the exclamation mark.
Use this book as a springboard to persuasive writing.
Wemberly Worried, by Kevin Henkes is a great book and would be a great writing prompt for the first of a school year (especially the lower grades).
Wemberly is a cute, little mouse that worries about everything. She finds some solace in her stuffed bunny, Petal, but still worries. She especially worries about starting school. Wemberly makes a new friend, Jewel and her worried expression changes to a smile.
Have worries ever kept you from doing something that you wanted to do?
Tell about a time you were worried and what made you feel better?
The Important Book
was written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard.
Originally copyrighted in 1949, it makes for a fun writing exercise in today’s classroom. The organization of the text is easily adapted for most elementary aged students.
Ms. Brown takes a common object or part of nature and then answers the question; the important thing about _____ is ____. After opening with what she feels is the most important characteristic she lists several supporting characteristics finishing the thought by repeating the opening statement.
The format of this book illustrates a quick and great approach to organization of thoughts, word choice and description in writing. She ends the book answering the question, what is the most important thing about you?
You might try having an assortment of objects available for your students to write about, or have them choose an object they see in the classroom or out the window.
It might be fun, if, before reading the final page in the book your students write their own answer to the question, what is the most important thing about you? Then read their responses and follow it up with Ms. Brown’s version.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge
, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Julie Vivas, is a tender, thought provoking story of a little boy that lives next door to an ‘old people’s home’ and befriends the residents who live there.
In particular Gordon grows very close to Miss Nancy, as he called her, because she had four names just like him. Learning one day that Miss Nancy had lost her memory, Gordon goes on a search to find out what memory is and then to find it.
Filling a box with treasures that answer what others have told him memory is, Gordon and Nancy have a sweet afternoon ‘recovering’ her memory from the things in the box.
Tell about an elderly person that you have befriended and what you have learned from them.
Interview one of your grandparents and write a story about their childhood.
What do you love about your grandmother?
What do you love about your grandfather?
Like Gordon, what would you choose that represents something from long ago, something that makes you cry, something that makes you laugh, something warm, and something that is as precious as gold?
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