Prompts for reading, speaking, and thinking

I have spent a lot of time over the past few years experimenting with different prompts to help aid discussion, writing and higher-level thinking. What I have found to be the most interesting/challenging aspect is the close relationship between those three modes.

  • Students need frequent dedicated time in the classroom to practice speaking and writing at the upper levels of Bloom’s taxonomy to help them develop a habit of insightful and reflective thinking.
  • Speaking and writing are strongly interrelated. The prompts below can easily be used for either mode of communication. However, students need dedicated time to practice both. Reflective writing does not automatically transfer to deep and meaningful conversation…and vice versa.
  • My experience has been that verbal discussion is the hardest of the three modes to facilitate, even when students are writing and thinking at a high level. It is particularly challenging to get students to truly listen and respond to each other, rather than just wait in line to share their own thoughts. Authentic student-centered discussion that does not bottleneck through me is the gold standard. I have only had it happen a few times in as many years…but it is wonderful when it does happen.


Learning Log Prompts – These prompts are intended for students to summarize the daily lesson as an exit ticket. My experience is that students need at least five minutes to answer two prompts, so I generally do not have time to do this activity every day. However, even two or three times a week can generate great results. I have students maintain their learning logs in a seperate journal that stays in the classroom. It is especially useful to give students time once a month or quarter to look back over their journals and reflect on what they’ve learned, or any patterns they see.

Learning Log Prompts


Pick a Strategy – This is my favorite way to introduce the idea of talking to the text. Students particularly like the opportunity to draw and share illustrations.

Pick a Strategy


Text Annotation Prompts – This past year I had my first attempt at close reading, and I wish that I would have had this list of prompts for that activity!

Text Annotation

Modified from: ‏@KyleneBeers When to annotate a text


Conversation Prompts – I have used similar prompts in the past to facilitate written dialogue on Edmodo, but I have not yet used them formally in verbal discussions. That is definitely a goal for next year though.

Conversation Stems

Modified from: ‏Teach Thought – 26 Sentence Stems for Higher-Level Conversation in the Classroom

Comments and feedback welcome!

6 thoughts on “Prompts for reading, speaking, and thinking

  1. Thanks for your efforts in bringing a “learning community” among educators to Pennridge. You will be missed as a teacher to both kids and colleagues David. Best wishes!

    Tom Rutter

  2. Very good stuff. This is a dreadfully overlooked challenge you have offered insight for. Thanks for you’re efforts.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing these most impressive and helpful prompts, Dave. I’ll be directed my fall English ed methods students to your blog and also asking you to come in to Teacher as Researcher in the Spring to talk about how you have integrated your edublog into your action research. I call your blog Walp 3.0! 🙂

  4. Having great ideas for the classroom is satisfying. Sharing them is professional, not just priceless. Thank you!

  5. Thanks all for the comments, and to polyglotmom for the helpful tip.

    Please let me know if you try any of these strategies in your classrooms…and how it works out if you do! Also, I am always looking for new ideas for reflective writing if you have any links or resources.

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