Using picture prompts to excite student writers on Google Drive & Classroom

How to teach writing and excite student writers in Google Drive & Google Classroom

It’s the same thing every year for me- my girls love writing while my boys… well… hate it. Every September I have the same conference critiques with parents in writing, and they express the same concerns with me. “My child is a reluctant writer- he/she has fabulous ideas, but they simply can’t figure out how to put those ideas onto paper.” I knew that I needed a change to get my students practicing writing. I began to use picture prompts through Google Classroom. Picture prompts were something that worked for my students and could be used weekly so that students understood and knew the routine. Not sure what I mean? Read on!

How to teach writing and excite student writers in Google Drive & Google ClassroomThe idea of using real-life pictures as prompts has been around for a few years now. I remember during a school meeting, one of my fellow teammates mentioned how she loved using real-life pictures to help spark students’ writing and work on those oh-so-difficult inferencing skills. I can see why! Real-life pictures automatically gain a student’s attention, and naturally as humans we start to wonder, “what is happening in this picture?” I am an enormous Google Classroom advocate, so I started looking for ways to use this idea with Google Classroom. Unfortunately, I did not find much available. Finding 40 pictures and making a new assignment for students every week felt daunting. I ended up creating my own to address this need. If you want to save the time, you can also find my product on TPT!


I knew that I needed something to make my students WANT to write, to practice writing in a way that didn’t seem “boring.” My students love looking at non-fiction books complete with lots of graphics and pictures. I have seen fellow teachers and peers use picture prompts to help excite students and give them an idea what to write about. I KNEW that I wanted to use this for my students, but I wasn’t quite sure if it would be enough. How else could I intrigue my students to begin writing and make them excited? I am a huge advocate for technology in the classroom… stick a laptop or iPad in front of one of my students, and suddenly they will think any math problem or reading comprehension passage is a blast. I decided to incorporate picture prompts into my students’ daily writing with the use and ease of Google Classroom.

Your students will not only work on their writing skills, but on their inferencing skills! My kids greatly struggle with inferring, so any way that I can practice this vital reading comprehension skill makes me excited. I don’t know about you, but I find that every year my students struggle with things that aren’t smack dab in front of them. We talk so much about finding evidence in the text, but the thought of locating evidence that is not in the text and is instead inferred, is plain hard. I get it, as humans we naturally look for things that are concrete and in front of us. The abstract? Not so much. But these are skills that kids need to learn to help with their understanding of their reading.

I introduce the writing picture prompts whole group. I scaffold and model my thought process on using them up on the projector while students watch. I am literally thinking aloud to them how I would go about doing this. I do this once a day for two weeks, starting to ask for additional ideas in my writing. For example, I look at a slide and say “hmmm… this is a picture of a dog. The dog is staring at an empty food bowl. What could have happened to make the dog bowl empty? What is the dog thinking? Is there anyone else around the dog? What will be do now?” I start jotting down and writing my ideas. My students’ hands shoot up as they try to answer my questions and create fun stories about this dog. Children have a wild imagination- they are eager and their minds are racing as they think about a picture in front of them. After a few weeks of scaffolding, they will naturally begin to think about questions and decide how to answer them on their own.
How to teach writing and excite student writers in Google Drive & Google Classroom
Each week, give students a new Google Classroom picture prompt. I give my students a week to complete each picture prompt. Why a week? I think once a day is too ambitious, at least for my third-grade classroom. Of course, you know your students best, so differentiate accordingly for the needs and abilities of your own students! My students work on this prompt the entire week. I have a writing station during my literacy centers, and students work on it during that. I also tell them that it is up to them to get this finished in time. Some of my kiddos choose to write a couple sentences at home. Some students ask if they can work on it during dismissal. Some students This could easily be done for morning work. Think about the very beginning of your day- some of my own students get to the classroom at 8:50, and are there until 9:10 when the bell rings.

Of course, there will still be students that struggle getting their ideas and thoughts on paper. To alleviate their frustration, try out the voice tool on Google Classroom. Your students can literally speak into the microphone to record their writing. This goes a long way with those reluctant writers. They will begin gaining confidence in their writing and inferring skills as they keep getting more comfortable.

We are teachers... we use data in the ways that we teach. After implementing these visual prompts for Google Drive & Google Classroom, I found that not only was my students' writing stronger, but the kids WANTED to write. They ask every day what the new picture would be. They would discuss the pictures during lunch and recess with their friends. This made my heart so happy, and allowed my students to have practice that did not feel monotonous, boring, and a chore. 

There are different ways that you could do this! You could find a weekly picture and have students type up or write their answers. Want to save some time? My Visual Picture Prompt for Google Drive & Classroom resource will cover your weekly picture prompts for the entire year. Each image is engaging, and will make your students truly think, infer, and… most importantly….write!

How to teach writing and excite student writers in Google Drive & Google Classroom

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