One method to help inspire our students’ imaginations is to provide them with writing prompts. It can help them think of new ideas, jog their memories, make a connection, or simply inspire them to try out a topic. But where can they get writing prompts?
Certainly there are loads of helpful websites providing multitudes of prompts. However another option is to use a Google Sheet. Yes that’s right. A Google Sheet (often thought of as just a math tool) can help inspire writing!
To prove this I have used Google Sheets to create a “Random Writing Prompt Generator” that randomly pulls from a list of about 2,000 adjectives and 1,000 nouns to create over 2 million unique prompts. See below to get your own copy of the Sheet, learn how it works, and get more ideas on how to help your students write poems, stories, or other creations.
- Get your own copy: Google Sheets link
- The Prompts tab - Here you will find 20 randomly generated writing prompts in the form of an adjective followed by a noun. These can be used for the title of a poem or the topic of a story.
- The Adjectives tab - Here you will find a list of about 2,000 adjectives.
- The Nouns tab - Here you will find a list of about 1,000 nouns.
You can get a new set of 20 random prompts by refreshing the page in your browser. Many of the prompts may not make sense or may not be a good match. However, students will likely find one or two interesting, funny, or inspiring combinations in the list.
Students should write down any prompts that seem interesting to them, then refresh the page to get a new list of prompts. They can repeat this process until they have a good list of prompts to draw from to begin their writing.
If you want to change the words banks, you can edit the Adjectives or Nouns tabs.
- You can delete any row to remove a word.
- You can add more rows at the bottom to add your own words.
- The formula on the Prompts tab will pull from your new list of available words.
=INDIRECT("Adjectives!A"&RANDBETWEEN(1,COUNTA(Adjectives!A:A)))&" "&INDIRECT("Nouns!A"&RANDBETWEEN(1,COUNTA(Nouns!A:A)))Basically the formula randomly picks a row from the Adjectives tab and the Nouns tab, and then puts them together with a space between the two words.
Help with Rhyming
This may help the students to discover rhyming words they may not have thought of, or find a rhyme when they are stuck. Here’s how to it works:
- In Google Docs, click “Add-ons” then “Get add-ons”.
- Scroll down to find “Rhyme Finder” or search for “Rhyme Finder”.
- Alternately you can use this direct link: Google Docs Add-on link
- Click the “+ FREE” button to install the add-on.
- Click “Add-ons” then “Rhyme Finder” then “Start”.
- Highlight any word in your Google Doc.
- Click the “Find Rhyme” button in the panel on the right.
- A list of rhyming words, with their number of syllables, will show up in the panel.
Sharing Students Writing
- Click the “Share” button in the top right corner of the Google Doc.
- The “Share with others” window will open.
- Click the “Get sharable link” option.
- If you want to adjust who can access the document, click the drop-down menu to the left of the “Copy link” button and click “More…”
- This will allow you to choose if anyone in the world can view the document or just users in your school.
- When done click “Save”.
- You can now click the “Copy link” button to copy the hyperlink for the document.
- Anyone who has the link will now be able to view the poem, story, or writing.
You can get the link to other people in many ways:
- Link it in on the class website
- Post it to the stream in Google Classroom
- Share it on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or Google+
- Send it in an email to others
And in the spirit of sharing, below are links to several poems I have written using randomly generated titles. This is something I have done for years with my children as a fun family activity.
- Moonstruck Conifer - Google Document link
- Elemental Love - Google Document link
- Invisible Poodle - Google Document link
- Fallen Vowel - Google Document link
- Smallest Pony - Google Document link
- Squirming Curtain - Google Document link
If your students create poems with the “Random Writing Prompt Generator” spreadsheet, consider sharing them in the comments below. Or share any other ideas you have for inspiring and assisting students as they write.