traci's lists of ten

Traci's 19th List of Ten:
Ten Narrative Writing Prompts
(Briefer Versions)

Posted to ACW-L, WCenter, NCTE-Talk, and TEACH on 2/27/99.

Customizing the Questions

The prompts in the original 19th List are longer than those used on most standardized exams. Generally, the exam questions do not include examples of situations that fit the writing assignment. I prefer more specific assignments so I included the extra information.

Here are revised versions of the assignments more in line with the questions on standardized tests.

Using the Prompts

To use one of the prompts with your student, add appropriate instructions for the writing task, following the pattern and language that is used on standardized tests in your state. The specific language of these standardized tests is usually copyrighted, so I can't post precise language for any state. I'd suggest something like the following:

Write a paper (or letter) that informs your readers by telling them a story. Your paper should narrate an entire story (beginning, middle, and end). Your answer should:

  1. include adequate details about the events in the story
  2. use a clear organizational structure, including transitions, an introduction and a conclusion
  3. use effective and appropriate diction
  4. express ideas smoothly and fluently
  1. [Being Unprepared] Because you have been sick, out of town, busy at work, or working on other homework, you didn't have as much time to study for an important test as you needed. Think of a specific test that you took that you felt unprepared for and narrate the events. Your paper should help readers understand what it felt like to be unprepared.

  2. [Lightbulb Moment] Think of an experience when you realized that you suddenly understood an idea, a skill, or a concept you had been struggling with. Write a narrative that tells the story of your movement toward understanding. Your paper should help readers understand how you felt to struggle with the idea or skill and then to understand.

  3. [Childhood Event] Choose a vivid time from your childhood. Narrate the events related to the childhood memory that you've chosen so that your readers will understand why the event was important and memorable.

  4. [Achieving a Goal] Think of a time when you achieved a personal goal. Tell your readers about the story of how you met your goal. Be sure that your readers understand why the goal is important to you.

  5. [The Good and the Bad] Think about an event in your life that seemed bad but turned out to be good. Tell the story of the event that you experienced and help your readers understand how an event that seemed negative turned out to have valuable consequences.

  6. [Being a Teacher] Teaching someone else how to do something can be rewarding. Think of a skill that you've taught someone else how to do. Think about the events that made up the process of teaching the skill, and narrate the story for your readers.

  7. [Changing Places] Think of a change to a place that you know well, and narrate the events that occurred. Readers should know the details of the change, and they should know how you feel about the changes that occurred.

  8. [Personal Rituals] Describe a personal ritual that you, your friends, or your family have. Narrate the events that take place when you complete your ritual so that your readers understand the steps that the ritual includes and why you complete them.

  9. [Standing Up] Choose a time when you did something that took a lot of nerve, a time when you didn't follow the crowd or a time when you stood up for your beliefs. Think about the details of the event and write a story that tells about what happened. Your narrative should show your readers why you decided to make a stand or try something that took nerve, give specifics on the events, and share how you felt after the event.

  10. [Disagreeing] Think of a time when you disagreed with a decision that had been made and did something about it. Write a paper that narrates the events that occurred -- from the decision that was made to your response. Be sure that your paper gives enough details that your readers understand why you disagreed with the decision and why you felt that your response was appropriate.


Originally Posted March 9, 1999 on the Daedalus Website.