Teaching Narrative Writing with The New York Times

We publish two types of prompts:

1. Student Opinion Questions

These prompts invite students to read an article from The Times and then answer questions that help them think about how it applies to their own lives, such as these:

“Do you hold a grudge?”
“Do you consider your brothers and sisters as friends? »
“Have you ever been a ghost?”

You can access all of them, added as they are released, here. Or check out our evergreen collection of 550 prompts for narrative and personal writing, organized into categories like family, school, personality, and childhood memories.

2. Image Prompts

These accessible, image-based prompts inspire a variety of writing types. Many invite students to write about experiences from their own lives, such as “Dog in a Backpack,” which asks: what are the weirdest, most interesting, or most surprising things you have seen on public transport? common ?

You can find all of our image prompts, added as they are released, here.

At the end of each school year, we round them all up and categorize them by writing genre. Take a look at our collections from 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 and scroll down to find categories such as “What story could this picture tell?” and “Share experiences from your own life” to find plenty of prompts that can inspire stories.

Ideas for using our prompts to teach narrative writing

Teachers tell us they use these prompts in their classrooms in a variety of ways, whether to practice writing, spark discussion, or inspire lessons. Here are some suggestions on how you might incorporate them into a narrative writing unit:

  • Help students develop a daily writing habit by using prompts as warm-up activities at the start of class. Students can share their work in pairs or small groups.

  • Assign them as homework. Many teachers invite their students to scroll through what we have offered in any given week and choose their favorite prompt to respond to.

  • The comments section can provide a “rehearsal space” to practice perfecting your voice, trying new techniques, and writing for a real audience. Each week, Times editors select comments from students who do these things particularly well to be included in our roundup of our favorite comments.

  • If students are writing formal personal narrative essays, whether for our competition or not, our prompts can serve as inspiration to help them find topics.

For even more ideas, check out our free on-demand introductory webinar that features Learning Network editors discussing how to use our thousands of writing prompts for daily writing practice at low stakes.

Scott R. Banks