Videos as Visual Writing Prompts

If you teach poetry, creative writing, or are just looking for a way to help your students find inspiration for writing, you need to watch the following time-lapse video.

Landscapes: Volume Two from Dustin Farrell- on Vimeo.

I’ve never really considered myself a writer (beyond my blogging that is). Most of the work I produced for various writing courses was always a bit mundane, formulaic, and rather juvenile. Even when asked to write to a prompt, I would usually find a way to slip into my typical patterns before too long, pretty much destroying the purpose of the prompt.

I’m not sure that I would have pushed myself harder had I been given visual writing prompts like the movie above, but I do know that quite often the written prompts I received wouldn’t provide my “inner writer” with enough of a “frame” to hang my ideas and writing on. I typically needed a bit more scaffolding that the other writers in my classes. Having a visual piece of “pictures in motion” and audio reflects more of the real world for me, and thus makes it easier to write a piece of descriptive narrative that a reader could more easily create an equally realistic mind-scape with.

If you’ve ever used media in any form as a writing prompt, I’d love to hear how effective it was, and if you have links to any compelling video that could be used for a visual writing prompt, please share! Below are a few more video clips that I’ve found at Vimeo (a treasure trove of creativity for the classroom) that I think would serve well as video writing prompts.

The Sandpit from Sam O'Hare on Vimeo.

Alimation © Alexandre DUBOSC from Alexandre DUBOSC on Vimeo.

Laughs from Daniel Mercadante on Vimeo.


  1. I am currently a Grad Student, studying to become a secondary English teacher. I think that the idea of using “Videos as Visual Writing Prompts” is a really interesting approach to engaging students, helping them clear their minds of other thoughts, and in the case of freewriting, helping them to gain focus and direction to apply to their writing. I would be very interested to hear how this type of activity is received by secondary students.

    1. I have a few teachers that might be willing to try this out, even go so far as to create their own with students. If I do get somebody to give this idea a try, I’ll certainly let you know.

      1. Thank you, Ben. I appreciate that. I will be writing my Thesis next semester, and this would be an interesting “experiment” to reference. I look forward to hearing back on whether anyone decides to try this approach.

  2. The ist video is absolutely incredible stuff. I cant even get a single frame to look this good yet you have thousands of them. Thanks a lot for your posting.

  3. I tried this with my students last week. I pulled the 1st, 2rd, and 5th video on our nine computers (three computers per video) and asked them to choose one of the three. After they choosing their topic of interest, we went to our school garden and, in between the trees and all the nature, my 6th graders began to write a short entry describing what they say and what they felt while the video was playing. I don’t know if it was the video, the outdoors or the combination of both, but students were still talking about this lesson during the week and asked me to prepare future activities with this rubric. I want to try it with a Science lesson and find ways to use it during Math as well… Thank you for this great idea!

    1. AWESOME! Really glad you tried this with your students, but I think what you did after watching the videos was probably more important. Giving them time to reflect in a peaceful setting, and try to create some amalgam of the two realities (that in the video, and that of the nature surrounding them) is a stunning stroke of genius! Very much the same thing a professional writer might do to try and better illustrate a point, or create some analogy between two disparate ideas.

      I hope you explore Vimeo a bit more, because there are some fantastic videos there….I’ll see if I can’t find a few more for inspiration too 🙂

  4. Thanks for this great idea! I have some students who are reluctant writers and sometimes just need something to get them thinking and visualizing, so this may be just the ticket! I will try it and let you know how it goes.

    1. It would also be fun to have students bring in their own media to use as a writing prompt. Might encourage some of the reluctant writers to step it up a further notch as they would be providing the prompt to their peers.

      1. That sounds interesting! When you say to have students bring in their own media, can you give me an example?

  5. You could have students bring in their own still images or video they’ve captured to use as writing prompts. For example, I live near Lake Michigan, so a lot of families spend time at the beach in the summer, and it would be easy to have a student capture some video of a day at the beach, the sun setting into the water, or a storm rolling in over the lake.

  6. Two or three times I dream of movies or videos but they seem to be more like movies. What do I do about these?

  7. Maybe I missed it but I don’t see where these prompts are. I would like to use Vimeo and Youtube in my creative writing class. I have been searching for some clips to share with my students. Thanks!

    1. Well, you’re right, Kristie! There was a problem with the videos, but it’s been updated now and you should be able to see them 🙂

Comments are closed.