39,880 Free Visual Writing Prompts

It’s conference season. The time between Christmas Break and Spring Break can be tortuously long for teachers and students. Snow days are cheered, three-day weekends dot the calendar, and state conferences for teachers help break up the monotony of one of the longest stretch of instructional days in the school-year calendar. So in the spirit of those conference sessions promising “60 tips, tricks, and engagement strategies” I thought I’d have a bit of fun with this post. Ain’t no one going to beat almost 40,000 absolutely FREE visual writing prompts. Even better, they’re hosted by the Library of Congress on Flickr!

It was actually thanks to Today’s Daily Create that I was reminded of one of the best digital collections of Public Domain images from United States history. The Library of Congress was an early adopter of digital and social media (at least for image sharing), and it’s always been a great way to get students writing. Want to give younger students a silly writing prompt? Use the kittens all dressed up for bed posted at the top of the page. Want to give older students studying World War II an opportunity to reflect on life in Japanese Internment camps in the United States? There’s an entire album for it. Get middle school students excited about writing something goofy thanks to the “Roadside America” album.

Want to help put the pandemic in historical perspective for science students? There are photos of old Tuberculosis wards. Talking about politics and campaigning in Civics? Even Abraham Lincoln had campaign paraphernalia. There’s even an album for pioneering stereo photography from the Civil War, great for students studying the impact that technological advancement has had on how we report on conflict around the globe.

Honestly though, almost any photo in the Library of Congress Digital Collection would be great for any writing and/or English teacher just trying to find a creative way to get the kids warmed up to writing. Poetry, short prose, or even idea starters for longer stories would easily fit into a five-minute “bell ringer” activity. Sliding one into a Google Classroom or LMS stream would allow students to share their creative writing as responses in a social setting, giving them a space that they’re already familiar with.

As I attempt to get back to blogging regularly, I’ve been reminded myself that sometimes the small simple ideas are the ones that can have the most impact. Easy to implement, little preparation time needed, and able to flexible in a pinch if other plans fall through during the normal routine of the school day.