Common Core Writing Prompts for 5th Grade

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Writing prompts can be really helpful ways to get students' creative energies flowing and also teach to the standards. This lesson will give you ideas about what kinds of writing prompts help fifth graders meet the Common Core State Standards.

Why Use Writing Prompts?

Anyone who teaches fifth grade knows that it is a year of high writing expectations. According to the Common Core State Standards, fifth graders need to be able to create their own organizational structures for writing across a number of different genres, use varied language and complex syntax, write imaginative fiction as well as logical and research-oriented nonfiction, and publish their writing in polished ways that can be disseminated. That's a lot to ask of fifth graders and their teachers!

It can be overwhelming to find ways for fifth graders to practice all of these different kinds of skills. Writing prompts, which are ideas, questions, or starters intended to inspire extended student writing, are excellent for classroom use. If you give your students a prompt to practice with each week, they can begin the piece on Monday, work on it over a few class periods, revise and edit it on Thursday, and publish it on Friday. Practicing with prompts repeatedly, alongside teacher input, direct instruction, and peer conferences, will help students internalize the writing process and gain competence and confidence in their skills as writers. Further, if you use prompts throughout the year, students will establish their own writing portfolio, or collection of work that showcases their strengths as well as their development over time.

Examples of Nonfiction Writing Prompts

Much of what we want fifth graders to write is nonfiction. Fifth graders can write research-based nonfiction pieces, narrative nonfiction, or persuasive works, among others. The following prompts or suggestions for creating prompts are useful for getting fifth graders to hone their nonfiction writing skills.

  • Give students two editorial pieces arguing different points of view about the same topic. Once students have read the pieces, instruct them to take one of the two sides and write an essay using evidence from the texts to support the side they have taken. You may orient this as a persuasive piece, in which they are trying to convince others to take the same side as them, or simply a report illustrating the different sides of the argument.
  • Show students two different pieces of artwork. These may be different images from the same artist, works by two artists from the same time period, or works by artists from different time periods or cultures. Ask students to write an essay comparing and contrasting the pieces. They should find at least two similarities and two differences.
  • Ask students to think of something they consider themselves an expert at. Have them write an essay explaining to another person how to do this skill or activity. Challenge your students to be as detailed as possible in their instructions.
  • Give students a passage from a historical text or poem. Instruct them to choose one quote or line from the passage and describe what it means to them and how it can be relevant to their lives and the lives of others in the community.
  • Have students read three or more books or articles about a particular topic or idea. Ask them to write a short report summarizing what they have learned from these readings. They should synthesize, or bring together, ideas or facts from the different texts.
  • Ask students to write a personal narrative about an experience they have recently have. The piece should describe what happened and also why this experience was important to them.

Examples of Fiction Writing Prompts

Fiction can also be both fun and important for fifth graders to write. When they write fiction, they can play with poetic language and stretch their imaginations. Use these prompts to get your students' creativity to work:

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