Scholastic Story Starters is a great interactive way to inspire student writing. The website randomly generates writing prompts based on four variables: a genre, a descriptive word, a main character, and a complication. I've paid money for a similar flip-books that does the exact same thing that this website does for free. (It's not that I wouldn't also recommend the flip book, but why pay for things you can get for free?) In my own classroom, I have a random writing assignment based on the story starter called a 1-2-3 Write About (the flip books have 3 variables, rather than the 4 that the Scholastic website has). It's great for fostering creativity, and when I want to challenge my students a little bit more, I have them use their vocabulary words, a minimum number of "smiley-face tricks" or punctuation marks, etc. It's a fun way to make grammar more interesting, and my students generally enjoy sharing their stories with each other. One great feature is that this website varies writing prompts based on grade level, beginning with Kindergarten and going up through sixth grade (although I would use the 4-6 prompts even with my high school freshmen). Scholastic also allows users to change any one of the elements that is randomly chosen, giving the writer more freedom regarding his or her topic. Once a story starter is selected, the writer can select a layout (notebook, letter, newspaper, or postcard) and can type on the website for a professional-looking document. There is also an option to add a place holder for artwork to each document, if you want to include an art component to the writing assignment.
Jessica Pilgreen is a high school English teacher, a Piasa Bluffs Writing Project fellow, and a technology enthusiast. The main purpose of this blog is to help her keep track of all of the fabulous tools out there that she has encountered, but if she can help a few others along the way, that's good, too.