A Year of Picture Prompts: Over 160 Images to Inspire Writing
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Related Picture Prompt Credit. Clockwise from top left: Sidi Bou Saïd, Tunisia, by Soraya Ben Hadj; London by Sophia Goldberg; Brooklyn by Tamara Yurovsky; La Marsa, Tunisia, by Soraya Ben Hadj; San Francisco by Julie Gebhardt; Groznjan, Croatia, by Julieta Seba.
- June 1, 2017
Update, Feb. 15, 2019: Learn more about how to use our 1000s of writing prompts by watching our free on-demand webinar: “Give Them Something to Write About: Teach Across the Curriculum With New York Times-Inspired Daily Prompts.”
This school year we added a new feature to our daily lineup of student activities. Called “Picture Prompts,” these short, accessible, image-driven posts feature photographs and illustrations from The Times, and invite a variety of written or spoken responses — from creative storytelling to personal narrative to constructing an argument or analyzing what a work of “op-art” might be saying.
Teachers tell us they use these prompts to inspire student writing — whether in their journals, as a timed opportunity or to practice inferring meaning “without worrying about getting the right or wrong answer.”
They also use them with a variety of learners, from high school to middle or elementary school students to English Language Learners of all ages. As one teacher put it, she uses them “for helping teenagers to start talking to each other.”
Below, we’ve categorized the 160+ prompts we published during the 2016-17 school year based on the type of writing they primarily encourage students to do. All are still open for comment. Plus, we have a lesson plan on how to teach with Picture Prompts, along with other Times images, in case you’re looking for more inspiration.
If you use this feature with your students, or if you have other ideas for how to use images and writing prompts with students, let us know in the comments section.
85+ Picture Writing Prompts For Kids (+ Free Printable)
A picture is worth a thousand words. So how many words can you write for these 85 picture writing prompts for kids and grow-ups alike! Pictures, whether something as simple as an apple or as complex as an action scene can spark the imagination in more ways than one.
Of course, when looking at pictures you can take the literal route, and describe whatever you see in front of you. Or you can explore your imagination, and think about the ‘What Ifs..’ of a picture. What if that person is actually upset? What if this picture is of a broken family? What if the world looked like this years ago? A picture can have so many hidden meanings and can hide so many secrets. The slightest detail could mean everything. Just imagine you’re a detective solving a crime from one picture alone. Examine every detail, write it down and think why? Only then can you fully understand a picture.
For more inspiration take part in our daily picture writing prompt challenge. Each day you will be given a new picture prompt to write about.
Picture Prompt Generator
In this post, we have included a mix of simple pictures, story picture prompts, photographs, fantasy images and even some action-packed images.
You can find the complete list of our picture writing prompts below. We’ve also created a smaller PDF version that includes 30 random picture prompts. Download the printable PDF here.
You might also be interested in the following posts:
150 Picture Prompts To Inspire
Over 85 picture prompts for creative writing, story-telling and descriptive writing assignments:
- What is this girl looking at? How is she feeling at this moment?
- Where are these two cats going? Where did they come from? What are they feeling?
- What is this girl thinking about? Is this her house? What are those toys doing in the background?
- Is this book magical? Why is this book on the floor? What secrets does this book contain?
- What is the young elephant saying to the older one? What is their relationship?
- What is this dalmatian looking at? What could it be thinking about? Where was this image taken?
- Who is that girl? Why is wearing those clothes? What is doing outside in the middle of nowhere?
- Where are these horses standing? What are they looking at? Where are they going?
- Who does this cabin belong to? When was this picture taken? What could be happening inside?
- Where does this path lead to? What secrets would you find here?
- Why is this person upset? What are they looking at? What has happened to them?
- How does this parrot feel? What is it looking at? Is this parrot alone?
- What is this girl looking at? Who is she? Where is she standing? And who is that girl far in the background?
- Where is this boy going? Who is he? Why does he have a buffalo with him?
- Who are those people running away in boats? What are they holding? Where was this image taken?
- Why is this car disappointed? Who does this cat belong to? Where is this cat sitting?
- How and why did this fight start? Who are those people? Where is this happening?
- What is the relationship between the horse and the owl? What are they saying to each other? Where are they?
- Where would this path lead to? Would you meet someone along the way? What would you find?
- Who are those two girls? Where are they going? What is this place?
- Who are those two people? What are they doing? What is their relationship?
- Where is this building? Who lives here? What secrets are in this place?
- Why is this group of dogs here? What are they talking about? What do they plan on doing next?
- What is the relationship between the reindeer and the squirrels? Where are they going? Why is the reindeer holding a light?
- Why is there a huge statue in the middle of nowhere? Who are those people in the snow? Where are they all going?
- Where is this hot air balloon landing? Who is in that balloon? Why did they come here? What is this place?
- Who are these people? Why are they at the beach? When was this photo taken?
- What are those two people in the distance doing? Why are these three wolf pups looking at them? What is inside that vehicle?
- Who is this boy? What is he waiting for? Where did he come from? Why is he standing here?
- Who is that person? Why is he in the desert? What’s insider the palace? Where are those camels going?
- Is anyone in that car? Where is this event happening? Where was that car going?
- Who is that crow? Why is it looking at that raindrop? How did that girl get inside the raindrop?
- Where are these two horses? What is the relationship between the two? What are they talking about?
- How did this fire start? Where is this place? Who are those fightfigters?
- What is that fairy doing? Why is she near those flowers? Who is she?
- Who does this chess set belong to? Where is this place?
- Where is this bus stop? Who are those people? Where are they going?
- Who is this woman? Why is she holding an hourglass? What is doing outside at night?
- What is this fairy thinking about? Where is she sitting? What events happened to her before this scene?
- Why is that giraffe so big? Who is that boy? Where are they?
- Who is that girl? Why is she standing outside on a bench? What is this place?
- Who are these people? Where are they? Why are they shaking hands? What is that building in the background?
- Why is there a pumpkin in the forest? Who left it there? where is this place?
- Where is this squirrel standing? What is it thinking about? What will happen next?
- Who lives in these houses? Where is this place? What is happening inside?
- What is happening here? Who are those three people at the front at the scene?
- Who is that young girl? Why is she hugging a lion? What events happened before this scene?
- How are these two men related? Why are they holding weapons? Where are they standing?
- Why is this place empty? Where is this room? Does anyone live here?
- Who does this room belong to? What’s inside the wardrobe and desk? Where is this room?
- Where is this horse going and where did it come from? Why is it running in the snow?
- Who is this man? Why is he standing by the water? What has made him angry or upset?
- Who is this man? Where is he going? Does that camel belong to him?
- Where is this person going? How are they feeling? Who is this person?
- What are these two meerkats looking at? Where are they standing? How are they related?
- Where is this place? Why are the sheep standing inside a bus stop? How did they end up here?
- What makes this tree so special? Where can you find this tree? Why are oranges glowing?
- What is the cat saying to the mouse? Are they friends or enemies? Where are they?
- Who are these girls? Where are they? What is their relationship with each other?
- Where is this cat? What has made this cat angry? What will happen next?
- Who does this piano belong to? Where is this place? What happened here?
- What are the cats talking about here? What is their relationship? What happened before this photo was taken?
- What are these people chatting about? Why is the man on the left confused? Where are they?
- What is this girl looking at? Who is she? Where is she standing?
- Where are these two children going? What just happened to them? What is this place?
- Who is this bear? What is it watching on TV? Does it have any family and where are they?
- Who are these people? What is their relationship? Where are they sitting?
- Who are these boys? What are they playing? Where are they?
- Who lives in this building? Where is this place?
- Where is this person going? What is he looking at? How is he feeling?
- Why is this monkey hiding? Where is this place? What happened before this picture?
- What is the polar bear looking at? Who is that penguin? What will happen next?
- Why is this dog running? Where is this place? What is going to happen next?
- Who is this person? Why are they in a kayak? Where are they going?
- Where are these polar bears going? What is the older polar bear saying to the young ones?
- Why does this squirrel have a shopping cart of toilet paper? What is it looking at? Where is it going?
- What is this girl looking at? Why is there a skateboard behind her? Where is she standing?
- Where is this hedgehog going? Why is it carrying those leaves? What happened before this scene?
- Who is this woman? Why is she upset? Where is she sitting?
- Who are these children? Where are they? Why is the girl giving the boy a flower?
- Who are these people? Why is the girl in the cap hiding her face? Where is this place?
- Who is that person? Where is this place? Why is that person walking outside at night?
- Who is this girl? Where is she going? What is she thinking?
- Where are the person and dog? Why are they standing outside in the rain? What are they looking at?
- Who are these girls? What is their relationship with each other? How are they feeling in this picture?
- Who are these people? Why are they jumping in joy? Where are they?
How to Use these Prompts
Picture prompts are the perfect writing stimulus especially when you hit writer’s block. Here are a number of ways you can use these picture writing prompts to spark your imagination:
- Descriptive Writing: Directly describe everything you see in extreme detail. You could even go beyond the physical appearance of things, and explore your other senses, such as smell, hear, feel and taste.
- Story-Telling: Pick just one image, and tell a whole story based on this one image.
- Story Starter: Similarly you can pick one image, and use it as the starting place of your story.
- Collaborative Story-Telling: In a group of 5 – 7 students, each student can have a random picture. The first student uses their picture as the story starter, and then the next student continues the story based on their own image. Keep going until the final student ends the story.
- Idea Generation: Pick one image and try to think of at least 3 story ideas related to that one image.
- Daily Writing Challenge: Give your students 7 images, and tell them to write a description for each image every day.
These are just some ways to use images as writing prompts. You can also check our post on 8 fun story-telling games using image prompts for more ideas. Did you find our picture writing prompts useful? Let us know in the comments below!
Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he’s not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.