Stencil Stories and Picture Prompts

Stencil stories and picture prompts are a great support for early writers. Each has story vocabulary & self-editing checklists to help students be successful writers!

Hello Friend!

Have you been teaching long enough to remember a time before TPT, Pinterest, Facebook or teacher blogs were even a “thing”?  I sure have! While it is wonderful to have so many places to search for inspiration and ideas, at times it can feel overwhelming.  A single google search for literacy center activities can leave you with 100s of different options to choose from! It can be hard to know which are truly great ones for your students!  

That’s why today I am excited to share with you a tried-and-true literacy activity.  It’s one that I created myself many years ago, and ever since then it has been a staple in my writing centers.  So many students have loved it and I have found it to be engaging and effective for all types of kids!  

The activity is called Stencil Writing

So here’s how it works….First, my students choose a stencil from the basket and trace the picture with a pencil. (While modeling I teach them this is a good time to BRAINSTORM their ideas for their story.)

1st grade stencil writing prompts
1st grade stencil writing prompts

On each stencil, I have used a Sharpie to write vocabulary words that I predict they may want to use in their stories.  This helps support their spelling and gives them ideas for their sentences.  

1st grade stencil writing prompts

Next, they write their story. Between the sight word wall and the list of words on the stencils, all of my students are successfully able to get their story onto paper.  

Students then use the “Good Writers” checklist to check over their writing and make sure it makes sense.

1st grade stencil writing prompts

Finally, if there is enough time, students can use my special markers, crayons, colored pencils to illustrate their story.

THEY LOVE THIS CENTER! They even CHOOSE to do it as a Friday Fun activity and during indoor recess!

I love it for so many reasons…

  • My students are SUCCESSFUL writers!
  • If you have lots of stencils, they can write about their interests. This is a big motivator for reluctant writers. 
  • This writing center supports all levels of writers.  The appropriate supports are set in place for struggling writers, while the high kiddos find ways to write to show off what they know.
  • The stencils can be used in many ways…at the beginning of the year, my students write simple narrative stories, later in the year they use them to write informational and opinion stories.

How to Make Writing Stencils

Making the materials for the stencil writing activity is EASY and you only have to do it ONCE!  

Simply laminate whole plain file folders, cut them into fourths and take them to the die cut machine. Die-cut things that are of high interest to your students (stars, cupcakes, dinosaurs, flowers, dolphins, rockets…) Throw out the die-cut piece and write the words you think they may need while writing their story with a permanent pen. Viola! You have a new center your kids will love for years to come!!!

Writing Picture Prompts

If you like this idea but you don’t have access to die-cuts or you are too busy enjoying the spring sunshine grading papers and lesson planning, you can check out my YEAR LONG Writing Picture Prompts Bundle  (100 prompts)!

Just like the stencil activity, your students will just pick a picture of interest to them.  The Picture Prompts include a list of related vocabulary words to help students brainstorm ideas, as well as an editing checklist.

The bundle includes 25 picture prompts for EACH SEASON, so you will be set for the entire year!  It’s an activity that will build writing CONFIDENCE and STAMINA in even your most reluctant writers! 

And because I’m a #proudmama… look at how my sweet and smart Ella used the picture prompts when she was in Kinder! 

Sorry for the quality of the picture, Ella wouldn’t let me take it down off her wall!

I certainly do love coming up with new and better resources and activities to help teachers and students, but it is special for me to have the chance to share activities that have been favorites for so long. I hope you’ll give my Writing Stencil Activity and Picture Prompts a try and see that they really are true oldies but goodies!


1st grade writing idea
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